A Spy in the House of Work

They told me to worry. so, like a good adult, I did. I thought, “If I can’t even hold down a job, how can I possibly prepare for the greatest disaster in modern history?” Sometimes, while I was sitting in a movie theater and waiting for the coming attractions to start, I’d promise myself that — this time for sure — I was gonna stop at the supermarket on my way home and pick up a six-month supply of water. Or, during a late night of channel surfing, I’d make up my mind that — yes, indeed — it was finally time to stop screwing around and put together that solar-powered electricity-backup system.


One day, while I was sitting on my butt in my Uncle Marty’s basement, worrying about the pathetic number of hits on my “Ask Jeff Bezos — No, Not That Jeff Bezos” Web site and waiting for Realms of the Dragon to load on my computer, I forced myself to take a mental inventory of my Important Documents: the ones that everyone is supposed to keep hard copies of so as to prevent a Y2K-triggered personal-finance disaster. Then it hit me — a realization that, for some reason, had eluded me. With 117 days, 14 hours, 47 minutes, and 58 seconds to go, I finally got it: All of this Y2K crisis-management mishigas has nothing to do with me. I don’t have any Important Documents — not unless you count the valentine that I got from Stephanie Spector in the fourth grade.

What else can the Y2Kaputers possibly throw at me? Property ownership problems? Sorry, I’m a renter. And I don’t have any stock options. I do have some student loans and a rather large MasterCard bill — which, of course, will not be erased by Y2K. No, the computers keeping track of that information will hum and purr and spew out monthly statements until the sun collapses into itself and the earth becomes an icy rock that supports only debt. That you can take to the bank — where, incidentally, I have no savings account, 401(k), or any other form of economic surplus.

But, hey, what me worry? Airplanes grounded? I’m not going anywhere. Elevators frozen? I live in a walk-up. Computers fritzed? Love that bedside book of crossword puzzles. Pagers fried? And your point would be? Telephones dead? No more calls from telemarketing zombies asking me if I want to change my long-distance service.

My friend Rhonda, who prides herself on having things like life insurance and a time-share in Barbados, is in denial. “It’s all hype,” she calls to tell me. “We should be afraid of the drooling idiots who are out stocking up on a year’s supply of canned pears. That’s why there won’t be any food in the supermarkets: mass hysteria.”

“Bring it on!” I say. “Let’s go back to the time when you could do business only with people in your own neighborhood; when a handshake meant something; when documents were typed on a manual typewriter, in triplicate, with carbon paper; when ‘spin’ was something the washing machine did; when profits actually mattered; when ‘stock’ referred to cattle . . .”

“. . . The stock exchange dates back to the 1700s,” Rhonda says. “You want to go back that far?”


“. . . when failing to bathe regularly meant that you were a slob, not a software genius! Y2K isn’t a technological catastrophe. It’s a blow for the non – PalmPilot-owning masses!”

“I have a mind to report you,” she says.

“Go ahead. Come midnight, December 31, they’ll lose all of that information anyway.”

At that point, she hung up on me.

I got a candle and a deck of cards from the junk drawer. I lit the candle and dealt myself a hand of solitaire. Bring on the darkness. Let the games begin.

This is the latest episode in the spy’s continuing saga, “Working Behind Enemy Lines.” You can visit The Spy online (