My Absentee Ballot, and What’s That Date?

A cou­ple of days ago I sent my absen­tee bal­lot in for the 2006 Mid-term elec­tions. It’s not as my vote is going to make a big dif­fer­ence, but I am intrigued with the prospect of Deval Patrick becom­ing the next Gov­er­nor of Mass­a­chu­setts. What’s more there was even a State Bal­lot Ques­tion that would pave the way for the sale of wine in Gro­cery stores in my for­mer state. If that one pass­es, I think that Hell is not freez­ing over, but there prob­a­bly is a chill in the air.

It felt strange to fill out this piece of paper, because it remind­ed me that for what it’s worth, I still am an Amer­i­can cit­i­zen. When we final­ly do get our Cana­di­an cit­i­zen­ship (that hope­ful­ly will hap­pen some time in the next 3–4 years, although I would­n’t be sur­prised if it were 5 or 6 at the rate we’ve been going), I don’t intend to renounce my Amer­i­can cit­i­zen­ship, if for no oth­er rea­son than the con­ve­nience of mov­ing back and forth over a soon-to-be mil­i­ta­rized and walled-off bor­der. Along with show­ing my navy blue US Pass­port at that time, this ges­ture is one of the few ways that I’ll assert that iden­ti­ty. Will I iden­ti­fy myself as an Amer­i­can, Cana­di­an, or hav­ing dual cit­i­zen­ship when asked by some­one in anoth­er coun­try? These days, appar­ent­ly many Amer­i­cans are claim­ing to be Cana­di­ans when they travel.

On Thurs­day night we went to a com­e­dy show at the Orpheum The­atre (that’s where the Van­cou­ver Sym­pho­ny, and most of the high-class acts per­form when they’re in town). One of the come­di­ans said that when he was asked what the dif­fer­ence was between a Cana­di­an and an Amer­i­can by an Eng­lish­man while he was in Lon­don, he said “Well, con­fus­ing me with an Amer­i­can — that would be like me con­fus­ing you, an Eng­lish­man, with say…a retard­ed per­son!” The audi­ence roared their approval. “Any Amer­i­cans here?” the come­di­an asked some­what sheep­ish­ly. We did­n’t feel like rais­ing our hands.

Is that Octo­ber 5th or the 10th of May?
There are sev­er­al ways that the close­ness of the US (and its over­whelm­ing cul­ture and ways of doing things) can be a real pain in the neck. For instance, Cana­da finds it nec­es­sary to alter our sched­ul­ing of Day­light Sav­ings Time so that we can remain in synch with the US, who is doing it ear­li­er next year than today’s date (to save ener­gy, some­thing anoth­er ter­ri­bly pop­u­lar pres­i­dent, Jim­my Carter, also did dur­ing his time in office). So we can look for­ward to per­haps 4 extra weeks of get­ting up in dark­ness and also return­ing home from work in dark­ness, rather than get­ting at least a last hour of sun before dinnertime.

Some­times hav­ing the US influ­ence is handy, like being able to have both a US and Cana­di­an dol­lar account at the bank. It also has meant that most of our cul­ture shock has been pret­ty min­i­mal, although you do occa­sion­al­ly have to try to remem­ber if it was a US ad or a Cana­di­an ad for a new prod­uct that you saw on TV. If it appeared on a US sta­tion, it could very well be some­thing you won’t find here, at least not right away.

How­ev­er, an extreme­ly annoy­ing way that Cana­da fol­lows the US (at least some­times) is in the way that we fill in our dates on forms here. Some­times the form fol­lows the US for­mat (month-day-year), but occa­sion­al­ly it fol­lows the Euro­pean for­mat (day-month-year). There seems to be lit­tle warn­ing whether its going to be one way or the oth­er. It can cause a lot of con­fu­sion when you get some­thing that says “Due 6/7/06”. Was that June 7th or July 6th? Only after the 13th of the month is one sure, and 13 days is a long time to be treat­ing any date as if it could go either way. You’d think that a coun­try that insists upon the Eng­lish style postal code would resist this prob­lem. Maybe Cana­da should come up with its own date for­mat. Per­haps some­thing that no one else wants, like day-year-month!