Joanne Palmer: Over the edge of the fiscal cliff |

Joanne Palmer: Over the edge of the fiscal cliff

Joanne Palmer

In 1989, Joanne Palmer left a publishing career in Manhattan and has missed her paycheck ever since. She is a mom, weekly columnist for the Steamboat Pilot & Today, and the owner of a property management company, The House Nanny. Her new book "Life in the 'Boat: How I fell on Warren Miller's skis, cheated on my hairdresser and fought off the Fat Fairy" is now available in local bookstores and online at or

Tired of hearing about the fiscal cliff?

Thought so.

Does it remind you of Y2K?

Thought so.

Until the fiscal cliff hoopla started, I mostly had forgotten all about Y2K. In case you've forgotten (and I hope you have), here is the simplest definition I could find from WikiAnswers: "When we approached the year 2000, it was thought many of the world's computers would not have the capability to switch over from 1999 to 2000. Many people stocked up on non-perishables in fear of the world shutting down because of this."

Nothing happened.

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For a year, the media whipped up a fear frenzy so fierce many people were convinced that life as they knew it would be dramatically different when they woke up Jan. 1, 2000.

Nothing happened.

Unless, of course, you had a 3-year-old. I remember spending that particular New Year's Eve with my mom in the basement of our big house in Illinois. My energetic 3-year-old son loved to spend most of his time in our basement because he and his toy trucks could race faster on the concrete floor. To say our basement was funky would be an understatement. It was really, really funky. When we were little, my brother and I got into some paint cans and had great fun splattering paint everywhere. Instead of shipping us off to reform school, my parents decided to continue the theme, and we all had great fun one day painting the basement floor a psychedelic polka-dot pattern.

My dad's old tool bench with a table saw and a vice still were down there in 1999, and there were lots of boxes and dusty nooks and crannies for my son to explore. My mom and I set up two plastic lawn chairs and plopped ourselves down in the basement with a bottle of Champagne. The next morning, we woke up to a cold house.

"No heat. Y2K," I declared.

"I'm not so sure," my mother announced.

She took her flashlight and went back down to the basement, returning shortly with a smile.

"Peter flipped the switch to the boiler. The heat is back on," she said proudly.

At that time, my son was obsessed with switches. A few days later at O'Hare International Airport, my mischievous monkey darted behind the check-in counter and found the one switch that shut down the airline's entire computer system. I clearly remember the shriek of several airport employees, "How did this happen?" but I knew from the sly smile on my son's face exactly what had occurred. In case they still are looking for me, I will not reveal the name of the airline, but I will admit (and I'm not proud of it), that I grabbed him and hid out in the bathroom until I heard them announce the final boarding call for our flight.

What does this have to do with all the brouhaha about the fiscal cliff?

Flip the switch.

Treat yourself to a digital detox and turn off the news for 24 hours, or longer if you can stand it. Hide your iPads, iPhones and iPods. Turn them off for a few hours. Resist the urge to check Facebook, and drape a sheet over your TVs.

From what I've read, I don't think we'll go over a fiscal cliff. I think they will find some temporary solution, a Band-Aid to put over it and spend another year or more arguing about it.

Hide out for a night and play cards or read a book. Make a gratitude list and read it out loud. It's hard to be unhappy when you are grateful. Better yet, find a 3-year-old to hang out with. You'll be so busy, you won't have one minute to worry about the fiscal cliff or anything else. Go to bed early and see if you don't feel a bit better about life when you wake up in the morning.

I'm going to bet you do.