At the risk of publishing the ultimate “Dewey Defeats Truman” column, I’m going to assume (as I write on Thursday) that the world didn’t end on Dec. 21, as some predicted it would, based on the idea that the Mayan calendar ends on that day.
The Mayans liked calendars. They had three of them, which is probably three more than any civilization I developed would have. I’ll never understand why, at some point, some bright young Mayan didn’t say, “Hey, that’s clever, what a nice chiselled rock. But instead of another calendar, why don’t we smelt something, maybe get some metal tools going?”
I’d have done that. I can’t imagine surveying my cultural landscape and thinking, “You know what would improve our quality of life? Another calendar.” I’d have gone straight for the Iron Age. My civilization would have had a KitchenAid Mixer before it had a calendar.
In fact, Dec. 21 merely marked the day the longest of the Mayan calendars ticked over into a new cycle, so panic over our end was unfounded.
It’s as if 3,000 years from now one of our own calendars were to be discovered and our descendants were to decide that the world ended on Dec. 31.
I imagine the unearthing of the “Season Greetings from Brad Andrews and everyone at Royal City Realty!” calendar in 5012 would have a profound effect on that civilization, were they to wholeheartedly follow the lead of the 2012 doomsayers.
Each year around Dec. 20, everyone would begin to unburden themselves of their worldly possessions, passing them on to others, meaning that everyone would basically just swap stuff. Then, on what we call New Year’s Eve, families would huddle together on their neighbour’s sofa, drink tea from their neighbour’s mugs and await the end times.
Sure, there’d be confusion when the world didn’t end, but the next year they’d just look at the calendar and do it again.
For centuries, this society would exist peacefully until in the month of “Cape Cod Style Dream Home” 800 anno Brad the discovery of a 1976 Gourmet Magazine calendar would throw the Bradites into disarray.
Although the majority would reject this new calendar, a faction would form around it, which would not present an insurmountable problem except for the fact that 1976 was a leap year, meaning that every year the world didn’t end, which was all of them, the two sides would drift one day further apart.
It’d be difficult enough to organize a society in which everyone believed the world was ending, but nearly impossible if a sizable minority insisted it was February in the middle of what the other side called March.
When Bradite December rolled around, the Bradites would disinvest themselves of all their possessions while the Gourmands were still months away from doing the same.
The equitable days of the massive stuff-swap would come to a crushing end, with some Bradite families ending up with nothing and some bewildered Gourmand families finding themselves double-stuffed, only for the situation to be reversed when Gourmand Apocalypse rolled around.
The Gourmands – already unsettled because for many years they had been partaking of the blessed fondue in what we would call August heat and dining on the sacred salmon mousse in the dead of winter – would become isolated. Gourmand unrest at being asked to work on what they considered a Sunday would soon escalate into outright hostilities.
The Gourmands would withdraw in to their own heavily moussaka’d world; the Bradites would find them and disinvest upon them again, or at least refuse to stay for pineapple-based entrées or even mushroom vol-au-vent.
Tensions would increase. Walls would be built, then – inspired by Brad’s “Spanish-style bungalow” – stuccoed. Blueberry muffins would be catapulted over them.
Soon, Bundt cakes would arrive bearing blasphemous messages, such as, “Hey, don’t you think that Brad guy you worship looks a lot like a real-estate agent?”
An eggplant embargo against the Gourmands would be imposed – a situation they would find untenable. As to what they’d do in retaliation, I’ll only say there’s a reason future articles of war would forbid the deployment of jello salad.
The Bradites would respond with flyers, lots of flyers, clogging the Gourmand streets with “Sold for above listing!” notices. They would stage fake open houses to lure in bored Gourmand soldiers, who were mostly outside sipping Harvey Wallbangers and eating devilled eggs.
Conflicting calendars would make it impossible to organize peace talks. Ceasefires would end before they began.
Some would dream of a day the calendars would align. Others would said that was the exact new day the world would end. Eventually a third faction would emerge, talking of both shrimp cocktails and gentrification.
Fondue-based weapons of mass destruction would be developed. Lock-box missiles would fly. The end would come quickly, and cheesily.
If there’s a lesson to be learned here, it’s that if your society shows any signs of collapse, ditch all your calendars.
Now please have a merry Christmas.