Here in the heart of Amish country, where religion requires the faithful to shun modern technology, a cartoon tacked to the wall of Riehl's Quilts and Crafts shop shows just how worried people here are about the Y2K computer bug.
The cartoon shows an Amish farmer clutching a pitchfork. "Y2K ready," the caption reads.
More than 300 years ago, the Amish resolved to avoid the moral corruption of modern society by swearing off involvement in it. Today, devout Amish live a rural lifestyle little changed over the centuries. They drive horse-drawn buggies, farm with pre-industrial tools and consequently have no fear of Y2K computer breakdowns disrupting their lives.
God is looking out for them, the Amish say.
"Whatever comes, we will take it. I'm not worried about it," said Ruth Ann Riehl, who operates the craft shop's battery-operated cash register. "There is plenty of food in the cellar."
Yet modern America has become so dependent on technology that even the Amish are not impervious to Y2K ripple effects.
Credit-card machines for tourists' use can be seen in the corners of most stores around Lancaster, and handmade Amish quilts can be ordered from www.amish-heartland.com, sold online by non-Amish middle men. Broad-brimmed Amish straw hats with black bands are not uncommon in the back windows of cars traveling these highways.
In fact, "they creatively avoid directly using the technology," said Aaron Horst, a tour guide from the Mennonite Information Center in Lancaster. "The Amish are extraordinarily creative that way. . . . Some have cell phones, I've heard."
These, in short, are not your grandparents' Amish.
Often they are wealthy businessmen, or salaried workers in modern shops. Many have learned to accommodate the changing society around them even as they maintain their distance from it. Even strict Old Order Amish, who wear the traditional hats and plain clothes, are straining to avoid contamination.
Farmhouse lights run on propane. Electric appliances run on battery or compressor power. Quite a few buggies can be seen parked beside the local bank. And back in the summer of 1998, two Amish youths were caught helping an outside motorcycle gang sell drugs to Amish addicts.
"The general public is often surprised and disappointed when they see the discrepancy between the reality [of Amish life] and the ideal picture they have of it," said Richard A. Stevick, a professor of psychology at Messiah College in Grantham, Pa.
"Things are rarely as simple as they seem."
Only about 20,000 Amish are still trying to hold onto their traditional lifestyle amid 450,000 people in Lancaster County. Amish farms lie minutes from major outlet malls. Enormous power-line towers sprout across the rolling fields. Many Amish watch light-rail trains to Philadelphia rocket through their yards each morning.
Y2K "crosses their minds," said Dean Baker, manager of Amish Country Crafts near Strasburg. "It affects the different outlets they use, and the raw materials they buy. And they make 90 percent of it all [their income] from tourism. So, if that should falter after Y2K, they'll notice."
Tourists leave $1.2 billion behind annually. They come to gaze at the gentle rolling farmland lined with white fences. They come to feel the peace that rises from watching a breeze roll like waves across a grassy valley. Most of all, they come to marvel at an exotic culture that lives by its stern moral values, seemingly without temptation.
Now that the tourists' complex, hectic world is menaced by the threat of Y2K computer breakdowns, the thought of living on a quiet farm come Jan. 1 holds a special appeal for many.
"It's a much simpler, much nicer life," said an admiring Walter Rounds, a retired schoolteacher from Jermyn, Pa. Rounds added that his home computer is Y2K-ready.
Amish lantern maker Jake King runs a shop near Georgetown, southeast of Lancaster, where he produces propane lamps that cost up to $600. Like most Amish, his life is not totally independent of the outside world.
King has heard of the Internet--and the sexual content it contains. He has dealt with lawyers to arrange liability insurance if someone sues him for a lamp malfunction. Obviously, the doctrine he lives by is not as harsh toward outside society as the Amish stereotype implies.
"A car is not necessarily worldly or evil. It depends on how it is used," King said. "We keep ourselves away from it because it could lead to evil. With the Internet, children could have access to some bad things."
King takes satisfaction from the thought that living true to his beliefs insulates his family from Y2K dangers, although he acknowledges that it requires some sacrifices.
"Sometimes I think it would be nice to have a computer," he sighed, adjusting his hat and looking across his lawn. "But, we'll be fine without one."