Watching the Clock for the End of the World
DECEMBER 21, 2012: THE LAST DAY OF THE MAYAN CALENDAR
6:15 a.m.: Husband’s alarm goes off. Obviously the world has not ended overnight. Decide to doze some more and see what happens.
6:45 a.m.: Still no end in sight. Guess I had best get up. If the world’s not going to end, I have deadlines to meet. It’s a bloody letdown, but what can you do?
7:00 a.m.: Tea! Thank the gods! Okay, now the world can end.
8:00 a.m.: Still here, and so are the deadlines. Writing film reviews. Texting my brother, whose birthday is today: "Hey bro, so you’re turning 40. Don’t take it too hard. It’s not the end of the world. Or is it? Haha!"
9:00 a.m.: No reply from my brother. Surly bastard.
9:30 a.m.: Heading in to the office... through the cold, cold drizzle. I’m only needed for about an hour and a half but it’s going to take that long to get there. If the world does end today it probably will be just as I arrive, soaked and shivering, and before I can get any work done. Typical.
10:00 a.m.: Riding on the bus. Had to wait longer than I expected for the bus to show up and while I stood huddled under the bus shelter I got into a conversation with a homeless guy.
ME: Say, you’re not too worried about this "Mayan Apocalypse" thing, are you?
HOMELESS GUY: No, not too worried.
ME: So what will you be doing for Christmas?
HOMELESS GUY: I’m gonna try to get a hotel room.
ME: Here’s my bus. Have a nice day.
HOMELESS GUY: You wouldn’t have any spare cash, would you?
I gave him $5. Upon reflection, I should have given him a ten-spot. After all, if the last day of Earth’s existence isn’t a time for generosity, when is?
12:00 noon: Chatting with a colleague at work. He’s bubbling over with enthusiasm for the whole Mayan calendar thing. His take is that the world won’t end; rather, a massive shift in human consciousness is going to happen today.
"It might already have happened," he says, eyes shining. "If the balance is 51% negative and 49% positive, and then suddenly it flips to 51% positive and only 49% negative, we wouldn’t even know it, but it’s the start of something new. Something big! In the future they might look back on today as the start of a whole new era in human history!"
Sounds complicated. Can’t we just vanish in a puff or something?
Actually, as far as universal annihilation goes, that’s not a bad option. All it would take is a minor quantum shift in the basic energy level of the universe. Every bit of matter in the cosmos would simply evaporate. It’s not very probable at any given moment in time, but the universe is already 14 billion years old. Even the most improbable things are bound to happen sooner or later...
I mention this to him. He looks kind of hurt. He looks like I’ve just harshed on his buzz. Sorry, dude!
1:15 p.m.: Shivering in the rain once again and waiting for the bus. Why is it that you have to wait twice as long as you expect and then two buses show up at the same time? What kind of deal is that?
Here’s a thought. Instead of the traditional End of All Time doomsday, could we maybe go in for a Limited Duration version? You know, so that instead of the entire future being wiped out, we just lose a few months and skip ahead to spring? Is that an option?
1:42 p.m.: Riding on the bus once more. Some young guy without an umbrella sits next to me; he’s drenched. A drop of water quivers at the tip of his nose. He’s gonna catch cold at this rate. I happen to have a spare umbrella, a small retractable model, in my courier bag, so I offer him the larger one I’ve been carrying around. The wind has been battering this umbrella pretty good and it’s a cheap make, so it’s about to give out anyway, but it would probably last the rest of the afternoon with some care.
I make my offer. He eyes me uncertainly and edges away. "I’m already wet, but thanks anyway," he says.
If this really were the last day... and it’s starting to look like it’s not, because shouldn’t something have happened by now? An earthquake? A supernova? A new celebrity sex tape?... Anyway, if this really were the last day, would people still be scared of each other? If we were facing the end of the world, would we panic and riot, or would we - I don’t know - all have a big picnic? Break out the fois gras and the Veuve Cliquot? Offer a toast to the End of Days? Why not just be happy if you’ve got nothing to lose?
2:30 p.m.: Trudging home, I think up a Facebook witticism: "New boots upside: Warm and dry. New boots downside: Ouch! Damn! Ouch!" Decide to save it for later. In case there is a later. (They say you’ve got to have something to look forward to for optimal mental health, right?)
3:00 p.m.: Still no response from my brother. The git.
4:00 p.m.: This really is irritating. No end of the world. Now I have to get the shopping in and clean house.
7:00 p.m.: Meeting with my friend Clayton for a quick cup of coffee before we see a play. I don’t drink coffee, so I order hot chocolate. Would I like whipped cream with that? Ordinarily I’d say no, but there’s still a chance that the world is going to explode in a ball of fiery magma, so I say yes. What the hell, right?
10:00 p.m.: The play, "Two Gentlemen of Verona," was hilarious. Walking home, I reflect that if as asteroid or rogue planet suddenly appeared in the sky, rushing toward the Earth with lethal speed and glory, I’d be able to say I was leaving this vale of tears on a high note. Alas, nothing up there but wintery clouds. Bleah.
11:00 p.m.: The postman must really have been running late today, because he evidently came by only after I had left to get to the play. I haul packages upstairs to find my husband watching "The Philadelphia Experiment" on TV. Mad science run amuck!
One parcel is from my brother. Every year he sends the same thing: an assortment of huckleberry products. Huckleberry jam; huckleberry cookies; huckleberry honey. I open the box and find the contents coated in thick purple goo: A jar of huckleberry syrup has popped its lid and haemorrhaged all over everything. It’s huckleberry apocalypse!
The world has not ended, but the Mayans, and my brother, have gotten the last laugh. Blackguards.
DECMEBER 22, 2012: THE DAY AFTER THE LAST DAY OF THE MAYAN CALENDAR
6:15 a.m.: Husband’s alarm goes off. I’ve just been having a dream about swimming in a big pool of huckleberry syrup as my brother lounges nearby with an absurdly elaborate drink in his hand, a drink that sports an umbrella as big as the compact model I carry in my courier bag.
Well, fancy that, it’s a new day.
On the other hand, December 21, 2012 was the end of the world in the very same way each and every day is the end of the world; it was the end of history so far. With a new dawn there is every day the chance to make new choices, try new things, let go of grudges and fears, regrets and limitations. The old world passeth away daily. A new world cometh and all is constantly renewed.
So what are we gonna do today? Offer a smile to a stranger? Drink some Veuve Cliquot? Avoid the Fiscal Cliff? The possibilities are endless.
I don’t know about you all, but I have deadlines to meet.