Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Ends of the World

I got to see this billboard on my way to work for the last 2 months.

  Every day I’ve gone to work the last few months, I’ve driven past a billboard proclaiming May 21st as Judgement Day on a background of flames. It’s only natural to block out something you see every day so I hadn’t been paying much attention to the sign until Friday morning when I got to work and Raj, my co-worker in the next cubicle said “So...I hear the world is coming to an end tomorrow.”

  I had forgotten all about the end of the world and I told Raj I was pretty upset about it because when I went to the gas station that morning, I filled up my tank instead of just getting enough gas to get me home. Raj calmed me down by noting that since the world was coming to an end, it really wasn’t going to matter how much gas I had left in my tank. He had a good point. We also discussed that since we get paid every other week and that we got paid last week, we had worked a whole week for free.

  I didn’t really think the world was going to end on Saturday. After all, this has to be the fourth or fifth time the world was coming to an end that I can remember in just the last 10 years.

  Y2K was the first time I had heard of the world coming to an end. As I recall, computers that control nuclear reactors were going to fail, leading to meltdowns and worldwide chaos. Radio shows touted the need to be prepared with generators, rations, and firearms. But Y2K came and went and there was no disaster, unless you were a Y2K conversion programmer who got laid off. In 1999, I couldn’t hire a programmer for less than one and a half times what I was making, but in 2000 the same programmers were calling me willing to work for a few dollars above minimum wage.

  In 2005, all the planets in our solar system were going to align and many people were predicting all sorts of earthquakes, tidal waves, and other natural disasters that would cause the end of the world. While there have been Katrina and 2 huge tsunami’s since then, the world has for the most part stayed intact.

  As a Yankee fan, I thought the world was coming to an end twice. In 2001, when they were trying to win their 4th World Series in a row, they were leading the Arizona Diamondbacks 2-1 in the 9th inning on the 7th game, but the unbeatable Mariano Rivera blew the save, the game, and the series. Then in 2004, the Yankees lost the American Championship series to the hated Red sox after leading the series 3 games to none with a lead in the 9th inning of the fourth game.

  When I was growing up, the end of the world king was Nostradamus. Every year there would be books and TV specials showing how all his predictions had come true for every world event for the last 400 years. I think he predicted the end of the world to coincide with the death of Elvis.
“the king will gorge on
peanut butter on bread
topped with slabs of bacon
but the end will come when
the King does not awaken”
  If you don’t recognize that passage, you may not have the same translation as my book, “Nostradamus for the Dummies that can’t even understand the Regular Dummy books”.

Can it be a sign of the end of the world when gum is a dollar for 5-15 stick packs and grape juice is 1.29 for a half gallon?
Not so fast, it isn't grape juice, but grape juice cocktail. Another end of the world scam...

  I went for a walk at lunchtime Friday and stumbled upon a bookstore. Stores in downtown Des Moines generally cater to the people that work there. This bookstore had a small selection of mostly novels. I’m surprised this store could still be in business. They probably specialize in special orders for upscale people who probably don’t have the time to go to a Barnes and Noble on the weekend or even order from At least that’s what I gathered from seeing the shelf of golf books and the other customer, who was helping the owner look up books on popular museums on the Internet to order. I looked at their shelf of games books and there was one lonely chess book amidst a collection of New York Time crossword puzzle books.. It was a 1997 book on endgames by Vasily Smyslov, the former World Champion. I decided to buy the book and brought it to the counter. The owner seemed really surprised that I bought the book. His receipt printer didn’t even have any paper in it. He may have thought he wouldn't sell that book until the end of the world.

I'm sure there are some cicles where the proof of Arnold's infidelity is the end of the world.