what to say in 30 seconds or less - or spaced in the checkout line...

greenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Note to Paul Milne - the toast line would not have worked in this case.

situaion: standing in the checkout line of a small grocery store in the Virginia 'burbs of DC this evening. The woman behind the cash register (early 60's conservative dress, conservative wedding ring, general read: part-timer picking up extra bucks to help make ends meet)stops to clean her laser scanner and I mention how finicky they can be...she'd already heard me joking with a friend about billy jeff having to use all those cruise missiles before next january anyway. My mind is about a million miles away wondering if I really want the Starbucks icecream or do I wanna go back and get the chocolate chip instead...you know - serious stuff...

So I'm standing there and she looks straight at me out of the blue and says "do you really think we need a year's worth of food? I mean, that's how much another customer just told me we should have, for that, uhm, computer thing, that's going to happen at the end of the year!"

there's low level panic in the back of her throat, and her eyes show confusion. I *know* that if I use the milne line she'll throw her hands in the air and run screaming out of the store...in fact just looking at her, I can tell that she and her husband are doing okay, but basicly going from paycheck to paycheck - he's probably semiretired or some such, but there's no way they're gonna move to Idaho and set up housekeeping, or buy $5000 worth of dehydrated food, or whatever...but morally I *have* to say something...

So I stutter on for about 90 seconds explaining that a year is the ideal, but that she needs to be concerned with both food and water, and that the important thing is to start *now* to accumulate what she needs, and then she's checked my stuff through and I've paid her, and she's on to the next customer.

and I feel like a complete idiot - all my nice discussion topics that I've used in planned approaches, all the factual data, the prioritized lists, and I couldn't even think of what to say to one poor older lady worried about whether she and her husband would have something to eat next winter...

I'm beginning to wonder if I need to start carrying copies of a standard y2k prep checklist, just to hand out - somehow I doubt this is the last time I'll encounter this sort of thing, at least while I'm still here in the metro area.

not overly happy with myself right now, Arlin

-- Arlin H. Adams (ahadams@ix.netcom.com), February 20, 1999


Arlin, you did great! Don't be hard on yourself. We can think about Y2K ad infinitum, and discuss every 0 and 1 here in cyberspace, but when one encounters a real person, scared and questioning, the humanitarian impact hits the gut. Your idea of carrying copies of a standard Y2K prep checklist is excellent. The Red Cross one spends more print saying "We Don't Know" than saying get ready! Bet you could make a great pocket-size starter one yourself, that ppl could stuff in the pocket then unfold when they get home.

There just ain't no escaping Y2K. Ashton & I have a new hospice job coming up, so thought we'd totally blob at a movie -- comedy -- which we rarely do. We had to go to the mall anyway to catch the *incredible* sale on long underwear (clearance 80% off the sale stuff that'll keep us warm next winter :) So we went to the mall theater on economy hour and saw "Office Space."

Guess what? The whole movie is actually about Y2K! No hint of it in the review. We're just sitting there saying "This can't be happening ..." The movie is sophomoric, stupid, funny, not quite a release because it shows exactly why Y2K is going to throw us all in the garbage bin. Toast. Flaming toast. Don't think it was meant to turn out that way but the writer included all the points the geeks have been warning Yourdynamites about, in a goofy visual fluff movie. Wonder how many casual viewers will see it? The audience was laughing more than we were.

Arlin, go see the movie for laughs and a certain insider certainty of doom when you leave the theater. Tomorrow we're going to make a Y2K checklist, run copies, and start carrying them. Thanks for posting.

Ashton & Leska in Cascadia, groaning at the end of a comedy

xxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx

-- Leska (allaha@earthlink.net), February 21, 1999.

At least she's thinking about it. She hears people talking about it everyday while they are waiting in line. Have her give Red Cross or FEMA a call, or tell them about the 800 # they can call to get more information. Sure will miss that Starbucks ice cream next year!

-- Bill (y2khippo@yahoo.com), February 21, 1999.

Arlin, can you print something up, drop by the store, and hand it to her? You probably said enough to get her stocking up as much as she can within her means, so I wouldn't worry about it too much, but if you COULD return it would tie up that dangly loose end for you and give her a bit more practical info.

-- Old Git (anon@spamproblems.com), February 21, 1999.

Well, Arlin...I just got home from another y2k meeting and this very thing was brought up! Someone had the same type of scenario in the check out line. We all wondered whether we should equip ourselves with some type of handout containing information on preparing that we could give to someone who is in NEED of answers to their questions. A one or two minute span of time just is not long enough to really help someone.

-- Blondie Marie (Blondie@future.net), February 21, 1999.

