Over the holidays, it came to my attention that a champagne shortage is projected for next New Year's Eve. I've since started to stockpile the occasional bottle. This is as far as my big turn-of-the-century plan has gone. I don't even know what I'm doing right at this moment. I can't be expected to know what I'm doing a year in advance.
Lots of people do, though, thanks to the Y2K bug, the misplaced pebble that could level the mountain. The computers might have a hysterical breakdown and bring the world to a standstill because they can't read "2000." That's how I understand it. Actually I don't understand it at all. How come we can control a big Hot Wheels car on Mars, but two digits have scientists scratching their heads bloody? Dennis Miller put it best (he usually does) when he said it figures that computer wizards can't handle a date.
The most enlightening things I have heard about the millennium, though, didn't come from the media. They came from a friend who lives in Chuluota. She didn't know about the Y2K bug until last week. Last week. She told me, "All of a sudden everyone is scared of R2D2 and I don't get it." Then she added that she didn't have to worry, because the next century wasn't coming to Chuluota for a long time anyway.
But the really interesting thing was the conversation she recalled with the friend who told her she'd better start hoarding cans of Ensure, the diet supplement they're always telling old people to drink on TV. My friend said, "I'm not hoarding Ensure. I'll just drink some of yours." Her friend said, "No, you won't." The tongue-in-cheek response was, "Wow, I know just what kind of person you would have been in World War II."
A little chilly, right? But casting your own personal Lord of the Flies is a fun game to play. Look around you. Stare through narrow eyes at your comrades (or are they?). Sure, they're quick to buy you a beer now. But would they pass you a tepid swallow of Evian the Day After? Which one will Underground Railroad you into their bathroom and whisper, "We have all the toilet paper, go nuts, just don't tell anyone." Who will be the post-Apocalyptic Martha Stewart who learns how to make earthworms that taste like chicken quesadillas with mango-cilantro salsa? Who will find God when the refrigerator is empty, as if the Almighty was back there behind the barbecue sauce all this time? Who'll stand guard over their Ensure stash with a wild look in their eye, protecting it with the butt of their spent shotgun? Who would take comfort in going out to hunt for Ensure for others? Who will throw Panic Parties, featuring shots of Ensure with champagne chasers? Who will be Piggy?
It all goes a long way toward explaining why things are the way they are now. Ever wonder how come people are so selfish and pushy? It's inherited. Nice guys don't live to pass on their DNA. That's how come you have so many people who are willing to knock you off the road to get ahead in traffic. "Me first" genes are the ones that survive.
A computer technician told me the bug won't be any worse than a really bad storm; things will be down for a while, but that's about it. I hope he's right. I suspect the worst thing will be the panic people create before they know if there is really anything to be afraid of. People have a way of making their own worst suspicions come true by believing them. I know. I'm great at self-terrorization until I remember it doesn't get you anything but sweaty.
On the other hand, no one wants to be completely unprepared and end up as the post-Apocalyptic mooch. So in the interest of fairness one must turn the narrow eye to the mirror when considering crisis behavior. I know, for example, I am an excellent hoarder. I have never progressed past the stage where I look at something and think "mine." Nonetheless, my champagne supply isn't going to hold out for long. I'd have to let my friends in. Not because I'm some crazy do-gooder; I'd let them in for one selfish reason. If a cork pops in the future, and no one hears it -- well, no one but me -- how much would I care if it made a sound?
I don't think it will be Mad Max out there, but none of my predictions ever come true. I could predict people will need oxygen to live and by tomorrow nitrogen would be the element of choice. So since I want everything to be fine, I'm going to predict it will be awful. It's going to be hell on earth, and I'm going to buy cases of Ensure and build a fortress out of them. Like the gingerbread house in Hansel and Gretel, it will be a dreamy oasis of everlasting sustenance in a wasteland of dead technology and supermarket doors that won't open. I might even let you in. Just don't tell anyone.