Burton on the Bay:
Bah, Humbug ­
They're Ruining the Millennium

Who first invented work, and bound the free

And holiday rejoicing spirit down?

  "Work" by Charles Lamb, 1775-1834

Charlie, you ask who? I'll tell you who and what has bound the free and taken the fun out of the holidays in '99. Listen up.

It's the damned Millennium, Y2K, the so-called computer whizzes, and the greedy restaurateurs, inn keepers and others trying to gouge every penny from us as we switch not only centuries, but all the numbers at the top of the calendar.

Holiday spirit? As my friend Ebenezer Scrooge says, "Bah, Humbug," so say I. They've taken the fun out of the holiday season of '99.

You can't get away from it. Magazines, radio, the boob tube, the daily press, the next door neighbor, the computer geeks, the panhandlers, everyone talks about the Millennium. Why there's even a big red digital read-out in the Riviera Beach Post Office to remind me to the second the time between now and when 2000 arrives.

I can't get away from it. Who can? I've got nothing personal against the Millennium as such. In my lifetime thus far, as each new year began, they changed the last two numbers at the top of the calendar, now they're changing all four. Welcome 2000.


Gloom and Greed

But what concerns me are the avaricious beings behind all the hoopla, especially the Doomsday Clan who tell us the world is going to hell in the proverbial hand basket because the computers that overwhelm our lives might not be able to cope with the big switch-over.

No problem for the people who make calendars. Why all they've got to do with their presses -- which incidentally are now dictated to by computers -- is change the four big numbers. So why can't the innards of computers change their own scheduling and get on with all the business they were built for? Ridiculous.

How ridiculous? Dear readers, do you realize that just the hoped-for solution to feared Y2K glitch woes is costing us $100 billion, which boils down to $350 for every American? What in hell will we have left for the holidays?

And the way things are going, considering the greed of those who manage partying facilities, the big Millennium New Year's Eve bashes will be so prohibitively costly that that $350 per head invested in Y2K -- if we had saved it -- might not even pay for a goblet of bubbly champagne on the big night.


What We're Up Against

I'm thinking of packing wife Lois and my white cat Frieda into the Subaru station wagon and driving over to the post office with two caffeine-free Diet Rites and a bowl of cream so we can celebrate the occasion by watching the digital read-out get down to the last second, sort of like watching the big ball fall at Times Square on the TV with Guy Lombardo and his gang.

But I have three obstacles. One, Lois probably wouldn't go for it. Two, Frieda hides when the pet carrier comes upstairs from the storage room (she thinks it means a trip to the vet). And three, seeing that the guts of the Subaru are dictated by computers, there's no guarantee the vehicle will get us back to 178 Park Road, which is almost a mile from the post office. And who knows what the weather will be like for carting a bulky plastic cat satchel?

See what I'm up against? How about you? With that $350 a head cost for Y2K computer protection screwing up the family budget, can you afford turkey with all the trimmings Thanksgiving Day? Never mind a night on the town on Dec. 31, 1999. And what about the Christmas presents?

And even if you can afford gifts for Santa to put under the tree, ever think about the gifts you and the rest of the family might get? Where will you stow them?

If you read or listen to all the blabber in the media, every cubic inch in the house, the barn, shed, trunk in the auto and perhaps the local Rent A Space stowage shop will be filled with toilet paper, milk, cat food, canned goods, bread, batteries, receipts, cold hard cash, fuel for the furnace in the event it's still running, instruction manuals, hand-wound clocks, tobacco and even comfortable boots because you might be doing a lot of midwinter walking in weather that can't be predicted seeing as the weatherman now depends on forecasting aids run by computers. Whew!

See why there's no holiday spirit in this house where we're still trying to decide whether we can afford a turkey for Thanksgiving, a Christmas dinner, a Christmas Eve party and all the gifts, never mind the traditional New Year's celebration?

Between now 'n' then, we've got to fatten up like fish do in the fall preparing for winter because we can't be sure the rolling wheels and twirling propellers of computer-dependent commerce will still be rolling come Jan. 1, 2000. You can stow only so many tins of cat food, hams and beans in the house.

And I can't depend on going out on Stoney Creek in back of the house to catch a fish or two to tide us over. My computer guru friend Alan Doelp tells me that the big fear with Y2K is that anything or everything that depends on time-interval signals in computer electronics is suspected of being at risk -- and that's what dictates to the fish-finding gadgets we've all become so dependent on in recent years.

If I were to head out on the Bay, eyes glued to the screen of a fishfinder, I might think I'm in the Atlantic with the bottom 1,000 leagues beneath me due to screwed up computerized electronic signals. And the fish might appear like a miniature guppy -- or perhaps the great white whale.

They've hooked us, those computer entrepreneurs. They've made us so dependent, we can't get by without them. Come New Year's Eve, I don't want to celebrate on the 50th floor of anything for fear the elevator won't get me back down. No train rides because track switches are computerized -- can't even be handled manually any longer. And flying? It's out of the question.

But you can bet one electronic gadget will work: The electronic cash registers at the joints bent on ripping us off on New Year's Eve. Now you see why I'm Scrooging it this holiday season.

The only saving grace is, that for humankind -- at least now -- there can be no more than one Millennium in a lifetime.

Gotta rush, just realized Frieda's prescriptions are stowed in a computer at the Medicine Shoppe, so I'd better stock up -- just in case.

Hope I haven't ruined your holidays.

| Issue 47 |

Volume VII Number 47
November 24-December 1, 1999
New Bay Times

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