I'd do what I have done in the past when strangers have asked my opinion of Y2K - tell her there will probably be no power, hence no fuel, hence no food, for an indeterminate period of time. I see no reason to sugarcoat an issue of such importance. To make the assumption that, due to the woman's work, dress, age, etc., she would be unable to act upon the information is pure speculation, and does that person a possibly life-threatening disservice, in my opinion. Let her go screaming out of the store... after she calms down, she'll at least have a starting point to decide whether or not to prepare. Don't assume that she'll have to go it alone with her husband (if any)... for all you know she's in charge of the food bank at her church, and you just lost a golden opportunity to get a lot of people informed and prepared.

-- Why2K? (who@knows.com), February 21, 1999.

According to NBC, its people like you, Arlin, that will be responsible for the trouble. I share your guilt.

-- dave (wootendave@hotmail.com), February 21, 1999.

ArLIN!!!! You are nOt a fooL!!!! InfAc T YOU HAVE MadE DIEtER PROUD!!!! YOU ArE A GOoD BOY, IS THAT NOT TRuE????? YES??? I THinK SO!!!!CONTInUE AS YoU WErE!!! XeLLanT!!!

-- Dieter (questions@toask.com), February 21, 1999.

Print out this little gem, make copies, and hand 'em out when newbies ask questions.

A Y2K Handout You Can Use With Your Neighbors, by Roleigh Martin

-- Tom Carey (tomcarey@mindspring.com), February 21, 1999.

I kinda agree with Why2K. Whenever I'm asked, I tell them straight out - It'll either be bad or real bad. Do something and start NOW. I was in Sears to buy a small chain saw and told the guy that my wife had me put in a wood stove this year. He says "Well, that will come in handy for Y2K". We spent about 30 minutes sharing info, and I gave him this forum's url. I also went back and gave him copies of the newsletters I have been writing for my extended family for the last several months. I feel like I made an instant friend.

Just because someone's older don't assume they can't handle it. Many of my older relitives have been the first on the uptake. They remember hard times first-hand.

-- Lon Frank (postit@here.com), February 21, 1999.

Arlin, you did just fine. She's a grown woman who will probably do some research now that you gave her some food for thought. The rest is up to her and her choices may not be your choices.

I have never overheard personal preparation for y2k being discussed anywhere in Japan. Never in a restaurant, grocery store, office, bank, train , anywhere... I don't know what I'd say if someone asked me a question. I don't ever expect it to happen. When the newspapers print about three 50 word fluff stories a month (ie. Coca Cola announced they have just formed a committee to study the problem and will be finished next month...) there is no catalyst for discussion. The only thing being discussed in online forums are "how do I fix my Windows 98?"

-- PNG (png@gol.com), February 21, 1999.


You did good. I agree that the "all is toast" doesn't work in short situations. If we can encourage people to start and stock up and investigate on their own they SHOULD come to the right conclusion...hopefully! If people do what they can and have to bug out to someone elses place the least they can do is take some stock pile with them to help make things go further.

Keep up the good work. I like your idea of keeping some material on hand. I am going to print off the Indiana article from today and keep it on hand. In fact, am taking it to church with me today to hand out. Thanks for your good posts and effort on issue.

-- Moore Dinty moore (not@thistime.com), February 21, 1999.

I feel your pain, Arlin ;-)

It's a sound-bite world, isn't it? The approach I've used lately frankly mimics election year ads.

"Well, the truth is no-one really knows yet exactly what will happen,it's a big comlex problem. But pretty much anyone who studies the issue in depth gives odds of a serious disruption at 1 in 6 or worse. And since those are the same odds as Russian Roulette, I am hoping for the best but planning for the worst. Do you have any kids?"

Hang in there, Bud.

-- Lewis (aslanshow@yahoo.com), February 21, 1999.

If she truly wanted to know the scoop, I would have given her my phone number and asked her to call me and we could talk about it further. I would have said something like, "there's a lot involved about Y2K, and maybe you have heard a lot of things that may not be true, but I can give you the facts and then you can decide for yourself." If handouts work for some of you thats fine, but for me, I don't like being given handouts (I feel like I'm being converted to some religion). The lady is probably scared and maybe some calming conversation would be good. Anyway Arlin, you did good with what little time you had to say it. And maybe you didn't want to scare the crap out of her and maybe you didn't want her to think you were some kind of kook.....go back for a second chance.

-- bardou (bardou@baloney.com), February 21, 1999.

Bardou, you're right about the handout psychology, now I think on it some more. So, what if we download the Red Cross and/or FEMA instructions and just add, as we hand it over, that we think MORE than three days' worth of food wouldn't hurt--"save ya standing in line, ya know?" The Red Cross/FEMA imprimateur would likely take away any "No Soliciting!" factor. Do FEMA or the Red Cross have any Y2K pamphlets available yet? Leska, do you know?

