All Psyched Up for the New Year's Eve of Destruction

Thursday, December 28, 2006

How we move through time: One door closes and another opens. Next week comes a new year. The proverbial clean slate. An occasional Page Three feature.

When I was 10 years old, my father converted the basement of our house into a bomb shelter.

He had just finished reading a book called "Life After Doomsday" that predicted an imminent nuclear holocaust and the end of the United States as we know it. Our basement, with its four narrow army cots, rubber trash cans full of rice and beans and tanks of propane gas, quickly became the talk of the neighborhood.

On the weekends when Dad wasn't busy tinkering with his bomb shelter, he would busy himself with grilling my younger sister and I in the finer skills of disaster preparation. This included trips to the downtown post office, which, in case anything went awry with our bomb shelter, was also a designated fallout shelter.

The way my father sees it, D.C. might as well have a bull's-eye painted on it.

Thanks to my father, I am the most anxious New Year's reveler in town. I go downtown with my friends fully expecting New Year's Eve to be my last night on Earth. I know my father is glued to his armchair, anxiously anticipating the destruction of Europe on CNN, while my mom watches a movie upstairs.

When Y2K approached, many Americans began behaving just like my father. But strangely enough, my father scoffed at all of their fears as ridiculous. While many of my friends prepared themselves for the worst, storing gallons of water in their apartments, filling their tanks with gas, pulling out the latest copies of financial statements and running to the bank to stock up on cash and, in one extreme case, gold coins -- I did absolutely nothing.

I figured if there was even the slightest chance of anything going awry, my parents would have been living in a fully stocked cave months ago.

My friends are buzzing around about what to do this New Year's. But I already know what I will be doing. I will be scanning the crowd and automatically making note of all the closest exits. I will know exactly where the fire extinguisher is. In my pocket, I will have extra cash, a Swiss army knife (a gift from my father) and a piece of paper with my blood type on it.

At 6 o'clock, my father will predictably call to wish me a happy new year and to let me know that midnight safely passed without incident for our friends across the Atlantic. We will wish each other a happy new year, and it's implied that just in case this is our last night on Earth, we love each other and wish each other well.

-- Adele Levine, Wheaton

© 2006 The Washington Post Company