Y2K 20 Years Later

Twenty years ago as we were about to enter the new century, as my hometown and place of residence Washington, DC was preparing for fireworks and a jubilant New Year’s Eve’s celebration on the Mall, all anyone was talking about was Y2K.

Not me. My mind was on other things. I had my first real law firm job and we were in the middle of heated litigation. As I was learning, litigants used filing motions to ruin each other’s holidays. If I recall correctly I had to file responsive briefs on the days just proceeding Christmas and immediately following New Year’s day. In fact, by December 31st, I had worked eighteen days straight including weekends, with the sole exception of Christmas Day. Even though my client was winning in court, the opposing party was putting lots of political pressure on our client to drop the case. In fact, the heat was getting to our client and our client – who until then had been extremely supportive – had suddenly starting taking their frustration out on us.

Like I said, I was a junior lawyer completely new to what I was doing. I had been working close to eighty hour weeks for the entire year almost exclusively on this one client’s case. During this time, my girlfriend had left for a job in Europe (and for good) and I barely saw friends or family. Yes, my bank account was growing. But when the clock struck 10:30pm on December 31, 1999 and my boss came to my desk to cheerfully suggest, “why don’t you find the security guard to see if he’ll let us on the rooftop to watch the fireworks at midnight,” I thought I was going to cry.

I searched the desolate building for the security guard but could not find him. As you can imagine, my boss and I were the only two losers in the building on New Year’s Eve. I finally got the courage to go to my boss and say, “if you don’t mind, out of principle I am not going to spend this change of the century in the office.”

“That’s fine. I will see you tomorrow morning at 9:00am. Happy New Year,” she replied.

By 11:15pm, I was back in my tiny studio apartment, sitting at my tiny table feeling awful about my predicament. I called up my friends Jeff and Rasdy with whom I had spent the previous four New Year’s Eves. Each year it was exactly the same. We’d plan to meet at one of their places, then an hour before we were supposed to be there, they’d get in a big fight, cancel the party only to make up 30 minutes later. By midnight we’d end up at Sesto Senso making the best of what was always the most disappointing night out of the year.

I can’t remember whether it was Jeff or Raz who answered the phone, but they said come on over, we’re waiting for you. Like always, we ended up at Sesto with Jeff and I making fools of ourselves on the dance floors while we made fun of everyone around us.

The next morning, I was at the office at 9:30am. I went on to work the next 15 days straight, responding to more motions and attending court proceedings while sick with the flu.

Y2K turned out to be the biggest much ado about nothing of the 20th Century. Later that year, I moved to Madrid. But ever since that night of Y2K whenever it is time to plan for New Year’s Eve, I always play Ella Fitzgerald signingWhat Are You Doing New Year’s Eve” and think of Jeff and Rasdy.

 

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