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Looking ahead, with tongue planted firmly in cheek

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By ROBERT TRIGAUX

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 14, 2001


After the amazing events of last year, how can a lampoon of 2001 compete with reality? Here is the third annual tongue-in-cheek look at the year ahead. Most of these events won't occur, of course. But given recent events around here, you never know . . .

* * *

JANUARY: New cold wave prompts Florida Power to issue another sympathetic press release advising that your next electric bill "will cost more than your home mortgage." Floridians send power company "thank you" roses for charging highest electric rates among state's big utilities.

* * *

After taking inflexible stand on vote recounts in the presidential election, Florida Secretary of State and George W. Bush fan Katherine Harris heads to Bush inaugural celebrations in nation's capital. When times got tough, she says, she would buck herself up by thinking of Mini-Me, the 3-foot-2 character in the Austin Powers movie. (This item is true.)

* * *

More infectious than Ebola, Super Bowl 2001 fever hits as the Tampa Bay area hosts history's greatest example of televised excess. Has there ever been a more concentrated gathering of corporate jets and egos, zillion-dollar advertising, shameless publicity and price-gouging, and plain old non-stop partying? Well, another event this month in Washington comes close.

* * *

FEBRUARY: As nation's new leader, President Bush warns U.S. economy is "sinkin' lower 'n' faster than my old Texas oil business." He demands swift passage of major tax cuts. In one-upsmanship, Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan cuts interest rates.

* * *

Jumping on California's power crisis, Tampa Bay business recruiters swarm all over Silicon Valley technology companies with new marketing pitch: "We even have electricity!"

* * *

As area dot-com layoffs increase, Internet "pink slip" parties gain in popularity. Opportunistic Tampa Bay area officials embrace rise of layoff parties as region's next great service business.

* * *

MARCH: Hoping to curb constant turnover at the top, Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce hires Tampa Bay Devil Rays mascot Raymond as the group's new leader. He is fired when one chamber member complains Raymond's giant shoes will be too hard to fill in the future. New search begins.

* * *

Slack worldwide demand for personal computers forces manufacturers to drop prices again and offer rebates "worth three times" PC's purchase price.

* * *

In Florida, consumer confidence declines. Average size of newly built home drops to 20,000 square feet.

* * *

APRIL: Florida's unprecedented drought forces regional officials to limit new construction to 10,000 homes a day. Existing residents can flush toilets once a week.

* * *

Fulfilling his campaign high-tech promise, President Bush appoints recently out-of-work Sock Puppet as the administration's New Economy Czar.

* * *

Ford Motor Co. says it has licked the rollover problems with its Explorer SUVs. In place of tires, each new Explorer will be carried on the shoulders of four husky Firestone executives.

* * *

MAY: Thanks to his relentless talk of "recession," Vice President Dick Cheney beats out actor Jim Carrey to star in The Grinch II.

* * *

Tampa Mayor Dick Greco jumps on last year's commitment to embrace area's rising new economy -- just as soon as he sends off a letter via the Pony Express.

* * *

University of South Florida president Judy Genshaft is sighted simultaneously at three area economic development meetings, prompting rumors of advanced human cloning in USF labs.

* * *

JUNE: President Bush warns that the U.S. economy is "staggering more than a Yale frat boy after a cheap beer binge" and demands Congress quickly adopt deeper tax cuts. Fed chairman Greenspan again steals spotlight by cutting interest rates.

* * *

Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce hires Bill Clinton as new leader but quickly fires him after one member complains the former president is just "not Bubba enough" any more. New search begins.

* * *

As drought worsens, regional water officials issue rules that halt all outdoor plant watering. Residents are encouraged to sweat on their lawns.

* * *

JULY: Area economic development leaders are eager to promote latest success of the I-4 High-Tech Corridor developing between the Tampa Bay area and Orlando. Problem is, they miss press conference and are stuck in gridlock for 14 days on Interstate 4.

* * *

Bank of America has to fix a glitch in its new talking ATMs after the machines refuse to dispense cash and shout: "It's mine! All mine."

* * *

Lack of consumer demand drives personal computer manufacturers to drop prices again and offer a free live-in technician with each PC purchased.

* * *

AUGUST: Massive mergers leave the country with one remaining airline that "guarantees" top-notch service. For a Tampa-Atlanta round trip, the charge is just $150. That's for the peanuts. Flight is extra.

* * *

Eager to retain graduating engineers in local work force, University of South Florida officials offer tech jobs at area companies without any competition from those "bothersome little weenies" from MIT or Stanford.

* * *

As consumer confidence in Florida drops again, a teenage car shopper skips gold plating option on Ford's new "retro" Thunderbird.

* * *

SEPTEMBER: As bay area layoffs increase at dot-com businesses, trend-sensitive officials approve new marketing slogan: "Tampa Bay: Where boat slips still outnumber pink slips."

* * *

A mere five years after start of telecommunications deregulation, local phone company Verizon issues press release assuring consumer competition "within our corporate lifetime."

* * *

Heat wave spurs Florida Power to warn customers that next electric bill "will exceed the cost of your child's college education." Utility offers such money-saving tips as "panting," "living in your air-conditioned car" and "relocating to Siberia."

* * *

OCTOBER: Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce hires Al Gore as new leader. But he is canned when one member complains the former vice president wants to retool the Tampa Bay area into nation's "lockbox" capital. New search begins.

* * *

President Bush warns the U.S. economy is "more vulnerable than Dick Cheney's ticker" and demands the federal government cash out and return all its money to U.S. citizens. Fed chairman Greenspan responds by trimming interest rates.

* * *

Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce hires regional high-tech guru Tom Wallace as new leader. But he is thrown out after one member complains "what was he possibly thinking?" when Wallace suggests recruiting local new economy businesses to chamber ranks. New search begins.

* * *

NOVEMBER: Confidence of Floridians plummets. Waiting list for dozens of planned luxury beachfront condos falls to 25 years.

* * *

As sales of personal computers plunge, manufacturers replace hard drives with rocks and start marketing "Pet PCs" in time for holiday shoppers.

* * *

Slowing economy dampens confidence of holiday shoppers. Neiman Marcus takes extra day to run out of personal, fully working submarines.

* * *

DECEMBER: Fed up with the Federal Reserve's rate cuts, the president challenges the Fed chairman to a wrestling match. George "Bantam" Bush has age on his side, but Alan "Stone Cold" Greenspan has a bigger briefcase. The match is televised on C-SPAN as part of the World Wrestling Federation's "Bureaucrats in Tights" series.

* * *

Under severe drought conditions, Florida's "smart growth" plan reroutes all freshwater from new desalination plants to latest housing communities. In Florida schools, students start to learn how to enjoy drinking seawater.

* * *

Trying new tactic, Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce hires Tampa Bay Buc Warren Sapp as new leader. Sapp promises to shape things up with a "few slaps to the head." Not one member complains. Peace is at hand.

- Contact Robert Trigaux at trigaux@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8405.

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