By Patricia Haggard
Remember Y2K? “Y2K is the shorthand term for "the year 2000." Y2K was commonly used to refer to a widespread computer programming shortcut that was expected to cause extensive havoc as the year changed from 1999 to 2000 at the turn of the Millennium.”
For many months leading up to Y2K there was uncertainty, lots of it, in the air and on the ground as to whether the computer technology would handle the change in numbering sequence. IT people slaved over updates, some people made pretty good money on books and programs selling either doom and gloom or “protection” from the chaos that was sure to come. It was an exciting time. I experienced a fun event at work.
At the time, I was employed in a regional office of a large insurance company. When a call went out for volunteers to work a few hours New Years Day, January 1, 2000, I put up my hand. For a single mom the money looked terrific and more than that, hey, it was historic. They wanted one person from each area of claims management and administration to “test drive” the computer systems on Jan 1 by setting up a brand new claim - a real claim for a real person - and thus produce a check with that extra special date on it. I got to be the employee to set up the actual payment on the company’s financial software system. And the next morning if all went well a crisp new check should land on my desk, all ready to pop into the outgoing mail.
A random new claim application was chosen for this test drive, the only criteria being it would definitely be approved for payment contractually and medically. Before the file got to my work station along the internal electronic queue, there would have been many new claim applications to pick from, and before the check would be cut there’d be even more details like policy provisions, salary amounts, payment offsets from that salary, and so forth – all those things that routinely go into determining the amount of the monthly benefit payment. Someone picked a claim, sent it to the adjudicator, who would then approve it for payment and send it over to me.
All the volunteers were given a pager, just in case an IT emergency required us to run there in the middle of the night. But no such fun, and on the morning of Jan 1st, 2000 I went into work, happy about the rare opportunity for up-front parking, an echo at every step inside as the building was essentially empty of staff, got to my desk and processed the claim. That means keying in salary amounts, rates, codes, any offsets – calculations and numbers on a screen. Hit Enter. That was it. Done. Nothing unusual happened. (A little disappointing.)
The next morning, back into work exchanging “Happy New Year’s” greetings with everyone else and sure enough when I arrived at my little grey cubby, there on the desk was THE CHECK. Everyone would be pleased, most especially the IT people I was sure. Following the mandated process, I opened the claim file on the computer to make sure the check was issued to the right person, the correct amount, date, and so forth. All was perfect. Then I noticed something. The amount of the check was $381.62. What?!
Working with numbers constantly can become like a sixth sense. (If you are one of those people, you already know where this story is going.) To confirm what my little sixth sense was saying, I pulled the hand calculator over and added the digits in the amount of the check, one at a time.
On the screen of the calculator was a mini celebration of the new century. How does that happen? How does a random slew of variables chug through a complex process to deliver this magical result? I’m not a believer in coincidence. So, was this a ‘sign’ from the Universe? I don’t know. What I do know is that it added some magic to everyone’s day and a great start to the new century.
PS There will be some WAY more interesting magical stories shared by the group at an upcoming event online:
Sat, Dec 19th at noon Pacific