In a perfectly funny world, this post would be about my messy love life describing a life where I might go on a series of dates with a series of odd men, discovering what I do not like and never really discovering love. In a perfectly funny world, this would be the stuff of sitcoms that would run season after season, making millionaires out of some very talented (and pretty) actors ( and actresses) and making me somewhat wealthy. Maybe I'd be able to afford an i-phone and will be able to constantly tweet about how awesome that new sitcom is and spread the buzz. But of course, we do not live in a perfectly funny world. And therefore this post will have nothing to do about glitzy dates and fancy dinners or well-desrerved fame. Quick question: why is it that these fancy restaurants always have the tiniest of tables. It isn't because they want to make place for as many people as possible. Because that would ruin their elitist purpose. My cynical alterego tells me that they have their cctv cameras recording their patrons' clumsy behavior while they are spilling and struggling to eat daintily over small tables (which for aesthetic and entirely useless reasons must make place for a customary vase with a rose or a floating candle or some such embellishment). The employees of the restaurant probably pick the funniest video and laugh over it during work hours. Or during christmas parties. It must be because of that. I see no other plausible reason.
Nonetheless, I shall get back to my condition.
I imagine, if my condition is as serious as I think it is, requiring immediate focus on possible methods of rehabilitation and so on and so forth, a physician would write the following in his notes.
In December 2009, patient JS presented with an increasingly common condition that I shall henceforth refer to as date blindness. Patient JS was instrumental in my finally being able to obtain a comprehensive view of this condition. It is through my encounters with JS, with her co-operation, her high IQ, and her interest in cognition that I feel that we are finally at the point where we can formulate sound rehabilitation strategies.
Before proceeding to discuss JS's condition, it may be worthwhile to lay out the typical characteristics of this syndrome. Therefore, I shall first attempt to describe the range of the syndrome. In discussing JS's specific condition, I will also discuss possible causes of the syndrome which will provide us with insight into possible methods of rehabilitation.
Date-blindness is characterized by an inability of a subject to identify the day of the month when presented with a typical 8 number date notation. They are very accurate in identifying the day of the week. They are aware of the order of months and the number of days each month has. Their knowledge of month order, day order is intact and accessible. Their knowledge of historic events is intact. They accurately remember their birthday. They will most always remember dates that are autobiographical in nature. Their IQ is normal. So is their appetite and interest in gossip. They are sociable and independent. Many complain that they are single. Owing to their deficit, they are often unpunctual. It is the reason this field has progressed slowly; subjects will often not turn up at their scheduled appointments, despite reminders from my receptionist. The similarity in their dating experiences is striking as well. Most subjects will relate incidents about their date not showing up. It is likely, that it is the subject that showed up for the date on the wrong day of the wrong month. Often it is this realization that causes them to consult with a clinician. They can, however, point to appropriate dates in a calendar. It seems that the deficit lies solely in their ability to transform numbers in the 8 numbered format into the appropriate date. This deficit is bidirectional. They cannot read a given date; nor can they write the appropriate date when told "June, 7th 2009". I will re-iterate that this deficit is for the dates and months only and not for the year.
In the most extreme form of the syndrome, patients cannot identify date and month. Such inability is often accompanied with hysteric outbursts. A striking feature of these hysteric episodes is the tendency of the patient to complain about their immigrant status. Often they will refuse to even attempt to do the task and will proceed to blame the health-care system in this country. In the mildest form they will juxtapose the day and the month. When presented with 06/07/2009, they are apt to say July 6th, June 6th, June 7th, July 7th. These answers are often provided with equal frequencies.
I will now turn to the specifics of JS's condition. JS is a student of neuroscience who arrived in Pittsburgh in September 2008. She made a curious request to my secretary when she scheduled the appointment. She insisted that she be given reminders in a name of the month/date format instead of number of month/date within a month format. It is therefore not a coincidence that she made it to the appointment in time. On entering my office she quickly declared that she didn't understand why she was able to switch from left-hand-drive in her home country to right-hand-drive in USA but she was not able to make the switch from a dd/mm/yyyy system to a mm/dd/yyyy system just as easily. It is with this insigthful statement of hers, that I was finally able to understand the condition I have called date-blindness. Date-blindness seems to be a prolonged, temporary transitional state as subjects learn to accept and identify dates referred in the middle-endian format if they were previously used to referring to them in the small-endian format and vice versa.
Years of conditioning in a dd/mm/yyyy makes a transition to the other system hard on many immigrants. Since it is not as life threatening as driving on the wrong side of the road, the teaching signal reaching cortex that drives changes in synaptic weights in order to effect such a transition is weaker and necessarily takes more time. It is in consultation with JS that I have begun to ponder about possible rehabilitative strategies. An effective method would be to increase the survival valence of indentifying the date correctly. More simply put, indentifying a date wrongly must greatly endanger the life of a subject. JS, with a keen grasp of the condition, pointed out that many subjects came into my clinic because they were missing out on good dates. She further pointed out that many celebrities are eager to contribute to noble causes. She suggested that celebrities be willing to devote some of their time to go on a date with one of the subjects. It is likely, then, that subject will persevere at grasping the mm/dd/yyyy system. Since no one can pass a chance to dine with nicole kidman or tom cruise.
JS herself would prefer Richard Gere.