The article I linked to brings up some interesting points, although I always thought the Mayan 2012 thing was their calendar version of the Y2K bug. The author mentions a time in 1964 where people were afraid to die in gym class, and it reminded me of my own middle school past.
This would have been around 1982, I think. On a Tuesday. For a whole week, kids were joking around and nervously tittering about some "Alignment of the Planets" kind of thing that would spell disaster according to some rules I have long since forgotten. Because I was all of 13, I sort of didn't know what to believe. I mean, everyone was talking about it, and then when "the day" arrived, it was all anyone could speak about. Teachers of Longfellow Intermediate High School were a mix of, "Let it all end, thank God..." and "Whatever..." I have gym as a last period, and the kids who were making jokes about it were really quiet. Not much got done; it really seemed like there was a mass belief of "yeah, in just a few hours, none of this will matter." My stomach knotted in fear, the same kind of fear I had about nuclear war. By the end of gym, I was resigned that the world was really going to end, and nothing mattered.
That day, however, I was in some kind of detention with my racist history teacher. I don't know why I was staying after school (probably some homework-related thing where he'd say he was helping us, but in reality we just sat there while he quietly read the paper), but in the midst of my misery, I actually forgot about the end of the world until some kid ran in, and said, "End of the world starts in 5 minutes!" The teacher told him to get out. I think it was 3:15 on that Tuesday when the planets would line up exactly and blow us to smithereens. Along with the other few kids in the classroom, we watched the school clock click to 3:15. Our wall clocks at the time were all synchronized by some mechanical process, and they didn't have a second hand, they just clicked every minute to the next mark. I recall that "click" at 3:15, and wondering, "Does it end at 3:15 exactly, or is it a gradual process? Is the school clock accurate to the minute?" I looked at my watch and noticed it said 3:17. I must have been very pale.
Obviously, the world did not end at 3:15 that day, although I spent most of it wondering how gradual this process was. I came home to my usual routine; mother drunk, father away at work. I watched the news on the TV (I wasn't supposed to watch TV, but we had a small black and white set in the kitchen I'd sometimes watch, and that way, I could see when my father came home to turn it off), and they said nothing. I gradually began to be bummed it was a hoax (my life sucked, I was kind of glad it was going to end), although it took me several hours to finally relax enough to sleep (apparently, I didn't want to sleep through the spectacle).
No dying today.
The next day, no one said anything. I didn't have friends in 7th grade (apart from Neal in Texas, and some of the people I played D&D with at the community center on weekends), so I didn't have anyone to ask about it, and since no one said anything I have always been left wondering who believed versus who knew it was phony all along. Or was there a difference? I think the line was blurred in many cases.
Still, I wonder about all those people who believe the world is going to end, and when the date passes, what do they say? Oops?
This entry was originally posted at http://www.punkwalrus.com/blog/archives/00000610.html