Congress Accidentally Creates Nov. 31

ByABC News

Jan. 15, 2002 -- -- If you go by thousands of calendars some senators and congressmen bought to send to their favorite constituents, you'll have an extra day to shop for Christmas gifts — Nov. 31.

Put on your second-grade thinking caps and repeat after me: "Thirty days hath September, April, June, and November. All the rest have 31, except for February which has 28."

Some folks in Washington had to relearn that lesson. It seems that the nonprofit organization that supplies much of Capitol Hill with calendars — the U.S. Capitol Historical Society — made a major blunder this year and didn't realize it until 650,000 copies of the "We, the People" calendars had been printed.

"Nov. 31? Doesn't anybody proofread these things?" says Amy Weinberg, a TV writer and producer in Los Angeles, who received the calendar after writing a letter to Rep. Howard L. Berman, D-Calif., to protest the $15 billion bailout of the airline industry. 'To Err Is Human — Even for Americans'

Weinberg received back from Berman a generic letter touting "a renewed spirit of patriotism and unity" and "the strength of our democratic institutions." And as a gift, she received the faulty calendar, which was custom-printed with the congressman's name on it.

But it's hard to talk about "renewed spirit" when a calendar has Dec. 1 on a Monday, instead of Sunday — the day on which most experts expect it to arrive this year.

"My American pride started to slip," Weinberg says. "I just can not for the life of me comprehend the fact that no one bothered to proofread the calendar."

Berman's office had in fact noted the error. In a letter to constituents, it notes that the events of Sept. 11 have "brought all Americans together" and offers "this beautiful calendar as a constant reminder of the strength of our democratic institutions."

The letter goes on to explain, "To err is human — even for Americans.

"The U.S. Capitol Historical Society reports that after printing millions of calendars, it discovered that November was printed with 31 days — so that the entire month of December is incorrect.

"In any case," Berman says, in closing his letter, "I hope you find this calendar useful and inspiring." 'All We Can Do Is Laugh'

Ron Sarasin, president of the U.S. Capitol Historical Society, is trying to take the whole thing in stride. "We're extremely embarrassed … at this point all we can do is laugh about it."

The "We, the People" calendar is elaborately produced, offering beautiful perspectives of the nation's capital and "fun facts" about American history. This edition celebrates the events of 1802.

In a letter to The Wolf Files, Sarasin says: "During the thirty plus years we have been printing this calendar, a few errors have occurred, but this one is a real beauty! If we try to find humor in our misfortune, it is only because there are some truly serious problems existing in today's world — and this is not one of them."

The society's books and souvenirs on the federal government are widely praised as learning aids for children and for celebrating American history. Since the Sept. 11 attacks, White House tours have been restricted. The society's new DVD, The U.S. Capitol, a Vision in Stone offers glimpses inside federal buildings that are now much harder for Americans to visit.

Contrary to Berman's letter, Sarasin says only 650,000 "We, the People" calendars were produced with the wrong date. The society has compensated lawmakers and others who ordered the calendars, and cut the price of the calendar from $6.95 to $2.95. About a third of the calendars are bulk-ordered, many of them custom-printed for Washington lawmakers.

Berman's office decided to keep its calendars and, on the back of constituent letters, it has printed a corrected version of December 2002 that folks can paste over the botched page.

"It's a real bargain, and I hope Americans can appreciate that at a time of economic woe," says Sarasin. "Go into any bookstore. A calendar of that quality will cost you around $12.95."

Now that's really American: A $10 savings — and you get an extra day at no extra cost.

P.S.: There's a "fun fact" about 1802 for every day on Sarasin's calendar. On Nov. 28, for instance, it's the 200th anniversary of Ohio residents voting for statehood. You won't find a "fun fact" about Nov. 31, however. That's a day, apparently, on which Washington lawmakers like to lie low.

Buck Wolf is entertainment producerat The Wolf Files ispublished Tuesdays. If you want to receive weekly notice whena new column is published, join the e-maillist.

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