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[whitespace] Illustration The Moderates

Not afraid to fly on New Year's Day? Pretty certain the traffic lights in small towns and Third World countries will malfunction? You could be a member of the Y2KOKBYME club.

By Traci Hukill

IT'S LIKE the whole nation took a big fat Valium.

A year ago, one-third of the respondents to a Gallup poll on Y2K fretted that there would be "major problems" resulting from computer glitches in 2000. By August 1999 that number had dropped to 11 percent and about three-quarters of respondents were breezily defining themselves as "somewhat concerned" or "not too concerned" about the phenomenon. In the intervening months, moderation had stepped in with a winning smile to save the day from boneheaded panic.

But like sensible shoes and good mental health, moderation is a bit pedestrian.

"It's an awful term. It doesn't sit well with me at all," says Tim Litvin, an optomechanical engineer working in Mountain View and a Metro-identified Y2K Moderate. Asked to revise his label, Litvin considers for a moment.

"'Existentialist?' he replies. "Maybe 'cautious realist.'"

More elegant terms, to be sure. But for the purposes of gross generalizations about Y2K, "moderate" describes most people pretty well. The Moderates are the ones who plan to have a normal amount of cash on hand come New Year's Day. They're the ones who believe that something somewhere will go wrong (for example, three-quarters of the Gallup poll respondents are "not confident" that Third World governments have it together), but whatever it is they're pretty sure it won't disrupt their daily routines. They're the ones who are determined to behave as if nothing were amiss--by, say, making transoceanic flights during the first week of the new millennium.

"I've been planning a Y2K vacation for 10 years," says Litvin, who hopes to be with his sweetheart "naked in the ocean in Hawaii" for the big moment. "As far as flying on Jan. 1, I wouldn't even be worried about that. We're coming back on Jan. 2 because that's the longest we could stretch it out."

Litvin refuses to be prodded into any confessions of stockpiling canned goods or water or even backing up his files at work.

"I've got files backed up on CD, but I just do that naturally," he says. Continuing, he figures, "The bigger grids are probably pretty stable at this point. There may be some minor systems failures, but I think they'll quickly resolve themselves."

Slight pause for effect. Then:

"It's the cannibals that worry me most."

Travel agent Margie Chain thinks most customers are "more or less realistic" about the dangers of air and sea travel in the New Year.

"Some people think Jan. 1 all the ships are going to sink," she giggles. "But I think that's a small percentage of the people."

Her employer, Cupertino Travel, specializes in trips to Hawaii, and those are all sold out for the upcoming holiday season. New Year's Day was one of the very last days to sell out this year, but Chain says that's absolutely normal.

"Through all the 20 years I've been in business, that's pretty much true," she says, "because everyone wants to be out celebrating the night prior."

Chain notes that she's heard more people say they wouldn't want to be in a ship on New Year's Day than wouldn't want to be in an airplane. She's not sure why, either; if anything happened, she says, "You'd be in the same boat as anybody else."

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From the November 18-24, 1999 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 1999 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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