Blame the Romans: A Play in Two Acts
By S. Allen
[It is late in the afternoon on December 21, 2005. Two software developers, Ron and Barbara, pair program in front of a dual LCD display].
Barbara: Your fiscal year calculations are still *%#@ed!.
Ron: No, no, look. It says that March 2004 is in the fourth fiscal quarter of two thousand three. That’s right!
Barbara: I thought the finance guy said March 2004 is in the fourth fiscal quarter of two thousand and four.
Ron: Wait, when you say 2004, do you mean the fiscal year starting in 2003 and ending in 2004?
[Barbara places her index fingers on her temples, and begins to rub slowly. During these pair programming sessions, she secretly yearns to massage Ron’s temples, too. Instead of using her fingers, though, she’d prefer to use the sharp end of an Eskimo harpoon.]
Barbara: In any case, I thought they decided to display the calendar quarter, and the fiscal year.
Ron: That wouldn’t make any sense! We’ve changed this code 1000 times now! Fiscal years with calendar quarters! Fiscal quarters with calendar years! Let’s go ask the finance guys again!
Barbara: We can’t. They all left early for the office holiday party.
Ron: No! You mean we are stuck here changing this and finance is out boozing it up?
Ron: I’d like to meet the person who started this fiscal year thing and club him with a calculator. Do you realize how much confusion a fiscal year creates?
[Barbara still has her eyes closed, and doesn’t answer. Her mind’s eye pictures an enormous calculator falling from above, and crushing Ron’s skull. She smiles].
Ron: What are you so happy about?
[Lights fade. Curtain closes].
[It is late in the afternoon of December 21, 312 AD. Two bookkeepers, Docilus and Silius, are hunched over a table covered with wax tablets and scrolls.]
Silius: Once again, Docilus, we are finishing the yearend books while the orgies of Saturnalia rage around us.
Docilus: It is a burden we carry at the same time every year, my friend. The empire’s books must be in balance.
Silius: Indeed, but so must our spirits! My spirit is running a deficit in food, wine, and debauchery!
[Silius clears the table in front of him with a sweeping gesture, and stands.]
Silius: I have an idea, my friend!
Docilus: Do tell!
Silius: Imagine if the year didn’t end in December, but in March. Then we could also be in the streets and vomiting on the sandals of our fellow countrymen.
Docilus: This is no idea you carry in your head, my friend. It is a delusion.
Silius: No, no, Docilus. We must tally numbers for a total of 365 days, but which 365 days? I say we make a fiscal year, which runs from April to March.
Docilus: Brilliant! When do we start?
Silius: You know the old latin saying: “carpe diem”. These books can wait for 3 more months!
Docilus: Let’s party!
[Docilus rises from the table, and the two bookkeepers exit stage left. The sounds of merriment begin to echo from all directions. The abacus slips off the table leg, and breaks in two as it hits the ground.]