Happy New Year, Y2K plus Ten, The Twilight Zone & Me
Posted December 31, 2009on:
Ten years today, you couldn’t blame us if our hearts beat a little faster and we were a little anxious as the clock approached midnight on New Year’s Eve.
We were all a bit afraid that the Millennium Bug was Gonna get us.
What was it this frightful bug? Early computer software designers had abbreviated the year on systems throughout the world to two digits instead of four. They did so to save what was then very costly computer space. As 2000 approached, there was fear that computers would shut down and nothing would work. Billions of dollars were spent to prevent the end of the world, as we knew it.
One answer on Yahoo! Answers described the Y2K Scare this way:
Everyone thought all the computers would crash – they thought that after 1999, the computers would not know what the date was and that all the information in the computers would be lost forever. People were worried about their investments, money, jobs, houses – any loans – good credit, etc. We were going to go back to caveman times – no heat, running water, etc. Panic – it was kinda funny how some thought when you look back on it.
I knew folks who were very anxious, expecting us all to turn into survivalists. It would be neighbor against neighbor, maybe family members against family members. One in particular was stocking up on supplies and equipment.
How would I respond to shortages of heat and food? What did I really know about my family members – Maggie, Michael and Dick? And the truth be known, what do they know about me?
The most I did was ask other people what they thought about it all and to buy new flashlights for each of us – that we didn’t use. Very little happened across the world, whether it was in the United States, which spent gazillions of bucks to prevent catastrophe, or in countries where little was spent.
We all breathed easier when the lights stayed on at our friend’s house, where we went to celebrate the New Year.
Fear is an incredible thing. As a little girl, I was terrified of everything. I made my parents turn off the news because it scared me (and I later became a newspaper reporter). I was incredibly fearful of cancer, which a fear not eased by my reading the book, Death Be Not Proud, written by author John Gunther about the death of his son from a brain tumor.
And then there was the Twilight Zone, a series that for five years in the 1960s mixed science fiction, horror, suspense and fantasy with twists at the end of each episode – it was the Twilight Zone after all. I would panic when it came on but boy did I want to watch it. I just wasn’t brave enough.
At age 57, I can handle it. In fact, the SciFi channel has an annual Twilight Zone New Year’s marathon, which I’m watching bravely as I write this post.
The first episode I saw today, “The Shelter,” was about the panic that occurred when Russian missiles were believed heading to America.
Citizens were told to go their nuclear bomb shelters. Neighbors who had celebrated the birthday of their friend one night were screaming to be allowed into his bomb shelter the next day. Inside the shelter, the mother was asking what the point would be of surviving.
In the end (episode spoiler here), everyone learned the missiles were only satellites. The neighbors begged forgiveness for destroying the door to his shelter. One suggested a cookout that night to get over what had occurred there.
The owner of the bomb shelter noted they had been destroyed without the bomb.
This episode reminded me of the earnest conversations I had with my father in the 1960s about why he didn’t build us a bomb shelter. A very well read man, he gently explained the futility of such a shelter. It didn’t reassure me, but daddy knew best.
We seem to have fears that arise regularly these days, promulgated by the 24-hour news cycle that makes everything seem scarier than it is.
So ten years after Y2K, nearly fifty years after the drive for personal bomb shelters and eight years after September 11, let’s remember the words of President Franklin Roosevelt: “There’s nothing to fear but fear itself.”
Of course there were also the words of Sergeant Phil Esterhaus: “Hey, let’s be careful out there.”
But not too careful. Happy New Year to all and to all a Happy New Year.