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[whitespace] My Millennium, Myself

Y2K draws no borders, excludes no one from its contemplation, however brief. Indeed, a subject so timeless and unpredictable has a cozy little spot for every personality type. Who are you in Y2K?

"And thus the whirligig of time brings in his revenges."
--Feste, 'Twelfth Night,' William Shakespeare

"In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder a secret order."
--Carl Jung

"There is no terror in a bang, only in the anticipation of it."
--Alfred Hitchcock

IN ALL THE CONCERN over computers, the power grid, the global economy and their built-in glitches, one thing has become clear: Coping with this vast known quantity that is the year 2000 is like religion. People believe what they want.

The result is that people are the greatest variable going.

No one really knows how we, collectively and individually, are going to react in the days and hours before and just after the stroke of midnight--especially if a few little or big things do go wrong.

And then there's the issue of how other people will react to those reactions. And so on.

County Mental Health tells us, for example, that most of the people experiencing extreme anxiety about Y2K are the type who experience extreme anxiety anyway. If it wasn't Y2K, it would be something else. (But yes, the agency will stock extra meds and have a 10 percent increase in staffing for the Y2K weekend.)

Fry's Electronics, meanwhile, says their rise in sales of Y2K-related products surged about six to 12 months ago. Sales of Check 2000 PC software are still brisk, and surely a few folks (the same ones who will do their shopping on Christmas Eve) are waiting until the last minute, but Fry's isn't expecting a panic.

While some people are going to just stay home and take it easy on the big night--figuring it could be nice to wake up on Jan. 1, 2000, without feeling tired and irritable--others are planning to party like it's, well, 1999. Cruises, all-night parties, celebrations in remote and high places. Because, what the heck, it is 1999. And some folks just love a party.

Bay Area artist Mickey McGowan, who keeps a collection of Americana called the Unknown Museum, thinks there's an overriding calmness because he and others of this generation come well-prepared for the ominous question mark of Y2K.

"I've been through the atomic scare with bomb shelters, I've grown up with the fear of California breaking off and falling into the ocean all my life," comments the collector of '50s, '60s and '70s Americana. "Y2K is just a drop in the bucket."

For people who have been writing "19" before the year for their entire lives, it's a thrill to be among the generation that gets to yank the number off the front of the millennium. But beyond this, Y2K is at this point an almost existential question. It's a chance to find out who, underneath it all, we really are. Who are you in the new millennium anyway?

The Deniers: Is Y2K the biggest nonevent you've never imagined?

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.

The Utopians: To a happy breed of wide-eyed, hyper-idealistic utopians, Y2K will be the brave new world we've all been dreaming of.

The Scorekeepers: To the media, Y2K is a piece of meat.

The Profiteers: The Big Bang is worth big bucks.

The Alarmists: If it all really does come crashing down, who ya' gonna call?

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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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