Reframe and succeed

Rollie put all his chips in.

“If we dont do some serious preparation for Y2K I am going to leave.” Usually when people threaten to leave the community if they dont get their way, they are on their way out anyway and the community does not worry about it terribly much, nor do we think there is much we can do about it. But Rollie was different, he had lived at Twin Oaks for decades, had grown up two children with us and could repair and fix a myriad of the things which we have in our community which is in a near constant state of something falling apart. Rollie’s threat put the community on notice that we could not just ignore Y2K as a number of members were suggesting we do.


of course if the bank computers had crashed …

So in the middle of 1999 we started a process which in retrospect I am quite proud of. We could not agree on Y2K, the community was sharply split. Many people thought that with the change over of dates from 1999 to 2000 there would be significant computer malfunctions, likely including infrastructure failures. There as much talk about embedded chips and possibly event nuclear accidents triggered at this very specific time. An even larger number of people at Twin Oaks thought nothing was going to happen, either that the engineers would figure it out before hand and fix it, or that dates simply dont matter that much in computer programs.

Part of what was brilliant in Tree’s facilitation of the community was that we did not need to agree about what was going to happen at the moment of Y2K for us to agree on how it was we were going to prepare for the event. By taking it out of the context of what would happen at this precise time and shifting into a more general emergency planning practice (with a specific deadline for completion) we could come to an agreement about fairly elaborate preparations, without having to consense on the specifics of Y2K.

We bought another portable generator and tested it. We bought a 500 gallon gasoline tank and filled it. We stocked up on food and built rat proof storage containers for it. We reviewed our emergency procedure and brought members up to speed on them. Rollie was satisfied and actively involved in the extensive preparations.

And it turned out that with the exception of the arrival and departure computer monitor at the Greyhound station switching over to incomprehensible Greek characters, nothing happened at Y2K. But we are still using the extra generator when the power goes out and having our own gas tank is quite handy. The preparations were the right thing, both for emergency services and for taking care of the concerns of the membership.