Y2K

Sallie Satterthwaite's picture

This could just as well have been published in 2014. We’ve had more mysterious glitches recently,15 years since Y2K....

From news services: Air traffic controllers across New Zealand, unable to communicate with each other as a result of a computer glitch, scramble to locate scores of flights. A backup system is activated, no mishaps reported.

And this: Americans receiving parcels from Germany are advised to handle them cautiously and call police if packages are unexpected – or from Frankfurt.

A heretofore faithful Internet server refuses to function. Suggests check password or modem configuration. Nothing has changed – it’s just not working.

The phone rings. No one’s there.

The furnace does not come on and the house is cold. Not a glitch Dave can fix. Call the service guy, who can’t come for several days.

At Kroger my credit card declines to scan. I begin to worry. No plastic money? This is a glitch Dave can fix, with the old-fashioned green kind.

 In the middle of one of our favorite Beethoven concertos, the car radio goes silent. We jiggle knobs; it comes back on. Off. Back on. Then off for good – until Lois Reitzes apologizes that WABE has lost the satellite feed for Karl Haas.

Doesn’t matter. By this time, we’re fiddling with the heater which has also gone South at the worst time of the year. A virtually new car, and the heater doesn’t work? How can this be?

What else will go wrong? We look at each other.

“Did you notice something odd about Old Grunt last night?” Dave asks. Old Grunt is his mother’s grandfather clock, so named because it complains bitterly about any kind of change. Daylight Saving Time wasn’t Grunt’s idea and he resents the twice-annual adjustments. Behind the pure Westminster chimes, if you listen closely, you can hear him grunting and groaning as his elderly gears strain to tell an hour he doesn’t believe in.

“I couldn’t sleep,” Dave continues, “and I noticed that at midnight, Old Grunt didn’t strike at all. Did the chimes, but not the strike. And at 12:30 he struck 11. At 1 a.m., he was back in synch again.”

“Nonsense,” I shake my head. “You know how that clock works. Each set of chimes and strikes has to follow in a certain order, or the whole thing is off. And he’s OK today. You must have imagined it.”

“Like you imagined the piano wasn’t working?” he retorts.

I wince. I had begun to play a hymn at church, but the piano made only a little sound as though every string was heavily muffled – nothing anyone 10 feet away could possibly hear.

As worshippers looked at me with puzzled expressions, I banged my hands harder on the keyboard, to no avail.

That’s when I glanced down at the damper pedal and realized that this particular piano can be silenced by pushing the pedal down and to one side where it catches under the framework and mutes the works.

What was happening?

“The microwave. You didn’t hear it last night?” Dave asks, slowly.

The microwave built into our old range succumbed to lightning several years ago. Rather than install a new one in a stove we’ll replace soon, we bought a small stand-alone and set it on the counter. The old one makes a dandy cabinet for cereal and crackers.

Recently, however, it’s begun making odd noises, clicks and screeches, all on its own. Dave can’t fix it, but assured me there is no danger.

Until at midnight it also began flashing lights bright enough to illuminate everything in the room. Then the fan started running.

I slept through the commotion. Shaking his head in disbelief, Dave severed all electric connections to that part of the stove.

A Y2K day!

Except it was NOT on a single day that all these things happened. Most of them took place over the course of several months.

But if any or all of them DO occur on Jan. 1, you know someone will blame the fact that the calendar has flipped to a new millennium.

Stuff happens. Every day.

That’s the only thing that worries me about the so-called “Y2K crisis,” that glitches like any of these will happen somewhere Friday night. And someone will panic and do something stupid.

As for large crowds, we plan to stay out of them anyway. Did last year and the year before that, and the year before....

Listen: As imprecisely as the Western calendar was designed, and as uncertain as scholars are about the exact date of Christ’s birth, there is nothing mystic at all about midnight, Jan. 1, 2000.

Sure, I understand how the double-zero could cause computers to fail, but should we predict the end of the world on that date? I don’t think so.

The only real Y2K bug is the one gnawing its way into the minds of misled survivalists and the superstitious.

Easy for me – the co-owner of a camper with a full water tank and a generator – to say.

And if my computer goes down, my guru, who assures me everything will be OK, will have more to worry about than just the end of the world.

[Sallie Satterthwaite of Peachtree City has been writing for The Citizen since our first issue Feb. 10, 1993. Before that she had served as a city councilwoman and as a volunteer emergency medical technician. She is the only columnist we know who has a fire station named for her. Her email is SallieS@Juno.com.]

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