By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
"Personally, I am preparing for the worst case," says the man.
Is this man, and other survivalists like him, just a little paranoid? The man dismisses the notion with a laugh. He knows that most people think his views qualify him as an extremist--especially his co-workers.
"Most of the people [here] don't believe it. They're sailing blindly along. They believe in the system," he says. "But we'll be mainstream soon enough. The crazies are starting to become mainstream."
Bruce Hopkins nods his head and cracks a joke. He's amused that his business has landed his name in a newspaper that isn't published by an ultra-conservative right winger. He expects that to happen more often in the next year.
"In two weeks," he tells the man on the phone, "we'll bring you Phil Donahue."
Karen Anderson hasn't made it onto Phil Donahue's show--and she isn't likely to, since he's not on TV anymore--but she has been a guest on the show of former Dallas pudgy turned fitness guru Susan Powter.
"Susan Powter doesn't think I'm an extremist," Anderson says.
On this Tuesday afternoon, Anderson and her husband, Steve, are seated at a table inside the Applebee's restaurant located a few minutes from their Colleyville home. Their two daughters, 15-year-old Kelly and 13-year-old Stephanie, sit across from them, delicately munching on a plate of mozzarella sticks. They occasionally touch their jaws, which are yellow and bruised.
"We got [wisdom] teeth pulled, seriously. I really did it because of Y2K," Anderson says, emitting a nervous laugh. "A lot of this stuff with year 2000 is we don't know. If you have to have elective surgery, do it before the equipment goes bad or before the rush. It's the pre-panic position."
Anderson is nervous because she's worried that people will read about her and conclude that she's a kook. In August, she spent a lot of time with a reporter from Reuters, and the only thing he published about her was something she said about guns. She was trying to tell the man that it isn't weird to prepare for Y2K because it could represent TEOTWAWKI, which is pronounced tee-OH-tawa-kee. It means, Anderson explains, "the end of the world as we know it."
The R.E.M. song comes to mind, and Kelly and Stephanie begin singing in unison: "It's the end of world as we know it. It's. The. End. Of the world as we know it. And I feel fiiiine." Anderson adopts a puzzled expression. "Is that a song?" she asks.
Moms. They never know what crap the kids are listening to these days.
The girls giggle and return their attention to the mozzarella sticks.
The Andersons left Washington, D.C., and moved to Colleyville in 1990, at which point Karen says she was planning to work on Gary North's publication called Remnant Review. By the time she got here, though, Anderson says, the deal fell through.
She originally thought her increasingly popular cyber advice column, called "Dear Karen," would appear as a supplement on North's Web site, but in June Anderson set up her own Web site. Since then, Anderson says, 1,056 people subscribe to Dear Karen, which is designed to advise women about how they can prepare for Y2K.
The idea of the Web site was born during a dinner the Andersons say they had with Gary North. At the time, it seemed to Karen that the Y2K debate was too technical for many women to understand.
"I said, Gary, these guys are going home to their wives saying, 'The world's going to end, let's sell the house,' and she's saying, 'What?' I said, Gary, you have to do something to help women understand," Anderson says. "Since then, I would say a lot of my e-mail is from women who say, 'I get it, and I'm scared, but my husband is sticking his head in the sand.'"
Anderson has discovered that the most efficient way to get women to understand the problems Y2K presents is by comparing the situation to a natural disaster, like a blizzard or a hurricane.
Another method Anderson uses is to talk about insurance.
"How many people say to themselves, 'Gosh, I'm really tired of paying on my house insurance. I don't think my house is going to burn down, so I'll stop paying my premiums,'" Anderson says. "Y2K is a risk that everybody is facing, but I try to position it so it's not overwhelming. That's what I'm trying to do--minimize panic."
For Anderson, the key to preparing is knowing how to shop. And the best way to shop is in increments: There's still a year and a half before TEOTWAWKI, and that means you can slowly build up a stockpile of food, water, and supplies without seeing a huge impact on your pocketbook.
Steve Anderson pipes in: "It's just good to be prepared. We have buckets of grain."
Karen clucks. "That makes us sound weird," she says, exchanging a private look with Steve. "I remember I thought it was weird when you bought them.
"I thought it was very weird," Karen says. "However, it is 21 going on 22 years later, and it's still good."