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July 16 • 09:13 AM
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This 'moment' seemed a lifetime


July 10, 2019
Well, now that the cat it out of the bag—or perhaps more appropriately almost out of the office what with last week's retirement announcement and whatnot, I'm going to start taking a look back at some of the more memorable moments I've had here at the paper.

This particular memory, though, felt more like a lifetime, not what I'd call a "memorable moment."

I'm talking about Y2K and the crazy, conspiracy-theory fueled year that preceded it.

For those of you fortunate enough to have blocked it out and/or weren't cognizant and/or not yet born, Y2K was the nickname given to a so-called "computer bug," which was a programming method to save space. Years, like 2019, were expressed with two digits, rather than four. So throughout the year of 1999, people worried, buzzed and brewed that somehow the year 2000 (Y2K) would be interpreted as 1900 or some such and all computer systems, power grids, vital services, etc. etc. would crash and life as we knew it would come to a grinding halt, and anarchy would ensue. During much of 1999, I wrote numerous stories featuring interviews with representatives from Detroit Edison, Consumers Power, the Michigan State Police, etc. detailing the reasons why this theory was off base. It. Did. Not. Matter.

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A whole cottage industry of businesses cropped up, fueled by the anarchy claims. "Entrepreneurs" came out in droves, hawking everything from wood stoves to dehydrated food. These people set up shop at meetings and conventions centered around the perceived Y2K disaster. People were advised to sell stocks and invest in government bonds, to hoard food, household items and hunting supplies, and to find or create an alternative source of water and electricity. Books were written offering survival tips and dark predictions of the chaos that would ensue come January 1, 2000.

In all of my years on the planet I had never encountered such massive distrust; such major belief in something that was again and again debunked by computer experts, government officials, energy and emergency service providers, computer programmers, bankers, and the like. It didn't matter how many seminars aimed at quelling the rampant fears I attended and wrote about. People were having none of it. The perceived scenario fit some sort of narrative that chaos and calamity and turmoil would devolve our country, our community, our humanity, into the depths of a dog-eat-dog, every-man-for-himself existence. It was disheartening. And exhausting

Still, I found myself getting a bit swept up into it, too. Talk about cognitive dissonance! As much as I believed the experts who offered numerous assurances and much evidence that everything would be just fine as the new millennium dawned, the disbelief of the majority of vocal people around me pulled me in just a bit. What if I was just "naive" and "too trusting," something I'd been told over and over again like it was some sort of disease?

So, while partying "like it was 1999" (because it was) at my sister's Royal Oak home, when midnight struck I will admit the first thing I did was rush to her kitchen sink to turn the faucet on. Like it did every other time I turned the handle, crystal clear Detroit water came gushing out.

There was no anarchy, no government takeover, no social disorder, no mass chaos. Just another turn of the globe on another cold January day in the Great Lakes state. And another whole year, which obviously morphed into 20, to fight the human—but not very kind—urge to say "told you so..."

Email Catherine at cminolli@pageone-inc.com.

Catherine Minolli is Managing Editor of the Tri-City Times. She began as a freelance writer with the Times in 1994. She enjoys the country life, including raising ducks and chickens.
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