I'm not really what you would call a fraidy-cat. I have made million-dollar decisions without much fear and trembling. Most of the time, I am about as brave as the next person. But the other night I was afraid, and today - even in the light of day - I am still afraid.

I heard Sen. Bob Bennett speak about a subject I thought I knew a little about: the millennium problem, or Y2K.In case you haven't been paying attention, Y2K refers to a computer problem created by some nerd 25 or 30 years ago. At the time, all inputting to memory-limited computers was done by IBM punch cards and there was room for only 80 characters per card. To save card space and computer memory, programmers dropped the first two digits of year dates. The year 1960 became 60, 1993 became 93 and - here's the real problem facing the world - the year 2000 became 00.

Computer and microchip manufactures have continued the tradition of dropping the first two digits, although I am told by one of my friends, Gary Carlson, a retired computer whiz from BYU, that as early as 1977 there were forward-thinking people who worried about the consequences of that decision. Books were even published on the so-called millennium problem, but few listened.

What seemed like a simple decision then may well bring the nation and the world to its collective knees at midnight Dec. 31, 1999, when everything from elevators to airplanes might abruptly fall because the microchips in their control mechanisms tell the computers that they are past their in-spec-tion cycle.

You see, a microchip will only do what it has been programmed to do. It can't figure things out for itself. And while many microchips have been programmed to move sequentially through the years, they don't know that the year 00 comes after the year 99. So when the inner clock moves from 99 to 00 at midnight 16 months from now, many microchips will be unable to make the transition and automatically shut down. When you consider that there are 5 billion microchips manufactured each year and put into all kinds of business and household computers and gadgets throughout the world, you begin to see the potential enormity of the problem.

Sen. Bennett is the federal government's watchdog on this subject. He sees himself as the Paul Revere of Y2K, and now finally some people in Washington, D.C., are beginning to listen to him. As they consider the possible impact on the utilities, telecommunications, transportation, financial and health care delivery systems, the financial and insurance industries and many others, people are beginning to use scary words like "earth shaking," "catastrophic" and "Armageddon."

Sen. Bennett may not know any programming codes, but he does know about how businesses worldwide and homes throughout the world may be affected by this minus-two-digit nightmare. Until listening to him, I felt the Y2K problem in my business was limited to my computer. Since I have lived without computers before and life was good, I didn't worry much. But Sen. Bennett convinced me that it won't be just my computer that won't work, but possibly also my phone, the fax machine and copier. He also made me wonder if my office refrigerator will still keep my Dr Pepper cold.

Now, that really got my attention - especially the part about the Dr Pepper.

After hearing Sen. Bennett, I spent the evening walking around the house, looking at all of the microchip-containing devices that I have come to use and love: the thermostat, the air conditioning, forced air heating, our microwave, the freezer, the computer, phones, the water softener, the hot water heater, our washer and dryer, the dish washer, the garage door opener, the automatic sprinkler system, the CD player, the alarm clock (OK so I don't feel so bad about the clock), my treadmill, the vacuum, my electric blanket and, my own personal favorite, the television and VCR.

And what about my beloved automobile, with all of its fancy gadgets and its computerized fuel injector and engine? The only thing in my life that is for sure going to keep working is my wife.

And even my relationship with her is going to be damaged as she asks me to fix things I have no idea how to repair. The next thing she is going to ask is why I bought all these things in the first place if they won't work after the year 1999. What am I going to tell her? Let's face it, I am scared. I am going to find my 72-hour emergency supply kit (that should take me about . . . oh, 72 hours or so - that's why they call it a 72-hour kit, isn't it?). Then I'm going to start working on a contingency plan for my home, my business and life as I know it.

Seriously, if you are a business owner, I suggest you do the same. It might not hurt to be a little scared yourself. A little more than a year from now we might all find ourselves getting back to the basics. Whether we want to or not.