-- Old Git (anon@spamproblems.com), February 21, 1999.

bardou, did you have to mention religion! can't resist...can't resist......RELIGION BREEDS INTOLERANCE

-- heyU (heyU@cantfoolme.com), February 21, 1999.

I think what could work in 30 seconds or less would be to ask if their parents are still alive. If so, ask how long their parents could survive the stress of a crowded shelter. Since noone is in a position of giving us any guarantees, it becomes a matter of taking personal responsibility for muddling through whatever transition is ahead and not gambling the welfare of our families. And there isn't time to wait to find out for sure whether everything will be ok. (Then offer to give them your "last" copy of Roleigh Martin's handout that Tom Carey linked above.)

-- Brooks (brooksbie@hotmail.com), February 21, 1999.


Good post! Good subject and great imput from everyone. This is one of those rare posts that makes people stand back and think how they will/might actually have to handle a similiar situation....and I for one feel that this one will become a more common occurence in the future. I sure understand how you felt inadequate after the 90 second "sound byte" to the check out woman, but bet you'll have another chance somewhere else along the way to do it differently. I'm glad you posted it here, so that I now have the opportunity to analyze how I might handle something similiar in the future.

Thanks for a thought provoking post.

-- Cary Mc from Tx (Caretha@compuserve.com), February 21, 1999.


Sounds like you shop there regularly, and she trusts that. As the rest mentioned, take her a handout when you go back for the Starbucks ice cream. (*Big Sigh 2*)

Love the idea of carrying a handout, for appropriate moments only. I never have a pre-planned Y2K statement, just go with the flow. If they are interested, theyll ask tons of questions. Mentioning the Red Cross and FEMA always gives the conversation that cache of authenticity. (U.S. National Guard, United Nations, Canadian military, etc. are useful conversation sprinkles.)

(Yes, Old Git the Red Cross does have Y2K handouts. Get them from your local RC chapter office.)

If you dont act crazy, or sound crazy, but informed and knowledgeable, they wont think Y2K preparations are crazy. I encourage them to start planning for one month, accomplish that, THEN go for more. Ill tell them that the Red Cross suggests one weeks preps, but after studying the issue, it seems too light to me.


(If they ask, I say Im planning for a year -- just in case the international Y2K repercussions bite us where we least expect it).

-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), February 21, 1999.

I'd look the lady in the eye and say "We doomed I tell ya, we're all gonna die" (Sorry)

I have been caught in similar situations several times mostly in office hallway passings. I try to avoid any particulars that sound like predictions. I usually stick to one simple question: "how long can you feed your family if there is no store available" or variations on that theme. Not why stores might not be available but what can YOU do without the support of the infrastructure.

I've actually had people who really thought about the question blanch and utter oh excretment. Well, you get the idea.

About 80-90% are some level of GI after we get together to talk at lunch.

I don't go into predictions because I don't KNOW. So, polemic discussions about what someone THINKS will happen seem less usefull to me when talking to a newbie. (Sure, I like to speculate here with the hard-core GIs as much as anybody). It has been far more usefull to start them walking on the self suffucency road.

-- Greybear

- Got Maps?

-- Greybear (greybear@home.com), February 21, 1999.

Hi Folks,

thanks for your comments and suggestions. I appreciate the general encouragement - and goodness knows, as the year progresses we will, God Willing, all see more opportunities of this type...gotta check out that Red Cross handout...

a few specific thoughts:

bardou - you're braver than I am - I don't generally give my phone number to strangers.

png - good grief! how will they react when things start to fall apart??

Oh, and more generally I've started pinging my church to get permission to reproduce the checklist that's provided with the book Y2K...CRYING WOLF OR WORLD CRISIS? by James F. Gauss Ph.D. Now if you aren't coming from a Charismatic or Pentecostal Christian perspective the book itself probably wont make a lot of sense to you, but the checklist shrinkwrapped to the back of the book is 21 pages of what to look for, what to ask, and what to do to insure that your home, your workplace, your church and your community are ready for the y2k rollover. The checklist alone is worth the price of the book, as it's the first time I've seen anything that complete in one place.

I have no connection with the author or publisher, just think the book and checklist are good products.


-- Arlin H. Adams (ahadams@ix.netcom.com), February 21, 1999.

Arlin; If you were from Hobokin,NJ ,they would of said!!! People I get questions from are surprisingly from Florida area. I mention to them after we discuss the Y2K situation, Oh you know there's a Hurricane Coming ??? They say oh really ?? I say Yes, It's named "Y2K". Because they understand what a Hurricane can do, so I let them compare it to Y2K. But ,you Dun Good Arlin !!! Furie...

-- Furie (furieart@dnet.net), February 22, 1999.

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