Nevertheless, it was definitely Silicon Valley's finest hour: Major hardware and software companies set up Y2K Command Centers, giving pasty, sweat shirt-clad geeks a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to sit self-importantly at vast curving banks of terminals as though monitoring the DEW line for bogeys. Plus, as the companies' public relations departments were quick to note, employees who had to work the rollover were rewarded with trips to Hawaii, cruises, and airline mileage.
Dog Bites, who as a high-profile newspaper columnist leads a life of almost unspeakable glamour, spent the evening in the city's Y2K Command Center, where we earned no air miles at all and didn't even have access to a vending machine; plus, we thought Channel 2's John Sasaki was giving us funny looks.
The Fire Department's dispatch center had been made over for the occasion, with a large city seal suspended from one wall and a battered podium placed at one side of the room from which police and city officials made periodic announcements. Television monitors showed millions of deliriously happy people having fun all around the globe, which only made our own millennial night seem more dire by comparison; by about 10:30 it appeared to us that even morose solitary drinking would have been preferable to sitting on a dusty metal chair staring at stained carpet tiles and waiting for updated numbers on arrests for public drunkenness and -- say, how about that! Our hair looks red on TV!
Bored print reporters pulled out their notepads when Chris Hayashi of the city's Y2K Program Management Office appeared to give an update on how the city's computers and other systems were holding up under the strain of the approaching rollover. "The PUC reports an amber status," she said, perking everyone up, but it turned out this was only because a pipeline had broken at Divisadero and Filbert, a mishap that was not even remotely Y2K-related. "So there are essentially no problems to report," she said.
Just then the city seal fell off the wall behind Hayashi, bonking one man on the head. Luckily, like Hollywood boulders, the large sign turned out to be made of styrofoam, and after a weirdly charged moment everyone collapsed into laughter. "It doesn't come any better than that!" exclaimed Channel 7's delighted cameraman.
A burly police officer in camouflage fatigues brought in a tall stepladder and began struggling with the only Y2K problem of the night, using a staple gun and nylon filament. "Should have used 30-pound line instead of that light trout stuff," remarked police spokesperson Officer Sherman Ackerson, to nobody in particular, before announcing there had been 90 arrests citywide for public drunkenness.
Mayor Brown arrived from the Embarcadero, wearing a full-length double-breasted black coat and a fuzzy black fedora, a fashion choice with which we were not necessarily in full agreement -- but hey, it's his money, and it's not like he had to pay sales tax. "There clearly is a spirit in the air of wonderment and joy," he pronounced.
Of course, this news of the outside world only threw Dog Bites into a further fit of depression, particularly as we had given away our bottle of good champagne, and therefore had no spirits of our own worth drinking -- or at least, nothing that would have qualified as producing wonderment and joy.
After a few more official remarks, and the observation that he "was not pleased with the boarded-up storefronts," Brown was commandeered for a remote interview with KGO's Jessica Aguirre, but complained that although he could hear her, she couldn't hear him. "Aren't you going to put a mike on me?" he asked the cameraman, who apologized and rushed to clip a microphone to the mayor's lapel.
"Now somebody other than the FBI is listening to me," quipped Brown.
Hair Today, Gone ... Or Is It?
Dog Bites, despite a certain appearance of flippancy, has a conscience. So when we learned of anchor Terilyn Joe's abrupt departure from KGO we were, at first, guilt-stricken: Had our constant mockery of Terilyn's strange post-beehive been, in some small way, a contributing factor to her career meltdown? Trembling, we phoned KGO News Director Ed Kosowski to ask, but he apparently had better things to do than talk to us, as is true of many people with legitimate jobs, and did not return repeated calls. Dog Bites tried to catch up on gossip at the Y2K Command Center, but Channel 7 staffers there were only prepared to chuckle knowingly.
Terilyn herself could not be reached for comment; she was, according to the Examiner, vacationing in Canada. We note that the apparent drabness of this circumstance seems to have been enough to prevent anyone from pursuing the matter further; still it must be said that the very phrase "vacationing in Canada" has recently gained a considerable amount of cachet. Just a few weeks ago, a trip north might have been considered dull, but now the very idea of slipping over the world's longest undefended border is imbued with a spice of midnight crossings, fraudulently obtained passports, and bomb-sniffing microsensors.
But Dog Bites is not the only Channel 7 viewer to have noticed that, in the few days since Jessica Aguirre has assumed the 6 p.m. anchorship, her hair has been getting higher. In fact, we are wondering whether, though Ms. Joe apparently couldn't come to terms with management over her contract, Terilyn's hair might not have cut a deal for itself and stayed on, and is even now scheming to make a comeback.
Wishin' and Hopin'
Anyway, now that we've finally gotten past the whole year 2000 thing we can move on to a much more important countdown: IKEA is almost, almost here.
If you've been anywhere near the intersection of 80 and 580 lately, you can hardly have failed to notice that the concrete-walled shell of the store now looms above the freeways like the promise of -- well, milled aluminum candleholders for $7. Seven dollars! In fact, the IKEA Web site touts the Swedish blue colossus as "San Francisco's latest landmark."
Well, let's see: If we had to rank the new IKEA as a landmark, we would definitely place it somewhere above Coit Tower and that lame pavilion in Japantown -- which, sadly, don't offer any shopping opportunities -- and way, way ahead of the twisty block of Lombard, the Queen Wilhelmina Tulip Garden, and the Sutro Baths, especially as the latter spot gets major deductions for litter of the used-diaper level of grossness.
But to be honest, we feel the store still trails the Golden Gate Bridge and that row of Victorians off Alamo Square in terms of instant international recognizability as a symbol of San Francisco, though some focus-grouping might help here. We think IKEA management may want to consider a few time-tested marketing methods, such as getting the store on postcards sold at Fisherman's Wharf, or putting the IKEA logo on charm bracelets destined to be sold in Chinatown.
Still, even if it never achieves that level of visibility, our deeper feelings for IKEA will remain unchanged. In fact, we have taken to carrying with us the spec sheet on the Ervalla sofa, love seat, chair, and footstool. Chair, with slipcover in Segås fabric: $499. Estimated time to IKEA: 101 days. Updates: as we get them.
Tip Dog Bites -- especially if you're disgruntled. Phone 536-8139; fax 777-1839; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.