For years now, people have been speculating that the end of the calendar means the end of the world. There are a lot of theories. The magnetic poles will reverse polarity and all the electricity will run backwards. Who knows what will happen to all those new-fangled light globes? A previously unknown planet will come out of deep space and smack the earth, smashing it to smithereens. Solar flares will irradiate us like so many 7-Eleven burritos. Volcanoes, earthquakes, locusts, Republican Congressmen, you name it, there is a long list of potential plagues and disasters awaiting us next Friday.
Apparently there has been enough concern about the "event" that NASA has issued a formal statement, filled with science stuff, debunking all of the Mayan end-of-times theories. They are quite sure we will all still be here on the 22nd of December. They are less sure that they will be working for NASA after January 1 when the federal budget gets hit by a fiscal meteor, but that's a different problem. But the government felt it was necessary to issue a statement to help calm the nerves of a frightened populace.
If that doesn't frighten you, I don't know what would. I mean, who are you going to believe - the History Channel or the people who faked the moon landing?
Just to be on the safe side, I'm not doing any Christmas shopping until the 22nd.
Frankly, I expected a little more hysteria than I've seen so far. Utah can really get behind this kind of thing. I've got more than a few relatives whose basements are packed with buckets of 50-year-old wheat and tons of Korean War-surplus powdered milk. Perhaps the biggest threat to human existence is the collection of strange bacteria that has been mutating in the basement all these years. One day they will open the container of ancient, moldy oats and unleash the ultimate doomsday bug on the rest of us.
The most dire of the History Channel "documentaries" on the Mayan calendar suggest that the end will be quick and absolute. If that's the case, there is little point in preparing. When the earth's rotation reverses and we are all hurtled out in to deep space, the five-gallon bucket of cream of wheat won't be worth much. Maybe that's why there hasn't been a lot of marketing about it.
There are a lot of people who buy into the chaos-and-anarchy version of the end, and there are some real marketing opportunities there. Of course there are the condominium bunkers in the retired missile silos in North Dakota. Sales of guns and ammo remain brisk, but that has more to do with people wanting to protect themselves from government agents trying to force health insurance on them than the end of the world. There's not much you can do to defend yourself against solar flares, but a government imposed prostate exam is a different thing.
So far, at least, I have not seen anything on the local news about people hunkering down in their survival bunkers waiting for the big event. I suppose if the date is nailed down, right on the 21st, there's no reason to rush things. Maybe settle into the bunker on Wednesday or Thursday after a nice dinner. I suppose it's a big dilemma whether to put up a Christmas tree in the bunker. Maybe if it's all clear on the 22nd, they just pack up and go back home. They can tell the neighbors they were just visiting Grandma for a couple of days, and nobody needs to know.
A year or so back, Reverend Henry Camping, a radio preacher, convinced his followers that the end was scheduled. Despite his having miscalculated the date several times before, people quit their jobs, gave everything away and hit the road to spread the word to others. When the clock chimed and the heavens didn't open, it was all kind of embarrassing. "Never mind. Can I have my stuff back?"
For some reason, the Mayan calendar people have been less obvious in their preparations. It's apparently difficult to get a hotel room in the Yucatan as people are drawn to the Mayan ruins. But I suspect that the festivities there involve more tequila and less confession.
I think I'll count down to the end with some time on the mountain. The skiing has been surprisingly good so far, and with the colder weather and a little help from nature, the upper elevations are skiing like mid-winter conditions. If you haven't been up ahead of the Christmas crowds, you're missing out. It's really very good and there's nobody on the hill. We know that will come to an end on December 21st.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.