Wow. It’s been quite the year. Full of sadness and surprise. Elation, celebration, anxiety, and fear. There have been some really great moments, and a lot of bad ones too. And whether you are a Trump supporter or not, you have to admit, there is a lot of unknown about what’s going to happen next month once he is the President. Now that it is New Year’s eve and time to say goodbye to 2016 and welcome the uncertainty of 2017, I’m reminded of the last time there was so much attention given to the passing of a year. Let’s go back to 1999 and the buildup to Y2K, and our decision to be in the middle of it all in Times Square on New Year’s Eve – when everyone thought the world was going to end.
As I’m sure you remember, the couple of years leading up to the year 2000 was nonstop hype about Y2K, danger, the passing of the millennium, and computers going berserk – leading to complete destruction. There were all kinds of warnings and worry and uncertainty about the future. While we were all partying like it was 1999 and reviewing countless end of the the decade/ century/millennium lists and predictions, we were also preparing for the coming computer crashes, terrorists attacks, and apocalypse. To deal with all this danger and excitement we decided the best line of attack was to put ourselves right in the middle of it.
Flashback to to New Years Eve 1998. My wife and I are out with our friends Tim and Stacie celebrating in downtown Norfolk. The clock counts down, the anchor drops, yeah – it was an anchor, and we celebrate – it’s 1999! That’s when we did something crazy. We made a pact. In one year we will be in New York City for the 2000 celebration. Hands together, pact made, no turning back. Now we had to figure out how to make this happen.
How to make this happen. We had never been to New York City for New Years Eve – let alone the biggest one ever. We weren’t rich, so flying and hotels didn’t seem viable at this most expensive time of the year. The brainstorming began and after months of research and discussions, a plan formed. My wife grew up in New Jersey just outside of New York City, so we could stay at her parent’s house. We could park our car in Staten Island and take the ferry into Manhattan. The ferry ran all night, unlike the train, so that would be the best choice to get in and out. We’d get to Time’s Square really early, claim a spot, and just sit there for as long as it takes. When we could leave, we’ll reverse course. If it takes all night, so be it.
As the year sped forward to the big night, things started happening. Our lives started changing. We bought a house. The house we spent years planning for and still live in today. We got a dog. The only dog we’ve ever had and who passed away a year and a half ago. We took our first trip to California together. And while we had been to New York City many times before for the day, we took our first real trip there in the spring of 1999 – meaning we were spending time in NYC twice in one year.
New Years Eve 1999:
It was cold and windy on the Staten Island Ferry, but the view was as amazing as usual. The famous skyline. Little did we know that this was the last time we would see this skyline in person.
The subway trip to Times Square was buzzing. People were all going to the same place and you could feel the energy. We got to Times Square around 2pm and made our way to the “pen” we would be spending the next 11 hours in. NYC fences in block long pens in the street for people to stand waiting for midnight. Once the pen is full they close it down and you’re not allowed to leave. Or if you leave you can’t come back in. We found our spot on top of a manhole – for warmth – and Tim ran off to get us food. I don’t know how we did it but we didn’t leave to eat or go to the bathroom for 11 hours. We very slowly sipped a soda for each couple and had a New Years Eve feast of fried chicken. We had a good spot, though.
Every hour there was a New Years Eve countdown from around the world. The crowd was getting more and more into it the later it got. They would show the celebrations on the big screens, so it made the wait go by quicker. As it got dark the crowd started getting really excited. There were parties going on in the buildings above us. The people were throwing paper airplanes out of the windows and waving to the crowd. As it got later the party people got crazier. Many a lady dipped out the windows to flash their boobs at us in the crowd. And speaking of boobs, the price for a female getting on the shoulders of a guy in the crowd was a loud chant of show your boobs, show your boobs until she got down or showed the boobs. There were a group of Aussies near us and every now and then they would do their aussie, aussie, aussie chant – and the crowd would respond with the oi, oi, oi. Of course, the later it got the louder the oi’s got. There were a lot of helicopters flying around the buildings near us with spotlights all night. It made the whole experience just that more surreal.
The big moment had finally arrived. One minute to countdown. The crowd was cheering. I got out the bottle of Dom I had hiding in my backpack. With 10 seconds left someone in the crowd yelled we’re all gonna die. The ball was dropping, we were all counting down, and boom – all the confetti – so much confetti! Fireworks! I popped our champaign and we kissed and hugged and slapped fives. Someone yelled we’re still alive! The music started and the celebrating continued.
It was quite amazing and worth all the planning and the 11 hour wait. Finally the crowd started disbursing after about an hour. We made our way to a pizza counter restaurant where we were able to use the bathroom and get something to eat. We then walked through Times Square again on the way to the subway. When we got to the ferry station to go back to Staten Island we noticed that it had gotten really foggy. So foggy that we couldn’t see the skyline on the ride back to Staten Island. The skyline that would be a lot different on our next trip to NYC a few years later.
We made it back to my wife’s parents house around 5am. Happy New Year!
Of course, there was no end of the world. Everything kept working. A lot changed after that big moment, though. 9/11. We had our daughter. Wars. New jobs. iPhones. Lots of gardens and travel and trips to Disney World.
So 2016 ends soon. What’s to come?