It was one heck of a New Year's. In Times Square they released balloons, fired up a searchlight supposedly visible from Mars, and, of course, dropped the 500-pound aluminum ball. (Not to be outdone, revelers on the roof of the Lebanon Unfinished Furniture building in the Pennsylvania pig-snout capital lowered their own 100-pound ball, made entirely of baloney.) But just wait till next year, say the Y2K alarmists. The fireworks will come from starving, frozen, gun-waving hordes rioting in the streets. It'll be economic meltdown, the end of civilization as we know it, Judgment Day.
Doom Here's their goofball scenario: Computers everywhere will choke when the calendar flips to 00. So will 50 billion embedded chips. The power grid will fail. No lights. No heat. No phone. No banks or ATMs. No juice for pumps, so no water, no gas. No gas means no food deliveries.
It gets worse. Nuclear power plants run amok. Prison gates spring open and criminals all scamper away. Terrorists seize the moment and attack with chemical and biological bombs. The military's high-tech weapons fail, and foreign enemies swarm across our borders. With no water, the smallest blaze fans into a firestorm that reduces every city to cinders. The only thing that will work are lawyers waiting to pounce on the little bit of money left over in a tidal wave of liability lawsuits.
The Red Cross is worried enough that it added a Y2K entry to its Web site, right up there with earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, and tonadoes. The National Guard is rumored to be drawing up mobilization plans, with a sanitized dry run in May. Even the straight-laced New York Times reported that 10 percent of the nations's top executives are stockpiling food, ordering generators, and buying guns.
Religious zealots have started relocating to remote Y2K survival sites: High 54 Ranch in Arizona, Prayer Lake in Arkansas, and God's Wilderness in Minnesota. New members are asked to bring food and ammo.
So, is the sky really falling? Will 1/1/00 truly be the Day the Earth Stood Still? Should you buy K rations, and pack heat? Get real.
Y2K misinformation comes from three sources. Most is from scare-mongering consultants, who gleefully predict companies will bleed $600 billion in fixes. Some larger 62K firms are charging over $100,000 a day.
A lot comes from wide-eyes conspiracy crazies convinced the Feds will use such chaos to impose martial law, confiscate property, break up families, and create a new currency system, with piles of new bills stashed in Canadian warehouses. And the rest is from religious kooks bracing for Armageddon.
Gulp But businesses aren't stupid. The stock market and most big banks have already addressed the problem. So have the power companies, according to the North American Electric Reliability Council. They're all so terrified by endless litigation that they'll make sure they're ready to handle the dreaded 00.
You can be sure of a few things. First, there will be brushfires next January, but nothing apocalyptic--and besides, this will clear out the deadwood of aging technology. Second, anytime any dimwit makes any computer mistake for the next few years, they'll blame it on the Y2K. And finally, the Millennium Bug will enter the Urban Legend Hall of Fame, right next to the Kentucky Fried Rat, the Michelangelo Virus, and Missing Kidneys in the Bathtub of Ice. It's the biggest baloney ball of all.
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