The year was 1999. I was living with my cousin and her tiny orange cat, Benny, in a small two bedroom apartment, working at the airport and attending college. People were listening to the Goo Goo Dolls, Sugar Ray and Britney Spears. X-Files was all the rage, the Twin Towers still loomed over New York City and every motherfucker and his dog was afraid of Y2K.
Now, before you judge me, I have to make clear that it was less of a fear and more of a hope. It wasn’t that I hoped any harm would come of it, it was more that I hoped something huge would happen that might redistribute wealth and force us to reconsider a world in which I had to forgo sleep for years at a time and amass atrocious debt in order to be able to have any sort of education. I kind of wanted it to happen… so I let myself believe.
As the days went by and New Year’s Eve drew closer, I imagined a world in which all bank and credit records had been wiped. It was a glorious thought, not to have to pay back my nearly $20k I’d amassed in debt already for what amounted to a degree in indecision. I stacked water bottles on my balcony and filled my cupboard with non-perishables. This fucking bug was gonna fix us and I was going to be prepared.
Deep down, I knew it was ridiculous. I had spent more time with a computer in my life by this point, than I had eating, drinking or sleeping. I knew how computers worked for the most part. This tiny seed of doubt was there, but I silenced it. I was a sociology student going through my obligatory leftist rebel phase and this would make my little commie heart swell. I wanted to believe and in my little computer den which I’d nicknamed the Control Room, I even had the poster to prove it:
My Mulderian tribute hung above my computer, which I had named Radio Friendly Unit Shifter and from my perch in front of it, I read panic-filled articles about New Year’s Eve, like this:
I had managed to convince my cousin that the world was coming crashing to a halt as well. She and I agreed that we would watch the first New Year’s celebrations in Tonga and New Zealand live together to see if anything happened.
We had to stay up pretty late to watched the New Zealanders ring in the New Year, but we cracked beers and stayed glued to the screen. We watched the kiwis celebrate, party and dance and finally, the countdown came.
My cousin and I glance at each other.
I take a sip of my beer.
My heart is pounding now.
The screen goes black.
“What the fuck?” I screamed. My cousin looked at me in sheer terror. In that moment, I knew that neither of us had actually believed anything was going to really happen, by the look of utter shock on her face. That second hung in the air, feeling like an hour, as sweat formed on my forehead. This is real, I thought.
“Sorry folks! Technical difficulties. We’re back. Happy New Year!” The partying Southern Hemispherians were back, filling our screen with vibrant colours and life.
We both sat, mouths agape, staring in disbelief at the television.
“Did that… did that just happen?” My cousin finally broke our embarrassed silence.
“Jesus fucking Christ, what timing.”
My cousin and I had a good laugh at ourselves and went to bed with slightly bruised egos in a world where Y2K was just as much of a threat as it had been the day before.
Which is to say, no threat at all.