Thursday, January 09, 2014

My Y2K Moment

Lately I have become interested in emergency preparedness and survival techniques. The good thing about such a skill set, is being ready for anything. The bad thing about such a skill set, is attracting others who are ready for anything, including those who are a little too ready. You know who I'm talking about; the "doomsday preppers." If you've reached the age of majority by now, you are old enough to remember what didn't happen when 1999 became 2000. Of course, it was a great time for COBOL programmers -- people who knew the language of the old mainframes that still held much critical information, but were supposed to go dead the moment the clocks turned over -- but other than that ...

It was New Year's Eve in 1999. I was invited to a special black-tie dinner by our then-communications director. It was strictly a private affair, so your tax dollars didn't pay for it. This gal I was seeing at the time was all set to introduce Mr Wonderful (that would be me) to her friends in the coming weeks, but you wouldn't know it by the look on her when I came to the door. Something was up, but I tried not to notice. (I'll get back to that.) But it was hard not to notice the wonderful full-course dinner we had. This was my first such affair. I hadn't seen this many pieces of silverware in my life outside of where it's stored.

You have to remember that I come from people whose place settings only had one fork, even when the good china was brought out. It's one thing to have a separate soup spoon, because you need that big one to, you know, eat soup. But two forks? What would be the points? (Get it? Points?) Now, imagine seeing three of them, among other things. As for the night in question, what did all those pieces do? Well, someone just said to start from the outside and work your way in. That did the trick. For more details, I obtained this handy illustration from Fatima and Andrew Spoor. Keep this handy in the photo gallery of your smartphone, and you'll always know which implement to use next.

What happened to the one that got away? Well, once the clocks turned over and our computers didn't all die on us, she dumped me two days later. I found out about two weeks after that, that she was already making time with an old flame of hers for nearly two months. He was in a high position in a cabinet-level department right across the street, and the whole Y2K thing was the occasion for their meeting up again. And again. And again. What made it worse was that we both worked in the same agency, the same communications office. I wasn't just dumped; I was publicly humiliated. I remember sending her a long, heartfelt letter in the spring of that year, telling her of how these things tend to revisit you at your own expense. Two weeks after that, she discovered she was in the latter stages of cancer. She passed away by summer's end.

That wasn't what I wished for her, obviously, but I remember how bitter I was at the time, and how I considered it a form of poetic justice. Not only is that a rather cruel thing, but it presumes to know too much of what the Almighty has in store for us. We see so little of the big picture. We need to dust ourselves off, and move on. Somewhere in the greater scheme of things, there was then, and is now, a reason.

So eventually I did move on.

Most of the good things that have happened to me in my life, have been in the last ten years. For all my good fortune, I never forget how fragile the human condition can be, and how, as Old Blue Eyes used to say:

“Life is like the seasons. After winter comes the spring. So I'll say a little prayer, and see what tomorrow brings.”

Oh, and when the old homestead was sold last year, guess who got the good silverware.

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