1. Archive

If this year was next year last year, er ...

This time last year the hysterics were in firm control.

They said you had to store up food and take all of your money out of the bank and buy a gun and avoid flying on airplanes because, in this age of technological accomplishment, computers weren't going to be able to tell 2000 from 1900 (even in places other than Palm Beach County) and things were going to fall apart.

Of course, given the outcome of the last election, we may all have difficulty figuring out what century we are living in before long.

Our uneasiness about technology probably began around the time the first caveman refused to repair a friend's club, pointing out that it was a hardware problem and not his area of expertise. Combine that with a little misguided religious fervor and you had the makings, although not apparently, the final recipe, for a full-scale panic.


Here it is the last week of the (sort of) real last year of the millennium and nobody seems to care. No unusually big bashes are planned that I can find out about. I'm not hearing about booking nightmares at hotels or clubs. Nobody is selling Y2K kits with instructions on how to sprout your own wheat or make venison jerky.

The "millennium countdown" clocks that were all the rage of the last end-of-the-world scare aren't anywhere as near in evidence this year. In fact the only one I have seen is at Robby's Liquors in Dade City where I was doing some, er, research. (Okay, prudence dictates that we all lay in some supplies.)

I'm not hearing the doomsayers quoting obscure scriptural references to show that this is the year that it all ends.

It's sort of like the whole millennium thing has moved on looking for another crap game to disrupt.

Which makes me wonder what had us more scared _ the prospect of the apocalypse and suddenly being called to account for our lives, or not being able to tap into our e-mail and sell useless things at Internet auction sites?

When I wrote last year about it not being the true end of the millennium, I got mail from people extremely upset over that non-issue.

Sorry, folks, I can't help it that the calendar most of us currently use is based on computations done centuries before Arabic scholars got around to inventing the concept of zero, and so the first year A.D. was declared (500 years later) to be the year 1. That made the last day of the first decade Dec. 31 of the year 10, and the last year of the first millennium Dec. 31 of the year 1000. So Sunday is the last day of the second millennium.

It gets more complex though when you realize that time is a distinctively relative dimension and methods of measuring it tend to be subjective, geo- and ethno-centric and that most religious scholars agree that Christ was born sometime around 2 or 3 B.C. meaning that if you peg cosmic events to that date, the real millennium happened a couple of years ago and nobody noticed because they were too caught up in the Monicagate coverage.

I realize that only we millennium purists will be reveling smugly in our chronological surety this weekend, and that other people will be celebrating the fact that things aren't as scary as they were last year and that, except for a couple of hundred vote-counting machines, nothing was adversely affected by the computer version of chaos and entropy triumphing over our puny efforts to change the universe.

What we have all lost track of is the purer essence of human expectations and to what extent they are marred or buoyed by the passage of ephemeral time.

Or, in other words, as a young colleague of mine asked over lunch a couple of days ago: "Where's my flying car? All the movies and all the stories and even The Jetsons promised that we would all have flying cars to zip around in and I want to know where mine is.

"You know," he added sadly, "I'm starting to wonder if television lied to me."

Sometimes progress comes in baby steps.