Sunday, June 14, 2015

Matt the Bartender and the Y2K Bug

Indianapolis, December 31, 1999

December 31, 1999, a Friday night.  I spent Christmas in Rock Island with my brother (and saw my Sunday School teacher's stripper sons), and now I am in Indiana, visiting my parents.  They don't go out for New Year's Eve, so I am on my own.

They have been living in Indiana for 3 years, and I visit twice a year, so I've been around a lot, and managed to make a friend in Indianapolis: Matt the Bartender.  He actually is co-owner of one of the gay clubs in town.

 He's upbeat, energetic, and knowledgeable.  We've gone out to the bars twice, and once to The Works, one of Indianapolis's gay saunas.

Whenever I visit, he asks me to spend the night, but I politely refuse. He's not at all my type: tall and thin, a bit on the feminine side, and he drinks.  And it's only a 45 minute drive down to my parents' house.

Tonight Matt invites me to a New Year's Eve party at his apartment on Vermont Avenue, around the corner from his bar.

There are 10 gay men there.  We play risque party games, run around naked in the snow, eat Swedish meatballs, flirt...and worry.

Everyone is talking about the Y2K Bug, the global catastrophe predicted due to computers storing years as only two digits: 75, 83, 98, and so on.

Apparently when they were invented, the 21st century was decades away, and no one thought about the problem of distinguishing the year 2000 from 1900.

So when 99 rolls into 00, everything will reset.  There will be massive power failures. Airplanes will fall from the sky. Bank accounts will empty.  Credit cards will be useless.  And, maybe, nuclear weapons will fire at the nearest target.

We don't really believe that these terrible things would happen, but just in case, we all have extra food and water at home, and some of us converted our bank accounts into cash (not that paper money would be of much use after the Apocalypse).

At 11:00 we walk down to Matt's bar to ring in the New Year 2000.  At the stroke of midnight, the lights flicker a bit, but nothing else unusual happens.  Someone turns on a tv: no news reports of planes falling out of the sky or nuclear weapons firing.  Of course, it might take a few hours.

The other guys want to stick around for awhile, but I'm tired, so Matt offers to walk me to my car, back at his apartment.

We walk out into the dark, silent parking lot, and turn south on Park Avenue, past a deserted school.  The street lights are flickering oddly.

"That's weird," Matt murmurs.

At the corner of Michigan, the street is blocked.  It's wet, and shimmering.  There's a fire truck, and people in hazmat suits.  We turn left to avoid them and go around the block.

Mat wraps his arm around my waist.  "It's ok -- gay neighborhood," he says.

I don't mind the comfort.

The Lockerbie Pub is closed, with a handwritten sign in the door: "No trespassing."

"It was open yesterday.  What happened?"

We look at each other.  This is getting weirder.

Somewhere in the city, we hear gunfire.

We reach Vermont. -- a 5 minute walk has turned into 15 minutes in the frigid cold.

"Maybe you shouldn't risk driving all the way back home tonight," Matt says.  "Call your parents and tell them you're spending the night with me."

I agree.

In the morning I discover that there were no major Y2K problems.  The weird walk home was just a coincidence, and skittishness.

But Matt was really good about using it to his advantage.  What better way to get a guy to spend the night with you than the fear of the Apocalypse?


  1. Good job, Barry! Take care and stay bare, man!

  2. People thinking in base 10.

    What really happened was "19100". Which is all one could expect.



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