The Truth, Mainly - 12/16/1996

Doomsday Spiral gets in the way of Christmas Shopping
by Leon Satterfield

I'm having a hard time getting into Christmas shopping. It seems pretty pointless given that the end of the world is upon us and all.

You haven't heard that the end of the world is upon us? Well, I don't want to alarm anyone, but we're about to go down the tubes.

Oh sure, you won't see anything in the papers or on TV about it. It might cut into Christmas spending if the news gets out.

God knows I've been trying to tell people, but they're too busy shopping.

"Hey," I say, grabbing a guy's sleeve outside the mall. "The end of the world is upon us. Let me tell you about it."

"Yeah, sure," he says. "You don't happen to know where I can get a whatchamacallit, do you? You know, one of those Tickle Me Elvis dolls?"

"Try to focus," I say. "The end is near. Tickle Me Elvis dolls aren't going to matter. Nothing's going to matter. It's all over. Finis. Kaput. El terminato.

"Thanks anyway," he says. "Have a Merry Christmas now, you hear? And hey, it was just a football game. Lighten up."

He's gone before I can tell him it's not the football game.

It's the Doomsday Spiral.

When I get home and my wife asks me how many things I crossed off the Christmas shopping list, I tell her we don't need to worry about gifts because of the Doomsday Spiral. I tell her it finally all came together for me at the mall.

"O Lord," she says, rolling her eyes. "What cheapskate ruse to get out of Christmas shopping have you come up with now?"

"Listen," I tell her. "I've got hard data this time."

I got my first inkling in late September.

"Seems like the sun's going down a little earlier," I'd said.

Two weeks later, while I was waiting at the curb for the newspaper delivery, I got my second inkling. The sun wasn't up yet.

"Seems like the sun's coming up a little later," I'd said. "Not like it used to be."

"Nothing's like it used to be, you poor old booger," my wife had said. "It'll all be better when we go off Daylight Savings Time next month."

Sure enough, the last weekend in October, the sun rose an hour earlier. I whistled all the way to work. Then the sun set an hour before it was supposed to.

"I don't want to alarm you," I'd told her, "but the sun just set an hour before it's supposed to. I'm full of ominous foreboding."

"That's not all you're full of," she'd said. "The sun set an hour before it's supposed to because we just went off Daylight Savings Time."

That was a week before the election and to protest government interference with the sun's natural orbit around the earth, I voted Libertarian. But it didn't do any good.

By Thanksgiving, it got dark before the football game ended. A week later they played inside so we wouldn't notice what was going on outside.

But now I've got it figured out.

"Extrapolate," I tell my wife. "Twelve hours of sunshine a day three months ago; barely nine now. At this rate there'll soon be no sunshine at all and we'll turn into icycles. The Doomsday Spiral. Downward to disaster. So why worry about Christmas shopping?"

In New York City, the CEO of Toys R Us suddenly looks up in alarm from his stock options. Alan Greenspan frowns and Wall Street panics. And 500 miles west of here, their clouds of glory dissolve and our grandkids sob hysterically.

"You've been seeing alarming trends ever since you went through midlife crisis," my wife says. "Don't you ruin our Christmas with your goofy prognostications.'

"Sometimes," I tell her, "the sky really is falling."

And I read her Thurber's fable about the hen and the heavens, the one that ends "Then suddenly with an awful roar great chunks of crystallized cloud and huge blocks of icy blue sky began to drop on everybody from above, and everybody was killed, the laughing rooster and the little red hen and everybody else in the barnyard, for the heavens actually were falling down."

"You English teachers," she says, "have been exposed to so much fiction and so little reality, you can't tell one from the other. You still have to go Christmas shopping. You still have to spend money. Apocolypse or not."

"Tell you what," I say, playing my trump card, "I'll go shopping when the Doomsday Spiral ends."

"Done," she says, "and double done, you solstitially-challenged boob."

Now we'll just wait to see what happens. She says we'll know in another four or five days—just in time, she says, for me to do enough really frantic last-minute Christmas shopping to restore our grandkids' clouds of glory. She says I might even revive the stock market.

She hums the Ode to Joy. I'm sore afraid she knows something I don't.


Lincoln English Professor Satterfield writes to salvage clarity from his confusion. His column appears on alternate Mondays.

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