Y2K? What’s that?

Y2K What is going on? The end of the world, that’s what! At least an apocalyptic ending is what I thought at 13 years old listening to the mass media, in addition to my friends in high school. A simple computer date change glitch caused thousands of people to flock to supermarkets to stock their homes, register for survival classes, and purchase more firearms. I, a very gullible and impressionable teenager, thought the very worst was coming. Because my mother and I were very poor, I started selling whatever I could of my things, board and video games, clothes, and even a gold cross I received as a First Communion gift; along with doing odd jobs to buy extra water and canned food, just in case this really was the end. Many times during this semester we have broached, as a class, the topic of what we would do in a time of crisis, and how we would handle it. In the case of 13 year old me, and several of my friends, full blown panic ensued. Relating this back to course concepts like waste, care, memory, forgetting, and performance every one of these was present in 1999.

Waste absolutely nothing. Even though my mother and I were poor and didn’t waste much anyways, I strived to make sure nothing was underused or appreciated. We used old empty bottles to fill with water. We bought canned food from the clearance aisles in the grocery store because dented cans were always cheaper. I went through old clothes, if items didn’t fit, I cut them and turned them into rags for a first aid kit. I sold anything I thought was frivolous, why would games and toys be needed when we were going to be fighting for water and food? Why waste anything when you aren’t sure you might need it? These ideologies are the first steps in becoming a Y2K hoarder. Waste not, want not. If we used every single thing, we would never be in need if drastic things were really to happen. We saw this in Spike Lee’s film with people that heeded the evacuation warning, they took only what was necessary, and used everything that they would find.

Care went into everything, every thought, and every action. At this point, school is on winter break and I start going with my grandmother to church at 4am every day to bake. We baked bread every morning in that basement for all the shelters near by, and for elderly members of the community that couldn’t leave their homes. We baked until 2pm and then drove all of those goods around. In our neighborhood, we had community meetings just to be sure everyone was going to be safe, if things really did turn out badly from Y2K. Care was the antidote to the violence we all expected to come soon, just as care was the antidote in the SuperDome in New Orleans during Katrina. Singing to lift the spirits of the dejected population helped expel the violence people were experiencing in the conditions they were in.

I forgot about all of this until this semester discussing it in class and all of the memories came flooding back. The panic and the hysteria, but also the love and partying because the end was really coming; not the end as reported in Revelations (although some people did think this), but this new technology is going to end everything new to send the human population back to the 1900’s. I remember thinking planes were going to fall from the sky, because our computers were going to crash. Forgetting all of this, seems like forgetting the feeling of when it did change to the year 2000, and everything being just A OK! The powerful  celebration moment I can compare to the Second Line. During the lead up to 2000, the panicked were set in The Durge, filled with sorrow, sadness, fear, grief, and so many other difficult emotions. But then the date changed, we were all still present and accounted for, the Second Line and the celebration of life began.

Performing the role, “hysterical teenager scared the world is going to end because the computer isn’t going to know what the date is,” now seems like a trope you would find in the movie The Day After Tomorrow. Remembering all of this now and reflecting on it, makes it seem more of a comedic performance of survival. I performed “gullible” perfectly. In the film, panic and gullibility leads people to make rash, uneducated decisions; just as I did in 1999. After the clocks actually turned to 12:01 AM on January 1st 2000, and everyone saw that things were just fine, the performance of celebration began. The streets were flooded with people, dancing, laughing,and singing. In a matter of minutes, the hysteria and panic was gone, like it never existed.

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