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Making my list for the end of the world

Thursday, December 26, 2002

Some of us live with the blissful belief that the world will continue along its route pretty much as it always has, changing gradually enough for us to adapt without giving much thought to what it must look like from the great distance of time and space.

But there are those who believe the end is near. We have all heard of the wild-eyed prognosticators of doom whose righteous figure is on his way to shut down our fantasy once and for all. Then there are the Mayans, whose calendar ends in the year 2012. That leaves us a little time to prepare.

But the space aliens called Zetas, whose Earthly contact is someone named Nancy, give us until late summer, tops. According to the Zetas, Earth will pass through the tail of a comet, possibly as early as April. Earth will stop rotating long enough for some turbulence to occur -- humongous lightning bolts, mad winds, firestorms of petrochemicals, pole shifts, continental rips, rising and sinking land masses, tidal waves, ocean vortexes, melting ice caps, and a few other incidentals.

I cling to the belief that we all will go out a little less dramatically, but if imagination plays any part in this most imminent forecast, I will let mine take flight for the purpose of a year-end column, especially because the Pete Rose controversy has been exhausted by others.

If the Zetas are right, there are some choices to be made. I am inclined to go with a let-'er-rip attitude. It would be easier. But what an experience to live through! All the great material for future columns, and the fantastic stories that wouldn't have to be embellished to impress future generations, providing there are any. The "new nonfiction" table at the super-bookstores would buckle under the weight of personal accounts of survival. Mine could be one of them!

Having decided to try to survive, I must begin planning now. As I wander mentally through my obligations, I wonder whether my mortgage company will come through the cataclysm and whether it will require me to pay during the months I am hunkered in my well-stocked cave somewhere in the mountains. Well, I'll worry about that when the time comes.

I look around the house at all my stuff. Should I pack it and store it somewhere safe, in case I make it back, or just let it go? Letting it go seems the wisest choice. I'll take just a few clothes and a huge notebook to write in.

Now, what to do about that week of vacation I have planned in Bradenton, Fla. March frivolity is cutting it awfully close ... but if I get everything else in order, I can be back in time to pack for the cave-dwelling months ahead.

Or would it be years? The Zetas didn't tell Nancy how long this "brief" period of chaos would last. I remember the time I ran to the basement in Tulsa during a tornado warning. I stood down there for about 15 minutes staring at the litter boxes, wondering when I could go back up.

My cats! Oh no. They might be able to hunch under something during 600 mph winds, but they can't swim. I'd have to take them with me. The thought of living with them indefinitely in a cave with no source of Tidy Cat is a bit daunting, though.

How much food to take? Wow. I could load my car with canned peaches, Spam and plenty of water and park the car just inside the cave. I would want books to read, but any space the books take up is space I can't use for water.

Hmm.

In my panic, I haven't even consulted my loved ones to find out how they plan to spend the firestorm. Maybe they have some plans I could hook into. I hate to plan anyway. You never really know what you're planning for.

My ambition to survive this great catastrophe is dissipating. Let's say a few thousand people manage to make it through. What kind of world would it be without all my dear friends and neighbors? My survival would be a Pyrrhic victory.

Maybe I should just go with my inclination. Stay in harm's way and live life to the fullest until the time comes. After all, the Mayans could be right. So, here's wishing you a happy, and complete, 2003.


Diana Nelson Jones can be reached at djones@post-gazette.com and 412-263-1626.

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