Their Clocks Are Ticking

What do you mean, you don't know yet? How can it be this close to New Year's Eve -- and not just any New Year's Eve -- and you still have no idea where you'll be at the stroke of midnight?

Actually, you're probably better off not knowing. The best New Year's memories are unplanned -- especially when they entail falling down drunk and skidding through the middle of an icy street as the clock strikes twelve. Those are the good times, so don't feel sorry for yourself.

Instead, feel sorry for those people who know exactly what they'll be doing: waiting for the world to come to an end. Or, if not the world, then maybe just an embedded chip. These are the people who have spent the most time preparing for the global meltdown, but will be the least able to enjoy it when it does -- or does not -- happen.

This sad demographic includes people like Brian Mouty, the state's number-one guy in its war on the Y2K glitch. Since April 1997, he's been in charge of overseeing the ruthless rooting-out of defective lines of code in state computer systems, making sure they'll be able to roll over without a problem. He's not expecting any catastrophes, but come the final seconds of the twentieth century, he'll still be bunkered down in the state's emergency command post at Camp George West in Golden.

"I don't like to use the term 'bunker,'" says Mouty. "It gives the wrong connotation." Just think of it as a warm cozy hole in a mountain that will give Mouty and his staff uninterrupted access to the communication equipment they need to contact Colorado counties and municipalities to make sure they haven't been wiped clean off the map come 12:00:01.

For these dedicated professionals, there won't be any champagne or lobster dinners -- just cold cuts and carbonated apple juice. But Mouty's not disappointed that he won't be able to smooch with his wife at midnight. "It's part of the job. I knew this day would come."

"We can't drink because we're city employees," explains Molly Landa, director of Information Systems at Denver International Airport. There may not be any champagne corks popping for DIA workers, but, Landa says, "we'll try to make it fun." And what could be more fun than looking for computer glitches and making sure planes don't land in the middle of Peña Boulevard? "I'm happy to do it," says the mother of two, "but obviously, I'd rather be at home with my kids."

Landa looks at the bright side: She's never been one to go out and party on New Year's Eve, anyway. "I'll be happy to have it over with, that's for sure."

But think again, sister. There ain't gonna be no bright side when you're living on the other side of the millennium, according to Y2K survivalists. Unofficial Denver Broncos mascot and full-time Y2K worrywart Rocky the Leprechaun refused to pinpoint his anticipated location at midnight except to say "underground." Though he didn't want to be quoted further for this article, or explain exactly what he meant by the term "underground," he said that's where he'll be, along with all the other folks who've been concerned about Y2K's potential to bring an end to Life As We Know It.

This past year, Rocky, born Glen Brougham, has been running a Y2K preparedness center from his garage, selling No. 10-sized cans of freeze-dried foods -- eggs, spaghetti, beef stroganoff, you name it -- as well as electricity generators and water purifiers, in case things get really scary ("Time's Out," July 15). But too late now. Glenn's done with people who aren't already prepared. As he told a Westword reporter this summer: "Your lack of preparedness does not make us kooks."

No, it just makes them opportunists, says a very reassuring Paloma O'Riley, co-founder of the Cassandra Project, a nonprofit organization that's spent the better part of two years sounding the alarm about Y2K. O'Riley is dismayed that Y2K survivalists, whom she calls a "tiny fringe," have garnered so much media attention. She says the point of Y2K preparedness is not to hide out, waiting for the end of the world, but simply to be aware that disasters happen and Americans are almost universally unprepared to deal with them.

"It's not really a smart way to live. I've just had three power outages this month, and it has nothing to do with Y2K -- it's the weather," she says. So when the big moment comes, you won't find her in a basement bunker nervously stroking her cache of ramen noodles. She's putting on her fanciest dress and gathering with family and friends at a swank Boulder restaurant for dinner and dancing. "We're going to party!"

Allenspark native Jason Kelly, author of Y2K: It's Already Too Late, an apocalyptic thriller about what will happen when all those chips fail that includes a climactic shootout in the Rocky Mountains, is anxious to see whether some of his dire predictions come true. He was planning on "hiding out" in the mountains -- he now lives outside Los Angeles -- but a few months ago he had a change of heart. "I said 'Forget that.' If anything's going to happen, I want to be in the thick of it. I don't want to read about it in Time magazine." But, he concedes, he's not expecting much action. "If I really thought downtown L.A. was going to erupt in bloody riots, I wouldn't be driving around in evening attire."

So look for him and his girlfriend battling Los Angeles traffic come the new century. If nothing else, he's found a good way to make a moment in time seem like an eternity.

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Chris LaMorte

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