By COLIN M. STEWART
Tribune-Herald staff writer
If you’re reading this newspaper right now, then pat yourself on the back. You just survived the apocalypse.
At least, that’s what some people thought was coming.
The idea is an interesting one, if not for its accuracy, then the way in which it has managed to pervade a variety of world cultures, despite stemming from a calendar devised by a civilization that saw its heyday more than a millennium ago, between A.D. 25 and 900. The ancient Mayans designed their calendar to end on Dec. 21 after a 5,125-year cycle known as the Long Count.
With the calendar simply coming to an end, that left a void into which people have thrown all manner of stories and predictions to explain it. Some thought the world would be destroyed, while others thought it would experience a rebirth, giving rise to a golden age of enlightenment.
As today approached, governments and scientists weighed in, debunking the rumors. NASA even posted a nearly hour-long YouTube video proving the apocalyptic points to be false, one by one. But still, the dire predictions have persisted.
On Thursday afternoon, though, residents in and about Hilo were going about their lives, appearing to pay little heed to the warnings of prognosticators.
Downtown Laundry Express was busy, filled with people apparently unaware that when the Four Horsemen come calling, they don’t care if you’re wearing clean underwear.
Jonathan Nunes, 15, said he thought the “end of the world” scenario was pretty far-fetched. He’s relying on his faith in God to see through the rumors, he said.
“Nobody can predict the end of the world. Only God. Nobody knows when the end is coming except for the man upstairs.”
Sophia Choi, a three-year resident of Hilo who moved here from Korea, was cleaning out her purse while she waited on a load of laundry — a decidedly optimistic act for someone staring down the barrel of obliteration.
“People were talking about this a long time ago. I heard about it 10 or 20 years ago. But nothing’s going to happen. Nothing has happened,” she said.
“My belief is that God created the universe, and nobody can determine about God’s creation but him. The Creator only knows.”
While some turned to religion for answers, others responded to the media attention and repetition of the apocalyptic predictions with a mixture of humor and ridicule.
“I don’t know that I’d be a good interview about this,” said Zac Clarke as he sat having a drink with a friend at the bar at Pineapples Bar & Grill at the corner of Mamo Street and Kilauea Avenue. “People need to get worked up about something.”
Mark Singletary was hanging out at Hilo Bay Soup Co. on Thursday afternoon, and he didn’t appear to be too worried about what might transpire in the next 24 hours. Then he said something surprising.
“I bought about $500 worth of ammunition recently,” he said with a laugh. “Really. I did. I was going to shoot it anyway. But I thought, hey, it can’t hurt (to be prepared).”
Megan Neal said she didn’t have any concerns, but that her 8-year-old son needed a little reassuring about the whole situation.
“He was freaking out,” she said. “He’d heard the island would sink, and the mountains would rise. I told him, ‘I think it’s just going to be another day.’ At the very least, it’s an excuse for a party.”
Pineapples co-owner Pam Owens said she had one customer pull a “dine and dash” on her as a result of the end-of-the-world talk.
“They ate and then ran off without paying,” she said with a smile. “They came back, though. They said they were just kidding.”
She added that if she really believed all the hype, she’d most likely avoid anything resembling work.
“I’d rather be at the bar drinking a margarita,” she said.
Email Colin M. Stewart at firstname.lastname@example.org.