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If you are like me, in the next month or so you will write a whole bunch of personal checks1 with the date written like:

Date: January 3, 2000 2001

Most years I tend to do this well into the Spring.2 It's embarassing, and I always feel as if I'm committing some sort of fraud-in-miniature by crossing something out. So here is a neat little tip: I recently had dinner with my Mom in a Nice Manhattan Restaurant, and she insisted on paying for her portion of the meal over our repeated protests.3 Since she was short of the requisite cash, she wrote me a check. I noticed today as I was cashing it that the year was written in a different ink than the rest of the date. I stared at this for a second, unable to figure it out, and then I realized what was going on:

She had pre-dated a bunch of her checks with the new year.4

I have had a checking account for...oh idunno...12 years, and I've never thought of this. Sometimes the most beautiful and elegant solutions are the simple ones.

1Apologies to those that prefer "cheques".
2Which reminds me of an old episode of "Family Ties"2a, in which Alex has a dream where he is transported back in time to the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Once he realizes what has happened to him, he exclaims: "I just can't believe it's really the year 1776!" to which another character2b, dressed in Colonial garb, replies sheepishly: "Yeah, I'm still writing 1775 on all my checks."2c

2a An Eighties-era family sitcom starring Michael J. Fox, for all you young-uns.
2b I think this was Alex's goofy friend, whose name was "Skippy". I'm mildly frightened that I remember that.
2c OK, I got enthusiastic about the footnoting, but I've been reading David Foster Wallace recently, and it kind of sinks in.
3You will never, ever win this argument, but somehow you always have to try.
4Aren't Moms smart sometimes?