FAIR POINT: Doomsday drama

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WELL here it is - 2013. The New Year has arrived! Was there a time when you thought it might not?

I have to admit that I’m happy to see the back of 2012 and all the ominous rubbish it brought along with it. Not that I actually bought into any of that Mayan Apocalypse rubbish. Not really. I mean, was I perhaps a litle unsettled by the millions of Facebook statuses spouting doomsday theories? Possibly. Did the endless newspaper articles, internet rantings and street preachers waving Judgement Day signs at me on my way to work start to niggle at me? Maybe a smidge. I admit I breathed a sigh of relief when December 22, 2012, rolled around and we’d all survived. Though it wasn’t the first Doomsday prediction and I’m quite sure it won’t be the last.

I’ve lived through my share of apocalyptic deadlines in the past 30 years but none have been quite so well publicised as this. The 2012 Doomsday has been an ominous deadline on the horizon for as long as I can remember. The big boys in Hollywood even went so far as to make a blockbuster disaster movie about it, complete with catastrophic earthquakes and tsunamis. And you know they never overreact to anything. (Ahem)

In the weeks leading up to December 21, people talked about little else. There were global fears of mass suicides, conspiracy theories, talk of an impending magnetic shift in the poles, a collision with a previously unseen planet hurtling toward Earth. The scare-mongering was ridiculous. Radio stations were getting in on the act too and REM’s End of the World has never received so much airplay. Did that mean people were putting more stock in this prophecy than ones that have come before it? Probably not, but for the vulnerable and scared among us, and for children who didn’t know better, it might certainly seem so. Thanks to social media and 24-hour news at our fingertips, we were bombarded with terrifying scenarios from around the globe.

On December 18, I went for a Christmas meal with friends and the subject soon came up. As the waiter brought out our main course, my friend Vicki’s boyfriend James casually informed me that we only had two days left.

“This Mayan apocalypse thing? It’s definitely happening,” he told me confidently, as he took a sip of red wine.

“Right...” I said needily, eyeing him across the table.

“Oh yeah, I’ve been listening to them talking about it on the news, it’s definitely happening this Friday. Our time’s up,” he assured me.

If he really believed it, I wasn’t sure why he was so damn cheery about it. After all, a doctor wouldn’t deliver a death sentence to a terminally ill patient so happily, so why did he think it was okay to slip into conversation between courses that we would all be dead before the week was up? Since he’d just finished telling me his plans for New Year and all about the house he and Vicki would be moving in to the following August, I was dubious.

“At least you’ve saved some time and money then,” I said.

He wrinkled his brow in confusion. “Huh?”

“Well, if the world is ending on Friday, you won’t have bothered with Christmas shopping...right?”

By Friday, the Twitter updates and endless articles were all starting to get in my head a bit. Ridiculous theories aside, I was genuinely worried about the possibility of some terrorist group running with the idea and turning the Doomsday theory into an opportunity to launch another 9/11 style attack. Across the globe, people were panic-buying supplies and heading to underground bunkers, or hiking up mountains to meet aliens they believed would rescue them. I couldn’t help but wonder just what this terrible day would bring when it did eventually come.

In the end, of course, December 21, 2012, passed without incident.

A friend of mine was out for a Christmas drink at 11am, when it was all meant to happen. She told me later that Sky News was on in the pub, with a countdown to the very moment our planet was supposed to expire. Can you imagine that? Sitting in a pub, trying to sip casually from your glass of mulled wine as Sky News counts down the remaining seconds of the world’s existence on a big screen.

She later admitted thinking: “If Sky News are putting stock in this rubbish, maybe I really should be worried!”

I, on the other hand, didn’t fancy a day of scare-mongering headlines so I opted to steer clear of Facebook, Twitter and my Daily Mail app. Instead I stuck on some Christmas music and baked mince pies and lemon tarts with my mum until the horrible deadline had passed.

So yes, I am utterly pleased to say ‘sayonara 2012’ and ‘welcome 2013!’ I’m pleased that Hollywood got it wrong. I’m pleased the Mayans missed the mark. And I’m pleased that James Mason took the precaution of buying my friend Vicki some Christmas presents and booking their New Year’s Eve tickets to Edinburgh...even though he was ‘so sure’ he wouldn’t need them.