Guest column: Y2K stories we'd really like to see

If you read the headlines, Y2K sounds like no big deal. We've got the whole thing covered -- it won't cause any more mess than a typical rush hour. But take my advice: read more than just the headlines. Read the fine print.

It's the details, not the headlines, that I worry about. It's the 'buts' and 'yets' that are often overlooked. Below, as a public service, I've provided a handful of the headlines you've probably been reading and the details you probably have not.

But please note that the following is purely fictional; any similarities to actual agencies or acronyms, living or dead, are purely coincidental and the problem of my low-priced lawyer, who works out of the back of his Subaru.

-- Headline: "FAA assures that flying on New Year's Eve will cause no problems". . . but landing may be another story.

-- Headline: "Russians boast 99.9 per cent compliance rate of embedded chips inventoried". . . it's the ones they haven't inventoried that you should worry about.

-- Headline: "The IRS reports that 50 per cent of its systems will be done by August". . . another 50 per cent by October and the final 50 per cent by year's end.

-- "Pentagon: 100 per cent of our in-house apps are now Y2K compliant". . . we can only fix the ones where the original programmer is still "in-house".

-- "Internet providers expect to be up and running flawlessly during the millennium rollover" . . . just don't be surfing www.swinging.swedish.erotica.com at the stroke of midnight, or you'll download 99 years of naked ladies and your mom will find out.

-- "Sydney plans to hold 2000 Olympics no matter what". . . 'cause if no one else shows up, Australia will get all the medals.

-- "Red Cross advises 'survivalist' mentality; stock up on food, water and supplies". . . unless your neighbor outweighs you by 30kg -- then you're probably in deep yogurt.

-- "Major US airlines say they'll be ready on 12/31/99". . . yet, they still haven't found my bags from a trip to Cleveland in '97.

-- "Prison officials will make sure the doors properly open and close at midnight". . . so if something goes wrong, they can make a beeline out of there.

-- "Nasdaq expects markets to withstand rate hikes, Asian crisis and Y2K". . . however, if eBay Inc has another big outage, all hell could break loose.

-- "Post Office assures customers: No delivery problems due to year 2000". . . as long as you don't mind delivery some time in the year 2000.

-- "State governments express confidence that they'll be ready for year 2000". . . about eight months after year 2000.

-- "Feds satisfied that nuclear industry Y2K efforts will yield glowing results". . . if you know what I mean.

-- "Hospitals: Doctors will use cell phones at midnight to ensure communication". . . with their lawyers.

-- "New Y2K bill protects companies with fewer than 50 employees". . . which might include even Microsoft, if you don't count its umpteen thousand contractors.

-- "NASA insists: satellites orbiting Earth pose no problems on 1/1/2000". . . the ones that won't be orbiting Earth? Believe me, you don't want to know.

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