(I was dreaming when I wrote this.)
Readers may not remember the logo above, but we sure do. It ran every day, the size of a coin, at the bottom of our front pages during 1999. It also appeared as a button on our websites, attached to a countdown clock. So you can't say we didn't see it coming; we rode that sucker dry. In fact, by the time it arrived, we were already bored with the New Millennium.
"New Millennium." How weird that phrase sounds today — once exotic, now passe, exiled to a garish realm of "Y2K," "World Wide Web," "information superhighway," "ASL," "cyber" as a prefix and "You've got mail." We've transformed "millennial" from adjective to pejorative, maligning a generation we once considered the future, while the future itself rolls on, slippery, mysterious, tantalizingly out of reach.
There was a time when the year 2000 seemed impossible. We'd never make it. And what would happen if we did? Remember the nightmare scenarios? Our computer systems couldn't handle the rollover from "99" to "00." They'd faint from the effort and vaporize our economy. Elevators would stop mid-flight and dump their cargo in terror. Buildings would freeze or burn, their automated heating systems having lost the will to calibrate. We'd have to toss pre-made tombstones if Grandpa lived past Christmas. The skies would turn purple, people running everywhere. By Jan. 3, all in the mid-valley would have turned feral, resorted to drinking cheap cologne for sustenance and perished en masse atop Coffin Butte, leaving our poor Earth to ramble through space, an empty, lonely ball of sad, galactic nothin'.
We journalists did discuss many of these possibilities — in serious meetings, even, while suspecting they'd come to naught, and that we were no more evolved than ancient savages (albeit with slightly better 401Ks) howling come-ons at the stars. Yet we had to take them seriously and weave them into tapestries of caution and preparedness. In our defense, none of us had ever witnessed the dawn of a new century; the last people who did had traveled by wagon, read by candlelight, worked their kids in coal mines and buried their savings in jars. And not a one of 'em thought to leave us any tips.
Despite our forebears' negligence, we somehow managed to survive. I'll admit to some trepidation when the clock struck midnight on Jan. 1, 2000, fearful that our advancements were useless and we'd soon be plunged into oblivion. Instead, we just cranked up our "South Park" marathons or endless rounds of Prince's "1999," an anthem from our past that seemed most applicable now: "Two-thousand-zero-zero, party over, oops / out of time." But the party didn't end, and some of us have yet to go home.
Enclosed is a selection (eight! My poor fingers) of stories from the Albany Democrat-Herald and Corvallis Gazette-Times detailing the Y2K phenomenon as it happened. We'll visit some young and old mid-valley friends as they ponder the coming year and century (some forecasts are way off; others are frighteningly prescient), then remark on the hype as it passes into history.
Catch you next millennium.
ALSO IN THIS SERIES:
January 1, 2000: "The hopes and fears of the Y2K generation"
January 1, 2000: "Six-year-olds unfazed by Y2K hoopla"
January 1, 2000: "New neighborhoods and a different look"
January 1, 2000: "Technology will continue to drive law enforcement"
January 1, 2000: "Sweet Home will see few changes, residents say"
January 1, 2000: "Ready for her third century"
January 2, 2000: "Y2K proves a bust, becomes party event in Linn County"
January 2, 2000: "Y2K makes calm entrance in Benton County"