Posts Tagged ‘humor’

One Man’s Millennium, a Y2K Story

By Perry Bradford-Wilson
Author of Tales of McKinleyville: Big Doin’s at the Chinese Baptist Church, Tales of Placerville: Booksellers to the Savage West, and co-author of Midnight in Never Land

December 31, 1999

In which the new century begins

In the last years of the twentieth century people became terrified that the world was soon going to be devastated by a villain called the Millennium Bug (not a virus, not even of the computer variety).  The apocalypse that would result from this devastating attack was referred to as Y2K.  I won’t bother to explain the details here.  Just go to Wikipedia or Google “Millennium Bug” or “Y2K” and then return to this story.

You’re back?  How considerate of you.   Now, as you may have read, people’s fears turned out to be largely unfounded and the whole Y2K thing turned out to be a paper tiger (okay, Google that term if you’re unfamiliar with it).  What many of us don’t know is that there was at least one individual who was heavily affected by the Millennium Bug, and this is his story:

For Dino Exeter 1999 was not a good year.  And now, on New Year’s Eve, he stood on the edge of the bridge in the dark.  Battered by a cold, damp wind, his year wasn’t getting any better.  His clothes were soaked, his nose was turning red, and he thought he might be coming down with a case of the sniffles.

Not that it would make any difference in a few minutes.

He looked down at his watch.  It was the third watch he’d purchased that day, because the first two hadn’t worked.  When he bought this one he’d had to go through six credit cards before he found one that still had any credit on it.  Four times he’d called the telephone time service to make sure it was set properly.  Through trial and error he got the watch set perfectly, right to the second.  Currently it was five minutes to midnight… exactly.  The twentieth century would come to a close, and so would the life of Dino Exeter.

He situated the rope about his neck – tight enough that it couldn’t slip off around his head but loose enough that it wouldn’t be uncomfortable until that final moment when it snapped his neck.  He double-checked his pistol to make sure it was properly loaded and that the safety was off.  He opened the bottle of poison and swallowed the contents.  Then he looked at the watch again.  Four minutes to go.

Four minutes, stretching out in front of him like infinity, four long agonizing minutes during which he would have to reflect upon the broken man he had become and the dreadful year that had taken him step-by-step to this chilly spot.

One might say that the end of the twentieth century had not been kind to Dino.

Last January.  January 15, 1999.  That was when his luck had turned.  He went lunch with Bubbles, his mistress, at the Buttercup Pantry.  After they finished eating he lit up a stogie he’d lifted from his boss’s desk at Widgets, Inc,., ignoring the huge NO SMOKING sign directly above his head.  Puffing grandly on the cigar, he overheard a developer sitting in the booth behind them say that a huge multinational corporation was going to buy all the contaminated property down by the rail yards, clean it up and build a big industrial park.  Dino always eavesdropped on the other people eating around them (it was certainly more worthwhile than listening to Bubbles).  Now the practice was finally paying off, because he knew something no one else in the world knew.  His retired neighbor, Ponty McFarland, owned a large piece of land just adjacent to the lots the industrial park wanted would be built on, and the decrepit elder wanted to sell it.  Old Ponty said it to him over the fence just this morning when he was tossing out the used cat litter and Elsa’s vodka bottles.  But ancient Ponty expected to get peanuts for the land!

So that’s when he set events in motion, events that would have terrible consequences.  Last January.  Dino had scraped every last cent he had out of savings and bought the vacant lot from the elder Ponty and waited for the development of the industrial park to begin so that he could resell the land for a healthy profit.

By July things started to get really tight.  His wife, Elsa, graduated from one bottle of vodka and a box of bon bons every day to several of each.  She spent money like they were Rockefellers, and with all of their savings invested in wizened Ponty’s waterfront lot they were spending more than he made.

Then came September.  That was when Elsa found out about Bubbles.  He still had a crescent-shaped pink spot on his forehead where the bottle hit him.  The divorce settlement wasn’t complete yet, but she’d probably take him for everything he had left.

Which explained November, when he ran out of money staying at the transient hotel and his boss at Widgets, Inc. caught him lifting another box of fine Havanas.  The pink slip and final paycheck were on Dino’s desk less than an hour later.

Now it was December 31st and he had just come from signing over the deed to broken-down Ponty’s vacant lot to the developer of the industrial park (who still hadn’t broken ground) for less money than he paid for it.  His bank accounts were empty, his house and belongings were in the process of being taken by his wife, he lost his job, and his one chance at wealth had just been snatched away.

At least maybe he could make the newspapers as the first suicide of the year 2000.

The last thirty seconds were the hardest, watching the hand tick its way toward the twelve.  “Here’s where my luck changes,” he thought.  He took a deep breath and then, as all three hands came together (making it look, he thought, as if the watch face was flipping him off), he launched himself off the bridge.

He was flying through the air as the new millennium began.

At that very moment the Bank’s mainframe computer hiccupped and, despite (or perhaps because of) the hard work of numerous programmers who had worked for months perfecting new “Millennium Bug-Free” software, made several minor errors which resulted in two million dollars being credited to the bank account of one Dino Exeter.

At one second past midnight the Mountain Air passenger flight which was in the process of landing at the International Airport lost all tower support and FAA communication, likely because of the absence of any attempt to hire numerous programmers to correct its “Millennium Bug-Ridden” software.  Blind due to the fog, the pilot overcorrected and the plane set down on Highway 49 instead of the runway, and plowed into oncoming traffic.  The industrial park developer and his briefcase full of signed sales contracts were trapped in the plane as it burst into flame.  The tail-section broke away and landed on a car driven by an executive from Widgets, Inc., who was so busy puffing away on his expensive Cuban cigar that he never knew what hit him.

At two seconds past midnight the mainframe at Widgets, Inc., reset the date to December 31, 1998, a safety feature added by those “Millennium Bug-Correcting” programmers to keep it from resetting all the way to 1900 in case their other fixes didn’t work.  Dino Exeter was once again listed amongst the employed.

At three seconds past midnight the computer chip in the East Bidwell Road railroad crossing gate turned itself off in confusion (strangely unrelated to anything involving bugs or programmers.)  A fifty-car freight train collided with a car belonging to Elsa Exeter, driving home drunk from a party, and flung it three hundred yards down the tracks.  Upon her passing, since her divorce was not yet complete, all of her belongings – the house and jewelry – became the property of her husband.

At four seconds after midnight, Dino Exeter, just to make sure the job got done, fired the pistol at his head.  Since he was already falling through the air his aim was shaky, and the bullet missed, instead hitting the rope and parting it.  Now free, he fell until he plunged into the deep, cold lake.  The impact drove the air from his lungs and he gasped, inhaling great quantities of icy water.  Instinctively he paddled for the surface.  Breaking free into the night air he threw up, driving the water from his lungs and the poison from his stomach.

Floating in the darkness and shivering in the night, Dino sighed.  I guess the arrival of the 21st century hasn’t done anything to improve my luck, he thought.

© 2011 Perry Bradford-Wilson

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