What if computers are smarter than we knew? And now that our collective guard is down, is this year, asks Jim Shahin, the real millennial deal?

I don't know about you, but I'm feeling sorry for the new year. If you listen carefully, you can hear its cry on the cold winter wind. "Me!" it pleads. ""I am the first year of the new millennium. That other year? 2000? That was the final year of the old millennium. I'm the real deal. Pay attention to me."

Personally, I have no earthly idea if 2001 is the first year of the new millennium or not. Certainly, the year 2000 won the popularity contest. But I've heard calendar-bending claims on behalf of other years as well. And 2001 can lay as good a claim as any, and probably better than most. Which is why I think it's feeling a little neglected.

Just put yourself in its shoes. There's been no Y2K scare. No millennial cults. No shelters. No hoopla of any kind. Just your basic pre- and/or post-, aka every-year, hangover.

This new year arrived with little fanfare. Hordes didn't descend on remote regions of the world to see the first day's first light. Special parties weren't thrown in anticipation of the dawn of a new age.

New millennium?

Been there, done that.

So what does the world do to greet this year, arguably the real millennial deal? Diddley. This poor new year doesn't get any commemorative watches or special edition coffee mugs or once-in-a-lifetime candy bars. It gets no essays in national magazines. No Web sites. No round-the-clock reportage from around the world. It just gets a few pregnant chad jokes, themselves leftover from the end of last year.

2001 is the Rodney Dangerfield of new years. It gets no respect.

But what if 2001 is everything that 2000 was supposed to be, but wasn't?

What if, say, the Y2K thing was delayed a year by those canny computers. What if pregnant chads are no laughing matter after all, but a prelude of things to come?

In other words, what if all the computers are like the rebellious computer HAL in Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey? What if they're thinking, "Those smug humans, they think they know everything. They hoarded their food stuffs. They built their desert shelters. They sweated their fevered anxieties. Then came the dawn of January 1, 2000, and they blinked into the sunlight of a new day, shrugged, and said, 'Well, I'll be. We're still here and nothing went wrong. So, where do you want to go for breakfast? 'They thought we were going on the fritz in 2000. But we're going out this year. 2001. Just like Stanley said." What if the computers are lying in wait?

What if they're out there right now, partying on your Visa card?

In the case of a computer revolt, I wouldn't notice because my computer has been rebelling against me for years. In any event, I don't think it'll happen. Not this year. Computers are too crafty for that. They know that there are enough of us monitoring their movements that a revolt in the year of Kubrick's famous movie would lose the necessary element of surprise and therefore not succeed. Me? I think they're waiting for next year.

Which brings us back to 2001's bruised feelings. Personally, I think we should do something to make 2001 feel special.

So what I'm thinking is, we all go to Paris. Did you go to Paris last year? I didn't. Paris was booked. This year is different.There are probably "Vacancy" signs all over Montmartre.

Don't want to go to Paris? Okay, how 'bout Zanzibar? A veteran political strategist I know decompresses after a hard-fought campaign (or any campaign, as I understand it) with a trip to somewhere he's always wanted to go. After last November's presidential campaign, he planned to go to Zanzibar. Why Zanzibar? What about a remote island off the coast of Africa would attract a seasoned American hardball political warrior? He likes the name. "Ever since I was a kid I liked the sound of it," he told me. "Zanzibar."

What better reason to go to Zanzibar? Or anywhere, for that matter. Somewhere you always wanted to go just because you like the sound of its name. And what better time than this otherwise unheralded year? Why not do something different to help make 2001 feel better?

Don't want to travel?

OK, build a treehouse. Myself, I always wanted a treehouse. I'll bet you did, too. I didn't have a treehouse as a kid. I had a tree. A crab apple tree, and that was great for boinging crab apples into the old man's yard across the street. I also had a tall blue spruce that was great for climbing, especially for scaring the bejesus out of you when you got to the top, six stories high, and you held on tightly to the skinny branches as you swayed back and forth with the wind. But I didn't have a house in either tree.

If you did have a treehouse, it's my guess you remember it fondly and you would love to have one again. Sit up there and read comic books all day. Maybe bring a radio up and listen, uninterrupted by parents, or, more to the point since you probably are a parent, by kids, to your music. A retreat up in the branches, above it all, your private getaway in the fluttering leaves, solitary and quiet as you want it to be or active as a beehive with friends.

What I’m trying to say is, we owe something to 2001. I feel bad for the way 2001 is treated. Where 2000 was the quarterback, 2001 is the kicker. Where 2000 was the lead guitarist, 2001 is the drummer. Where 2000 was pizza, 2001 is the anchovy.

It is underrated and under appreciated. Well, I happen to be a former drummer and I like anchovies and, well, OK, I’d rather be the quarterback than the kicker. But kickers have their moments.

In the game we call Time, this could be that moment.

But not without our help.

It’s too late to do anything about 2001’s New Year’s Eve. But it’s not too late to make it up to 2001. The year is still new. Think of 2001 as the calendar equivalent of a second chance. An opportunity to do everything you didn’t do in 2000.

After all, today is the first day of the rest of your millennium. Take a computer to lunch.