April 12, 2003

By Michael Strickland

Y2K in Y2K3

I spent the day scuba diving at the Los Coronados Islands, in Mexican waters south of San Diego (here's what it looked like, and yes, I saw lots of them). If I feel inspired, I'll write up the experience in the morning for my Sunday column. As for today, however, I'm exhausted, so I'll use today as my "rerun day" for the month of April. Here's a little humor I wrote back in 1999, when Y2K captured everyone's imaginations. This was published on Year2000.com, one of the leading informational sites responding to the computer "crisis" at the time.

· · ·

Y2K is the "Ctrl-Alt-Del" of the Information Age

I’m starting to think this Millennium Bug crisis could be a good thing.

Today I sat on hold for an eternity while I fought to make a claim with my home warranty company. Later in the day, I met an employee of a major overnight package carrier who would not accept my letter because it was one minute past her closing time. And in going through my mail this evening, I found a past-due "delinquent" notice from my long-distance phone company that had been sent on the exact same date as the original bill.

We’ve all had days like this, when the bureaucracy of our society threatens to swallow us whole. We’ve all felt the futility of trying to correct clerical errors with a giant corporation when we have to talk to a different anonymous representative every time we call. And none of us can go away for more than a couple of days without having our mailbox overflow with useless, unsolicited junk mail.

And, like global warming and pop music, it’s only getting worse. Minor yet annoying mistakes on utility bills and bank statements are becoming increasingly common. Yet when we try to correct them, we have to navigate a touch-tone customer service labyrinth—only to end up waiting on hold for ten minutes. And don’t even try to correct the problem by writing a letter; you won’t get a response for four months, if you even get one at all.

If our lives were computers, then Windows would be the perfect metaphor for our society. Those incomprehensible error messages that pop up unexpectedly would symbolize the phone company trying to explain those arcane new fees and surcharges. Those excruciating delays when your system freezes up for no reason would represent the interminable hours you wait on hold, listening to a recording telling you what a "valued customer" you are. And the dreaded "blue screen of death," where the only solution is to shut down and restart, would epitomize the Millennium Bug. Maybe that’s what our frenetic, bureaucratic, computerized society needs: the "Ctrl-Alt-Del" of Y2K.

I don’t want the numbers in my bank account to roll over to zeros along with the numbers on the clock. Nor do I want to move to a ranch in the Ozarks to escape rioting gangs of looters. But I’m beginning to wonder whether the "rebooting" of our society is a kind of poetic justice in this Age of Information-Overload.

When the ball falls in Times Square next year, and the double-nines in millions of lines of code turn into double-zeros, will civilization as we know it really cease to exist? Will we really wake up on January 1, 2000, to a quiet, calm, dark world? Will those pesky touch-tone customer service menus really be silenced for good?

No one knows for sure, but at least we can hope.


Development note: I've noticed that this site doesn't look like it should in Netscape Navigator. Rather than waste time jury-rigging it to look right in a soon-to-be-obsolete browser, I'll just add the cliché "This site best viewed with Internet Explorer."
Michael Strickland ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

What is "The Daily Strick"?

I have long called myself a writer, but too often I don't do what a writer must do daily: write. So you, dear reader, are the beneficiary of my resolution to make a positive change in at least one area of my life. Every single day of this new year, I will write something, anything, and post it here. It is my intention to use this daily exercise to jump-start my too-long-dormant creative energies, and perhaps generate some worthwhile material this year. Hopefully you will find at least an occasional amusement or insight in my daily musings.

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4/11: Slow Glass
4/10: Freedom of Speech
4/9: Why We're Fighting
4/8: Eucalyptus Memories
4/7: Sleep
4/6: Writing, Just Not Here
4/5: Sci-Files Trivia
4/4: Sobering Up
4/3: Great White Hope
4/2: Entropy
4/1: Peace on Earth
Previous months in The Archive

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