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The kids are alright

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Some people want bad things to happen. It’s a quirk peculiar to smart and not so bright people alike and probably has some unclear purpose in the human genome. On the evening of December 31st, 1999, I was assigned to help police the crowds gathering at Times Square to welcome the New Year. A few hours separated the relative calm I was experiencing and the Y2K nightmare certain pundits claimed would occur when the clock struck midnight.

A middle age man wearing a shirt that read HUMPTY DUMPTY WAS PUSHED asked me if the NYPD was prepared for the chaos that would ensue when all computers shut down.

“Let’s hope for the best,” I replied.

He told me that he was a professor of computer sciences and mathematics at a local university. “This is no joke, captain,” he said. “Planes could fall from the sky.”

I recalled reading doomsday scenarios about planes falling from the sky, trains crashing, and bank accounts disappearing because computers could not abbreviate a four-digit year to two digits. The Year 2000 problem would usher in Armageddon and I was standing among 1 million people. I told the professor that I knew very little about computers but would keep my eyes focused on the sky.

A young college student defended the professor. “He’s the chair of the computer science department and you should listen to what he has to say,” she said. “My husband has been studying this problem for a really long time.”

I did not want to argue with the professor or his child bride. I believe he needed a plane to fall from the sky to validate some professional journal articles he had probably written.

And now I sit looking outside my window watching birds eat sunflower seeds. The president spoke to our nation’s children and life continues to ebb and flow more with the weather than the ramblings of political commentators. I suspect that few, if any, children have been converted to “radical socialism” and nothing bad has happened after the president advised students to stay in school and work hard.

Humpty Dumpty may have been pushed, but he was too thin skinned and clumsy to be sitting on top of a wall looking upon others.

5 Comments

I think you nailed it with your opening statement--some people just enjoy the prospect of running across a devastating train wreck. We live in a world where the attention span for excitement and the ability to consider two ideas simultaneously is shrinking, too.

So let's not try to get to the bottom of any issue. Instead, let's up the sensationalism factor.

It strikes me that those comments rather perfectly describe life in a middle school: taking sides, hyping small issues, and seeking drama.

Nice juxtaposition of commentary, Tony. I am enjoying reading your blog.

Dear Nancy,

Thank you. You are absolutely correct concerning the inability of some people to consider two ideas at once. But that takes work, doesn't it?

All the best.

Thank you for reminding me of past predictions of doom and gloom we survived.
I note you wrote this on 9/11..we also survived some real tragedy
And today some would try to get us "off task" with needless distractions, like claims of "socialism"(and many don't even know what it means!)...when we have a lot of work to do...together..
I enjoyed the blog..the link sent to me by a cousin/teacher in CT (I am a retired NY teacher, 33 yrs)

Sigh. Apparently neither Tony nor the editors at Teacher Magazine know that all right is always two words. How am I supposed to convince my students to spell this useful expression correctly when professionals don't know the difference?

Hi, Jean.

The word "alright" is taken from the title of a song by The Who. Sorry for the confusion.

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