Volume 2, Issue 2 University of Houston
In just a few days, another year will begin. But it won't just be a new year -- it will be a new millennium. Or will it?
According to the news media, corporate America, cult leaders and the general population, yes. But for purists, the new millennium won't really begin until Jan. 1, 2001. They're quick to leap into any millennium discussion by reminding us that the calendar began with the year 1, not zero. Therefore, the next thousand years begins in 2001, not 2000.
We non-intellectuals follow the crowd in believing years that don't begin with a "19" signal a new millennium. We've never been adept at math anyway. What are we going to say in 2001? "Happy new millennium ... again."
In the meantime, let's go along with those who believe we will be entering a new era in a week and a half. It seems people aren't having as much fun as they expected. Some companies have grounded their employees during the New Year's week; flashy millennium parties haven't sold as many tickets as expected; and people are reconsidering plans to be in large crowds as threats of terrorism emerge.
And, of course, there is the ever-present Y2K computer problem to contend with. Generally, word is that the United States will be OK. It's the other countries we have to worry about. But that may not be the case -- even if our computers don't fail, we Americans still need to think about what we could do to ourselves.
For example, even a very minor glitch in some important computer system could cause a fairly widespread panic. This isn't to suggest scenes of mayhem, with people overturning cars and being trampled to death in the streets, but stranger things have happened.
As if the computers weren't enough to worry about, Southwestern Bell last week urged customers to only use their telephones if absolutely necessary during New Year's weekend. An overload of calls -- people celebrating, people just placing test calls to make sure the network didn't self-destruct at midnight Jan. 1 -- might overload the system, they said.
Then we have the religious fanatics, who believe the world will end Jan. 1, and the terrorists who would love to make sure it does. Needless to say, the very last thing we need on New Year's Day is news of a terrorist action or mass suicide. Whenever the Second Coming is going to happen, we're sure it can go off without any help.
None of this is meant to be a gloom-and-doom forecast for New Year's Day. We hope everyone keeps cool, celebrates a new beginning and that the year 2000 dawns without a hitch. If nothing else good comes of it, at least we won't have to hear "1999" being overplayed any more.
So happy new year, and happy new millennium ... until 2001, that is.