New Year’s in a dark and lonely world

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By Monica Bodirsky

A clock that counts down to Jan. 1 available in National Geographic’s mail-order catalogue. Home dentistry kits for survivalists. Empty metal canisters marketed as “The Millennium Time Capsule.” Televised specials about the prophesies of Nostradamus. A reported increase in sales of weapons, dehydrated foods, generators and every other conceivable and inconceivable item related to the upcoming turn of the century.

These are just a few of the things I’ve noticed over the past nine months. But has all this Y2K hype whipped us into a state of readiness for the apocalypse, or has it numbed us into complacency?

My observation has been that the closer we come to the main event, the more certain people seem to believe that nothing will change.

We can probably attribute this to the power of mass marketing, as well as society’s tendency to stick its head in the sand when faced with something as overwhelming as the end of the world.

Amid all the furor, the Canadian public is being advised to have at least three weeks worth of food and water available in case disaster strikes come New Year’s.

This started me thinking … what if? What would happen if our electricity fails? The repercussions would be widespread, and a little advance planning might be a good thing. The scenarios are endless

  • Alarm systems will shut down, leaving homes and businesses vulnerable. (Board up your windows and pray a lot — even if you aren’t religious, be glad you don’t live in a country where every citizen is armed and idiotic.)
  • If timed lockdowns fail, cell doors in penitentiaries may open. (On the other hand, move to a country where you can arm yourself to the teeth.)
  • Lack of streetlights will attract looters and psychos. (Get lots of candles and a fire extinguisher. Again, a prayer or two couldn’t hurt.)
  • Having no communications systems will leave you uninformed as to what the looters and psychos are up to. (Broadcasters won’t be in studios, so forget stocking up on batteries for local news. Get a short-wave radio so you can try listening to broadcasts by looters and psychos from seized television and radio stations.)
  • There’ll be no heat. (Get out your thermal undies, sleeping bags and tents. Be sure not to burn anything too large indoors.)
  • There’ll be no refrigeration. (Get dehydrated and canned foods. Spam is not technically a food though.)
  • There’ll be no bank machines or record of any money in your accounts. (Stuff your money under your mattress. Although the disappearance of bank records could be good if they lose track of your horrendous debt.)
  • Everyone panics about losing their money and withdraws just enough cash from their accounts to cause a major stock market crash. (Only withdraw a little money.)
  • Military could get misleading information about incoming nuclear missiles and strikes from other country. (Pray.)
  • Traffic lights will fail. (Although everyone ignores red lights now, it could get really ugly. Don’t drive.)
  • Gas station pumps won’t unlock without electricity. (A good thing since traffic lights aren’t working anyway.)
  • TTC service is out of the question. (Call in the military, Mel.)
  • Trains and planes will be crippled because of inaccurate communication with control centres and towers. (Stay home, under your mattress … with your money.)
  • You’ll have no entertainment without your VCR or CD player. (Try to remember how to strike up a conversation or deal with awkward silences.)
  • Failure of automated point of purchase systems (used by cash registers to combine inventory and sales figure records), could force large food stores and other retailers to lock their doors and refuse customers. (Get more dehydrated food and canned stuff … Spam beginning to look edible.)
  • Water systems fail, leaving people dehydrated and unable to bate or flush the toilet. (Get drinking water, get used to dirty clothes and body odour, and find a bucket with a lid for sanitation purposes.)

Or … nothing could happen and it’s business as usual. See you next year.

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