Prompt 115: On Y2K Mania
115. As the 1990s drew to a close, many people feared that computers would shut down as soon as the clocks rolled over to the year 2000. How would your life change if all computers shut down today? What would you miss the most about your computer-filled life and why?
I still remember some portions of the original night of Y2K. My then-wife walked out to spend the night with her friends shortly after the ball dropped, declaring: "I'm not a child!" ...Oh, the memories. Meanwhile: what would happen if there were a computer technology meltdown today, similar to that hypothesized at the turn of the century?
The first thing I thought of was: do I have any relatives on computerized medical life support? Fortunately, to my knowledge the answer is no.
More immediate and close to home... I have a wall of books that I've only been through about a quarter of. So I would be content with the possibility of learning plenty even without computers around. Also dominating the shelves of my room would be dozens of board games, some of which I created and/or am working on. I am no stranger to writing letters, and I think that my family and friends would appreciate a bit of written communication during a time like that. Paper and stationery prices would spike, at least temporarily. At grocery stores there would be a run on pens and pencils.
Were it to happen at this time of year - early Spring - I am absolutely certain I would be able to visit the garden plot more often and dirty my hands. This goes double were I to lose my day job due to the tech catastrophe.
I wouldn't be doing tech support or facilitating online classes right now. Maybe we'd be doing socially-distanced training classes? Maybe I'd be on-call for computer on-boarding and upgrades once a fix was sorted out. I do have a hunch my current employer would find some way to keep me on the payroll, but those are the only two possibilities I can think of, off the top of my head.
I would likely take my bicycle out to actual trails, assuming the pandemic isn't concurrently affecting the world. If it were, then I'd be solely on the exercise bike. It would be very likely that most automobiles wouldn't work. So maybe I'd be commuting by bicycle again after all. If public transit was operational, I'd cycle to the nearest bus stop and combine both bike and bus into my commute (again, were I still employed).
I would enjoy paying exclusively with cash again. I was on a mini-vacation this weekend and almost made it the entire time -not- using my debit card. I would have, if only that pesky bartender hadn't charged my tab to it (yes, I actually braved a karaoke bar over the weekend). At a time like this, I would spend my funds on food only. There's also the question of visiting the credit union... How would they be able to handle the massive distribution of cash? Like others I'd make it a priority to go to the nearest branch and withdraw nearly everything I could.
I can imagine a run on the credit union, similar in size and scope to the panic scene in "It's A Wonderful Life," because that's all I can compare it to in my mind. But it might look like something more akin to just a long, long line outside of the credit union, people anxiously waiting, until finally some financial guy or woman in "smart clothes" calls out on a bullhorn: "The credit union is closed. For questions, call our help line at..." Then things would turn ugly. Families living hand-to-mouth would be desperate for funds to pay for groceries, or maybe just any amount of food.
I can't shake a slight level of dread about not having a job particularly as a result of a major technological blackout event. People would go crazy in their panic. I'd suspect people would break in and take stuff from shops or peoples' homes largely because they would have nothing to do, and since they likely wouldn't know their immediate neighbours they'd have few local connections to lose.
At this point I live in a suburban edge of a large, rough-edged city (the polite would describe it as, "post-industrial, perhaps on the decline"), and it would likely be some time before riots and crime waves would beleaguer the area, if they indeed did come prior to recovery. I'd be able to fortify the downstairs door - the one leading directly into my room/apartment, of course - to discourage break-ins by the desperate.
The upper classes would be safe of course, and still earning their bonuses. They would retreat to their bunkers - now perfected and fortified thanks to the pandemic's effect on the security culture of wealthy elites. They'd be just fine, while there would be famine and panic throughout the US (and the rest of the world). What would happen to their financial reserves is anyone's guess. They'd have to see what data survived after the computer wipeout was remedied.