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Anywhere but there

Most of us will spend this New Year's Eve in relative comfort, even if our computers do come crashing down around our feet. We'll be celebrating with our families, our friends or at least some semblance of loved ones, either in small gatherings at nearby bars or restaurants or in the comfort of our own homes.

The threat of global computer malfunction — however laughable it may seem at, oh, about this time next month — is keeping many of us bunker-bound, nestled next to our televisions where we can watch global live broadcasts of those braver than we ringing in the New Year in 24different time zones.

But even if you've ventured out to your cousin Fred's millennial bobbing-for-crawdads extravaganza, or find yourself at the worst party of the millennium, there are some even more horrible places you could be.

The horror might come from being somewhere that's simply unprepared for the event — or from being somewhere that's overprepared for what could be the nonevent of the millennium. So thank your lucky stars you're not in any of the following places.

The former Soviet Union

Computer experts suggest that of the industrialized world, the former Soviet countries are the least prepared for Y2K. Less-developed countries will probably carry on business as usual, but in places such as Russia and the Ukraine, older (and likely not Y2K-ready) technology is still being used. The biggest concern comes from the embedded chips used in much of the electronic equipment there. According to Matt Markovich, managing editor of everything2000.com, a Web site that has been monitoring events leading up to the year 2000 for the past several years, these chips control date-related functions, but are "super-hard to find. They won't know what's going to go wrong until it does." In addition, Russia alone has seven time zones, creating what could be at least a seven-hour stretch of chaos.

Alabama

A recent survey by the Lexington, Ky.-based National Association of State Information Resource Executives found that of all the states that rated their own Y2K-preparedness, Alabama was the least prepared. According to the association, only 57 percent of Alabama's 328 essential state government computers were Y2K-compliant. The next least-prepared state was New Mexico.

Sydney, Australia

One of the first places to see the turn of the millennium will also be one of the first places mass panic, or at least mass-transit anxiety, could ensue. The city of Sydney has decided to eliminate possible Y2K problems with its public transit system by shutting down all trains for 35 minutes around midnight on New Year's Eve. Picture either trying to get somewhere in the last half-hour before midnight, or being stuck on a stalled and deserted train while your pals are partying without you.

At a canceled concert

Remember back about five years ago, when the millennium seemed so far off and far out? Big-time promoters (and entertainers) were already planning to make a buck with lavish concerts and parties to ring in 2000. Maybe it was the fear of Y2K (which didn't come along until a little later), maybe it was the four-digit ticket prices, but many of those high-end festivities have already gone out with a bang. Michael Jackson has canceled his plans to perform once at midnight in Australia, and then once again at midnight in Hawaii. David Bowie has also canceled his New Year's engagement, stating on his Web site that he's going to stay home that night.

In a half-booked hotel

Despite the once-anticipated New Year's overcrowding, most hotels in this country (except the perennially chock-full New York and Las Vegas ones) only expect to be at between 55 percent and 80 percent of their normal capacity. A survey by the Travel Industry Association of America found that most Americans — 76 percent — weren't going on vacation this New Year's.

In New Zealand or Israel

Being the first big country to see the turn of the millennium, New Zealand will get the world's attention. It's also the destination for a number of cults who want to be the first to ring in the new millennium with ... well, with suicide. Both New Zealand's government and the Israeli government have issued statements that they will be on the lookout for suicide cults coming to end the millennium and start their own eternities in some grandiose style.

At work

If you're a hospital worker, cop, telephone company employee, bartender, public servant, television commentator, journalist, waiter, pizza maker, nuclear plant worker, Elvis impersonator, firefighter, radio reporter or public utilities worker — not to mention a computer troubleshooter — chances are good that you'll be ringing in the new year at your place of employment. Bummer, but many companies, in recognition of the weirdness of this particular event, are doing what they can (apart from paying overtime) to make the night more fun for their workers, from ordering pizza to throwing staff parties to providing childcare for that evening.

Top 10 horrible places to be at New Year's 2000

10. Anywhere they use the expression "Y2K."

9. At a point in your life where you expect something significant to happen just because the calendar turned over.

8. In a roomful of those losers who insist the millennium begins next year — and what's worse, insist that we care.

7. Pulling up to the only party store for miles and discovering the owner is a paranoid survivalist who's barricaded himself inside, depriving you of a six-pack of Rolling Rock and a bottle of Night Train.

6. In Times Square — where people will be rubbing up against you, but thanks to Rudolph Giuliani, it won't be in a dirty sexy hooker way, it'll be in a "Disney paid for this so I brought Grampa too" kind of way.

5. The revolving restaurant at the RenCen when it stops — with a view of Zug Island and the serene beauty of River Rouge.

4. At the ATM when it goes crazy and spews out bills — except they're pesos.

3. At the White House New Year's bash when Hillary has a little too much of the punch and starts making moves on Socks the cat.

2. At the White House New Year's bash when Bill has a little too much of the punch and starts making moves on Buddy the dog.

1. Head in the toilet, just like last year, and no one to blame but your damn fool self. — Aaron E. Boles

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