Royal party settles Y2K jitters

As the seconds ticked down to midnight the air was thick with anticipation.

When the clock struck 12:00 and the incredible fireworks display that lit up Canada’s most populous city erupted, the stifled anticipation began to bubble over. At first, the 10 IT staffers and their families in the Royal Bank’s Enterprise Command Centre on the 40th floor of the Royal Bank tower in downtown Toronto stared silently. Then the pause gave way to celebration.

The computer failures that had the globe primed for action did not happen. The estimated US$500 billion spent world wide on Y2K preparation paid off, and for the Royal’s Dana Dean, senior advisor of public affairs, it was one of the best New Year’s celebrations she’s ever known.

“We had an incredible vantage point from the south side of the tower to watch the fireworks,” Dean recalled. “It was a completely relaxed atmosphere despite the mood being like any New Year’s eve…getting more and more excited as the night went along.”

Conceivably, no one on earth expressed more joy at the smooth passing of time than computer programmers and IT specialists, and the pop of champagne corks was heard as Dean and her colleagues cheered the occasion.

“For the first five minutes (after midnight), it was very quiet and everyone just took it all in,” she said. “There was nothing formal, but champagne was there – it was like a staff party, and I totally enjoyed it.”

Normally, a staff of 10 would be on hand in the Royal’s Command Centre, but the turn of the century allowed Dean and her associates to invite family members. In all, 60 revellers enjoyed the view of Toronto’s waterfront during the spectacular fire show.

Dean said she personally wasn’t apprehensive prior to midnight, but she was curious.

“I wondered what it would be like, and what to expect, I’ve never spent a New Year’s with colleagues before,” she admitted. “I didn’t think things would be a breeze or a problem or what might come up…everyone had done so much, at that point we were all pretty relaxed.”

Relaxed and with champagne being toasted around her, Dean called her mother in British Columbia to wish her well.

“It was like any other New Year’s, you focus on the people in your life, and what had gone on in the past year,” she remarked.

Although the Enterprise Command Centre was coolly in control, Dean likened the atmosphere in the hours leading up to midnight as to those before a major exam.

“There was such a build up that when the day finally came it was like exam day,” she laughed. “Although you were prepared, you wondered if you had studied enough and you just wanted to get it over with.”

The sun eventually rose over Lake Ontario, and by 10 a.m. Dean was going home.

“It was a nice evening.”