High Drama at the Turn of the Millennium

A brief story of a dramatic proposal at the stroke of midnight on New Years Eve.

During the last few years of the 1990s, there was some media attention to the coming turn of the millennium as the year 1999 changed to 2000. Such an event only happens once every one thousand years, so one might expect some excitement. At the time, this author was living in the city of Rochester in New York State. During the final few weeks of the year 1999, I asked some people what they were going to do on New Years Eve. They said they were staying home and having a quiet night. They even seemed a little adamant that staying home was the intelligent option. After all, two thousand is merely a number. I was surprised by the lack of enthusiasm. Was everybody in the Rochester area competing with each other to have the quietest night?

I ignored the quest for boredom and went out on New Years Eve. A friend was visiting me from out of town. The city had scheduled a fireworks display for midnight, but I was not expecting big fireworks in a small city. But we could at least try to find some excitement. The city seemed rather quiet as we visited a restaurant and a bar. As the clock approached midnight, we sat in my car for a while and then started walking closer to the area where the fireworks would launch. A sizable crowd had gathered to watch the fireworks.

While some people in Rochester were avoiding excitement, a young man in the crowd had other ideas. He was with a young woman who must have been his girlfriend. She was very good looking, the kind of woman that men always notice. An older man was with the young couple. I think he was her father. The fireworks started to light up the sky. I was pleased to see the fireworks were bigger than expected. Then, at the stroke of midnight, the young man surprised his girlfriend. He knelt down on one knee and proposed marriage to her. Her father looked on in a good natured way. He probably knew this would happen, but why spoil the surprise. For a brief while, the woman looked coolly at her suitor, as if she were calculating her future. Meanwhile, he continued looking up at her, hopefully and expectantly. Then she began to cry. And she continued to cry. There is no way to fake tears like that. There is no acting skill that enables a woman to cry like that. Apparently, her answer was “Yes”. At midnight one young man and woman defied the stupefying malaise, grabbed life for all it’s worth, and created a drama that exceeded the millennium.