Much of my life is spent online. I often fill out forms requiring my name and address to register for something, buy something, get information about something, whatever. The forms are so handy — to save time, they usually let you choose from a list of states, and if you type the first letter, they’ll suggest the rest.

Since I live in Pennsylvania — the only state beginning with P — it should be a breeze. I type in P and get Pennsylvania. Except I don’t. I get Palau. Over and over again, every form it’s the same thing. P….alau. Trying to add an e…Pe…or trying to type the full name Pennsylvania to save having to take my hands off the keyboard to click and scroll with the mouse usually doesn’t get me anywhere. So then I have to click the field, scroll down to find Pennsylvania, and select it. Clearly an irritating chore in my busy, busy life. 😉 (Akin to the chore of trying to select United States as my country by typing U and getting Uganda instead — scads of Ugandans filling out Internet forms, are they?)

I didn’t even know where Palau was. Why was it coming up in a list of states? Was it a territory like Puerto Rico that I didn’t know about? And did this place engage in an inordinately high number of Web transactions?

So I decided to look it up. I had vague recollection of a Survivor season set in Palau (Palau being an island in the Pacific) and was right about that (yes, I know that’s sad). I also learned it was the scene of fierce fighting between the Americans and Japanese in WWII (we won, with a heavy toll in lives and still about 100 MIAs on the island). And that it’s a relatively new nation, having chosen to “freely associate” with the U.S. in 1994 under a Compact in which the U.S. defends Palau for 50 years, and Palauans are allowed to serve in the U.S. military. So, apparently THAT’S why it appears on the list of states — even though it’s not one, nor is it technically a territory.

But still, it comes first. Don’t get me wrong — as a writer, I revere alphabetical order. But that Palau should take precedence over Pennsylvania, the birthplace of the nation for goodness sake, is just plain wrong. (Also unimportant, but that’s beside the point in any blog rant.)

And so…one of life’s little mysteries explained; another of life’s little annoyances intact. Such is life.

Logic is one thing and commonsense another.
                                          ~ Elbert Hubbard


  1. Diane said,

    Friday, April 11, 2008 at 7:38 am

    I have similar frustrations with Vermont and the Virgin Islands. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the Virgin Islands, have never been to VT, and have nothing against it. Guess I see the opportunity to alphabetize the acronym, and expect VA to come first. But Palau? You have my sympathies. Simply unacceptable!

  2. WritingbyEar said,

    Friday, April 11, 2008 at 7:54 am

    It’s nice to know I’m not alone in the frustration (quite a pickle with Virginia and Virgin Islands…). I think the forms should just stop their helpful suggestions and let us type the name ourselves.

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