Monday, December 11, 2000

How My Chad was Dimpled

We look before and after
And pine for what is not;
Our sincerest laughter
With some pain is fraught;
Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought


I got my car back from the shop, the dang dings and dents and dimples all polished and removed. I'm hoping it can stay in this shiny condition for at least two weeks this time. I told Abra friendly receptionist Sue, a former high school classmate, that it looked as if I was becoming a regular of her establishment. She asked if I was married. On the radio on my way home I learned that Colonel Klink had died on Pearl Harbor day. I tried my best to figure out the meaning. Maybe it was connected to Shaq missing all eleven free throw attempts in one game; or the cost of sharing and sending a written word increasing by another unaffordable copper coin; or the Iron Chef finally being defeated by a challenger. All end of the world stuff. I remembered another not so long ago time I thought the apocalypse was upon us.

Sitting on the rug in front of my couch, legs stretched out underneath my coffee table, the TV was tuned in to Dick Clark's Rockin New Years Eve. The shade to my front picture window remained open allowing the flickering street light across the way to interfere with the darkness level of my living room. Max (henceforth known as Mr. Dimples) paced about as I tried my best to keep his natural curiosity from messing up the project in front of me.

Ever since Thanksgiving I had been working on the project- attempting to paint an oil portrait of the picture of beauty burned inside my heart congruent with the enhanced image (and memory) in my mind's eye. Actually I was cheating a bit with an inspiring photo available that I was relying on heavily to sketch out the details to the painting. The painting was not going well- the colors weren't right and my attempts at getting the eyes and smile right were equally futile with my attempts to get the proportions correct. The absence simmered more overwhelmingly than the times of her presence.

I got up and headed to the bathroom where I shut off the water that was filling my tub. I wasn't drawing a bath but rather as the clock approached the new year I figured the bathtub was my largest storage vessel and it was prudent to be somewhat ready. I had already filled all my empty bottles with water and gotten out my flashlights and candles. If this truly was going to be my last night on the planet I figured at the very least I should go out prepared.

I must say having attended several legislative hearings over the past two years on the potential Y2K scenarios I thought myself a bit more educated than the average citizen. Paraphrasing a Barbara Mandrell song, I knew what Y2K was before being Y2K compliant was cool. Deep inside I kinda hoped the world was going to explode. It wasn't so much because of my acknowledged fatalist tendencies, but rather it was more rooted in my journalism background. If this was really society's end, I wanted to be there to witness the biggest story of all. Selfishly I didn't want others to eventually see something I wasn't around to see for myself.

The phone rang and my sister in Los Angeles was on the other end. We chatted as the big hand of my Japanese clock edged ever so closer to the midnight hour. I turned down Dick Clark but didn't dare change the channel since he is the closest thing we have to father time. The Times Square ball hit its appointed spot and all the bells and whistles sounded. My sister asked if my electricity remained on. And it did leaving me feeling foolish for having nothing but a tub full of fear drawn water to celebrate with.

Yes I felt a bit daft for falling victim to the hype. But it had all seemed at least a bit plausible to me that because computer programmers hadn't planned ahead and had used two digit year indicators in many of our programs that there would be some computer glitches somewhere- the severity of which we couldn't really know in advance. I could very much believe our end would be caused by a reliance on science over our own spirituality.

But nothing happened. Our technology wasn't the end of us. Or so we thought.

On November 7 those of us still interested in the notion of civic duty went to our polling places to supposedly elect a president. There are a lot of myths involved with the importance of elections: that there is that much difference between the two major political parties; that every vote counts; that our system is so strong that it can handle any apparent crisis in a fair way. What seems a tad ironic is for years much of the nation has used voting systems relying on technology that was literally invented in the 1800's. That this year's election hinges on whether or not a ballot with a hanging or pregnant chad should or should not be counted makes those Y2K doomsayers seem absolutely ahead of their time- only they got their centuries a little mixed up.

No comments: