1999 was a crazy year. There were rumors of total devastation and ruin. The electric grid would fail and everyone worldwide would be out of power. Water supplies would be contaminated because all the pump stations would be shut down from the power loss. Filling stations would not be able to sell gas or diesel because of the power outage. Banks would close their doors because there would be no money or no way of knowing how much money anyone had in their bank accounts. Computers were going to all stop working come January 1, 2000. Cell phones and telephones would all be down and no one would be able to call for help. Police would be overwhelmed with trying to manage the weirded out population. Hospitals would stay open as long as they could using their generators until they, too, shut down.
There were stories everywhere of people stocking up on bottled water and canned foods. Some grocery stores were nearly left empty from the deluge of shoppers preparing to live a life similar to the movies of Mad Max and other apocalyptic movies depicting life after a major catastrophe. Gun sales went up late summer and far into December. People had to have a way of protecting themselves from marauders who wanted to steal their hoarded goods.
It was a totally crazy time. Truck drivers talked about it all the time. That was the topic of conversation when a group of men were gathered together. There were people that didn’t believe it would happen and life would go on just like any other day. There were people that were positive they would be stuck out in the middle of nowhere, far from the safety of their family.
Computer programers were working themselves to a frazzle figuring out a way to write code that would be implemented for the banks, corporations, and governmental agencies to continue on. I don’t really know what all the panic was about except to say that ALL of the computer’s date feature did not go past December 31, 1999. Whomever created the coding for the first computers in the early days picked an arbitrary date and left it. No one had thought to change the code over the years until they were faced with this calamity.
Joe and I had delivered trucks in California somewhere and were on our way home in the pickup. We stopped for the night in Albuquerque, New Mexico and stayed at the Best Western on December 31, 1999. We talked about the real possibility we would not be able to buy gasoline to get home. Any money we had waiting in our mailbox or already in the bank may just be worthless paper.
We went to bed with our own thoughts on what we were going to face come morning. I don’t know about Joe but I do remember having a fitful nights sleep. I think I was awake most of the night. Any noise out in the hallway of the hotel made me suspect the door would be forced open and some crazed person would rush in and commit all manner of mayhem.
The alarm feature of my wrist watch went off at 5:30 a.m. I sat up in bed and, tentatively, turned the switch of the night table lamp. I remember being afraid to do it, turn the light on. What if? If the light doesn’t come on does that mean everything was true? What if the light does come on? Does that mean the general public had been lead to crazy town all year long?
Well, I had to find out. I turned the switch and the light came on. Yes! The power grid had not failed in Albuquerque, New Mexico anyway. Next thing to do was check Joe’s cell phone to see if there was a signal. His phone was fine and working properly. Next item of business was to call our bank’s 800 number and see if I could get through and find out if we still had money to get home. The irritating recorded message at the bank with all the commands to push that number and then this number, enter this information and that information, were like music to my ear as I listened. With an excited yelp I told Joe that we still had access to our bank account and could get home.
New Year’s Day, January 1, 2000, in Albuquerque, New Mexico dawned windy and cold. There were voices heard on our floor and down the hallway. Excited voices. Happy voices. Laughter and calls out saying they knew everything would be just fine. The staff at the hotel front desk were happy and laughing at each other for being so scared of what could have been. The restaurant staff at the hotel were glad to see us and were happy to be of service to us.
The pall of gloom and doom that had infected everyone for nearly the entire year had been lifted. Now the jokes came out. “What are you going to do with the cases of canned tuna you bought?” Truck drivers chided each other over the amount of bottled water they had stored in their trucks. There were a few that said they could have free showers now. Just use the bottles of water they had stockpiled.
The people we encountered on our journey home made me thankful that everything worked out well. People came together to work out a problem to make sure our lives could go on just as normal. They poked fun at themselves for having been so scared and panicked – over NOTHING.
What are your memories about the turn of the new century? Where were you? Did you stockpile canned goods and water? Were you one of the many who bought a generator to power your home and keep your refrigerator working?
Stay tuned. You never know what will come out on this blog. I have boxes of photos I’ve gone through and put in year order. Looking through the photos brought back tons of memories and I will be sharing them with you.
Joe picked up trucks in Fontana, California bound for Georgia. He made a stop in Arizona to see family there. He got to love on our grand-daughters as well as their Mom and Dad.
I sincerely hope that everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving day spent with family and friends.