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American Dreams

Y2K: Threat or Menace?

by Robin Miller

G21 Irregular

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I have been deluged, as have we all, with advice on how to survive the Y2K debacle. Most of that advice seems to come with a "buy our products and you'll be fine" message attached to it. Am I cynical, or are there a whole lot of people sounding big alarms just so that they can cash in on this event by selling everything from survival food to badly-written "make your PC Y2K compliant" software?

Here's my take on the Y2K deal, and what you can (and should) do to prepare for it:

Buy Post-It Notes

I mean hundreds or thousands of cases of them. Lots of Wite-Out would also be good to have on hand. See, commerce is not going to grind to a halt on January 2, 2000. The food trucks will roll, and store shelves will get stocked, even if corporate computers don't work or get dates wrong. So lots and lots of hand-written notes will be appended to forms and stuck on warehouse walls, so many that the world will run out of Post-It notes by, oh, January 5th. A smart entrepreneur who shows up at any warehouse with a couple of cartons of the things, and is willingto let go of them for a mere five or six times their normal retail price, is bound to make a killing.

A few hundred cases of Wite-Out would also be good to have around, because plenty of computers will seem to work okay in 2000, but all the forms they spit out will show the year as 1900. This won't be a big deal. Clerks and managers will do what they've always done with incorrectly printed computer forms: they'll use Wite-Out to "erase" the error, and write in the correct information by hand. Office supply store shelves will be stripped of Wite-Out within a week, leaving managers a choice between messy scribbled cross-outs or buying Wite-Out from you for a mere 10 times its normal retail price.

Waving American FlagOne note: make sure the dates on any checks you take in January, 2000, are correct, and if they're hand-modified, make sure the signer initials the correction. Just a little bit of CYA...

Have Plenty of Cash on Hand

No, not to buy food. Your credit cards will work fine. No one has been better about Y2K compliance than money-maneuvering companies, because if they don't keep on processing cards and sending out bills they'll go broke. What you want money for is to buy Internet stocks. They're going to take a beating on January 3, 2000, which will be the first day the stock markets will be open after the calendars click over.

The Internet will probably work just fine in Y2K. The people who run it are obsessed computer junkies, and they'll be plenty Y2K ready. But public perceptions won't catch this concept. All those AOL investor chat rooms where stocks get touted now to insane levels will suddenly be full of (false) rumors about the 'net shutting down. Because of this, Internet-related stock prices will go down, down, down, in a ring of fire.

That's when you'll step in and buy, buy, buy. It'll be your chance to grab off big chunks of Yahoo, Lycos, Amazon, eBay, and other hot-hot Internet companies at prices that actually reflect their true value instead of the current silly markups. Then, when the herd of idiot investors that has driven 'net stocks to their current levels ralizes that Y2K was no big deal after all, you can sell out and retire to Fiji and spend the rest of your life sipping rum drinks with little umbrellas served by lissome barely-clad maidens (or hard-bodied studs; your choice).

Lots of Overtime!

One immediate, positive effect of Y2K will be a massive redistribution of wealth to the blue-collar and pink-collar hourly workers who have to correct all the wrong dates on all the computer-generated forms. This will pump billions of dollars into the economy where it is most needed. Almost anyone literate will be able to earn thousands of dollars in overtime or side money during the first quarter of 2000. And for a few more months, they'll make just as much manually re-entering corrected dates into the computers.

All the auto repairs and home improvements that beleagured hourly workers have been putting off for years will finally get done. Mechanics and construction workers will benefit from this, and will spend their new-found wealth, resulting in a tremendous economic explosion -- from the bottom up.

Y2K Investment Advice

Buy Wal-Mart stock. Wal-Mart is the favorite shopping spot for blue-collar America. And dump Gap shares, because the managers who authorize all the overtime (and buy their clothes at Banana Republic) will all be fired for blowing their personnel budgets.

"Don't Worry, Be Happy"

This line, originally written by 14th century Persian Christian mystic Meher Baba, should be your guide to Y2K. If you believe Jesus (or another deity) is going to make an appearance then, great! Give away all your worldly belongings to deserving people (like me!) and prepare to sing hosannas as you rise into heaven or Valhalla or wherever your beliefs will take you. If you're not into religion, treat Y2K as a chance to have the greatest New Year's Eve party ever.

True, the 21st century doesn't really start until January 1, 2001, but who cares? Have two great parties -- and make sure you invite me to both of them.

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