The night the lights went out in Carson City
Clever buggers, those Y2K bugs.
Just when we thought we were out of the woods, a Y2K Bug disguised as a balloon knocked Carson City for a loop at the stroke of midnight New Year’s Eve.
I was on the Ormsby House dance floor when a Y2K Balloon struck a power line somewhere on Carson Street. I was hugging my wife and apologizing for spending all our money on canned food, candles and ammo. And I promised her I’d let the kids out of the bomb shelter as soon as we got home.
All evening long the big-screen televisions they had set up in the Ormsby House ballroom showed images of joy as the new millennium arrived. Dancing in Indonesia. Mass weddings in China. Fireworks in Paris.
There were no terrorist attacks. No bank runs. No airline crashes. No martial law (except in Indonesia where martial law is needed to keep citizens from chopping each other to bits).
Then we watched as the new millennium made its way to our mainland. Times Square erupted in cheers as New Yorkers toasted The Big Apple. Then to Bourbon Street, where topless students fought for beads and jazz bands played “When the Saints Go Marching In” over and over and over again.
“Geeze,” we said as we sat watching and waiting at the Ormsby House for our crack at the celebration. “Looks like this Y2K thing is a big bust.”
“Yeah,” replied a fellow partygoer. “Damned media blew this thing way out of proportion.”
“There you go,” I countered. “Blame it on the media. Every time the world fails to end it’s our fault.”
“Sorry,” he said. “I forgot you were with the media.”
“It’s OK,” I soothed. “I’m just a little tense tonight. And this bullet-proof vest is starting to itch.”
I also knew we weren’t out of the woods yet. The New Year had yet to arrive in Las Vegas and I figured if ever there was a place ripe for a Y2K disaster it was The Strip. The pirate ship would be a likely target, I guessed. Or maybe someone would turn the tigers loose in the middle of the Siegfried and Roy performance.
Then again, there was the worst-case scenario that all 200 million slot machines in Vegas would hit jackpots simultaneously, causing an economic crisis of catastrophic proportions. The bells alone would rupture eardrums and shatter mirrored ceilings.
Unfortunately, the Y2K balloon struck a Carson City power line just as the television was showing images from The Strip and the Ormsby House went dark.
At the time we had no idea a balloon was to blame. Some people started screaming and I grabbed my wife’s hand and told her it was time to get the hell out.
“But I want to dance some more,” my wife insisted. She doesn’t get out much and when she does she’s not about to let something like the end of the world ruin her night.
“Let’s go!” I shouted. “I’ll dance with you when we get to the bomb shelter.”
“You promise?” she asked.
“Yes. I promise,” I promised, knowing full well there was not enough room in the shelter for a decent two-step.
We ran down the steps to the Ormsby House’s main casino floor, where the emergency lights revealed that some revelers hadn’t noticed things had gotten a bit dark.
“Happy New Year!” one bar-stooled customer shouted, spilling half his beer on my foot as we dashed past.
“Drink fast,” I replied. “It’s probably your last.”
We were all the way to the car when we noticed there were lights on inside homes just across the street from the Ormsby House.
“Maybe they have backup generators,” I told my wife. “We’re not the only ones prepared for the end.”
Not a single building was dark over the several blocks we drove to Bath Street.
Within minutes of arriving in the newsroom we learned that someone had released some balloons at midnight and that they had struck a power line, causing an hour -long outage at both the Ormsby House and Carson Station.
“You mean there was no attack?” I asked one of the editors. “Nobody blew anything up? “
“Nope,” he replied. “Just a few balloons that went astray.”
Sagging into my office chair, I opened my tuxedo shirt and pulled off the bullet-proof vest.
“I guess maybe they’ll take it back if I can find my receipt,” I told my wife. “Either that or maybe we could sell it at a garage sale with the 2,000 cans of pork and beans and 1,600 cases of ammo.”
When we got home we found the kids sound asleep. They looked peaceful in their oxygen masks and we decided not to wake them.
Jeff Ackerman is publisher and editor of the Nevada Appeal.