Everywhere I looked that day, I saw signs and stickers designed to reassure me. There was one on my favorite ATM, telling me not to worry — that my gargantuan, overmerged, name-blended bank was Y2K-compliant. There was one at the gathering place of my favorite cybercafé, telling me that everything in the joint, from latte makers to Web surfers, had been neutered or spayed, making them Y2K-safe. And in my favorite brick-and-mortar tech store, all the laptops had big stickers on them telling me that every box in the shop was safe and sound (never mind that they'd all been sitting around since last Halloween). That's when it hit me: The Y2K bug has nothing to do with chips and code.
A stylish young couple (blond, matched piercings, inky-dark jeans, worth millions) stood next to me at a display laptop, worrying aloud about batteries.
She to he: "My question is, Will it run out of juice before we get to Spain?" Then to the bored clerk (blond, piercings, inky-dark jeans, paid minimum wage): "We're going to Bilbao in August, the year 2000."
My head nearly snapped off my neck: August, the year 2000? Helloooooo? I know the millennium is upon us, but when did we start speaking in tongues? What we have here is a linguistic meltdown waiting to happen: We face the prospect of living the next 3,650-plus days in the Nothing Decade — with the Nothing Century looming in the distance. The real problem is the What-2-Call-the-Millennium bug, and that looks like a business opportunity to me. This year is the worst — the triple-zero year. These are desperately cacophonous times.
At first, I began to suspect that we were doomed to spend the next 10 years reconfiguring the reliable, yet already ho-hum, Y2K to fit. So February 2000 becomes the rather unfriendly-sounding F2K. August 2000 becomes A2K, which sounds a little like a firearm — but, hey, get over it. I don't even want to think about how to distinguish March from May, or June from July.
But if we follow the Y2K model, what happens next year? Is it Mar01K? Too license-plate-ish. Maybe just a simple, elegant O would work. I called Spud, my former boss, and said, "I'm really excited to see what PotatoWare has going in the ohs."
"You mean What do I have in the pipeline?"
"Ohs," I said, "not 'hose.' "
"What are you talking about? No wonder I fired you."
Then I read about this guy somewhere in the South who has decided to name the OO generation "aught-ers" and is introducing a line of stuffed-otter mascots and shiny otter decals, all in an effort to help "generation double-zero" find itself.
Which reminded me: Branding is everything. I need a campaign. I need visuals — a logo, an icon, a trademark. I need the calendar equivalent of a dotcom. The classiest name would be a Bondian double-O, but that's already copyrighted. I wouldn't be able to profit from my linguistic innovation. And, besides, the next century starts with a triple-O: It calls for a longer, rounder sound.
So I offer you the Ooohstm (rhymes with "zoos"). It's upbeat! It's sexy! January Oooh! Think Oooh-la-la! Think that World War II-era pinup girl who's wearing red polka-dot shorts and looking over her bare shoulder, pursing her cherry-red lips and winking! February Oooh! It's sassy, fun, hot, and hip!
Are you going to Bilbao in August Oooh? We'll be there in late August Oooh-1.
Join the Oooh-generation! Coming soon to a store near you!
This is the latest episode in the Spy's continuing saga, "Working Behind Enemy Lines." You can find the entire Spy chronicles on the Web (www.askthespy.com).
A version of this article appeared in the Jan/Feb 2000 issue of Fast Company magazine.