GateHouse — IMPORTANT RAPTURE PREFACE: When you’re making snarky jokes about the end of the world with your 7-year-old and his friends, it is important to ASSURE THEM THAT IT IS NOT ACTUALLY HAPPENING, because first and second-graders are WAY less plugged into the notion of hilarious dark sarcasm than us adults. Have you ever seen the look on the face of a second-grader who’s just spent a day at the beach until 5:15 p.m., and then hears that the world is ending at 6? It is the most heartbreaking thing ever.
Actually, it’s the runner-up. More heartbreaking are the boulder-dumb pudding-brains who subscribe to the overcaffeinated blustering of a crazypants octogenarian on AM radio, people whose places in the world, whether by dumb luck or a series of incredibly questionable decisions, grew so suffocating that their best option became hoping for a planet-cleansing fireball. And sure, in that case your “rapture” is actually “justify the fundamental lousiness of your life by assigning yourself some sort of self-assigned supernatural superiority,” but in any event, WHOA super-depressing right?
My apologies in advance for beating a dead apocalypse, and I think we can agree that if there’s a rapture joke that hasn’t been made yet it exists only in an undiscovered dimension, but try to imagine preparing — literally preparing, doubtlessly, devoutly — for the Actual End Of Days, and then waking up at 8:23 a.m. Sunday to find the world spinning normally, life proceeding in its well-carved patterns, everything pretty much free of devastating earthquakes and horsemen.
Practically speaking, what do you do when that alarm buzzes you awake? What do you think when your eyes fuzz open? What do you do for lunch the day you’re supposed to have been offered a golden rocket ride into the glorious Hereafter? You probably have to go grocery shopping at some point, right? Or do you do nothing at all, do you just drift through your day in a detached haze, wondering if you missed something, if you passed on an important meeting, if you forgot to carry a 1? Or do you retreat further into your cave, beginning immediately to make fierce, terrified justifications, assuming you hadn’t begun that process somewhere in the corners of your fried brain already? But then do you call AT&T to re-establish service? Do you hit up the swap meets and consignment shops hoping your stuff hasn’t been ferreted off yet? Do you re-enroll the kids in fourth grade, or college? Put gas back in the car? Is it weird to go back to the gas station, having already determined in your scrambled synapses that you would never, ever, ever see this stupid gas station again?
On some level — OK, on thousands of levels — these punchlines driving cross-country for The Rapture™ are the height of mesh-hat idiocy for most of us, giant, wide-open Gingrich-sized fodder for basically anyone who could think of a joke yesterday.
Related, sort of
But on some other level, these are the saddest people on Earth this week (literally speaking, that is, as the figurative part is pretty much implied at this point). Because who doesn’t know such incredible disappointment? I’ve literally pitched visible fits over bands not playing a song I wanted in concert, and none of those shows were remotely akin to the end of the world, except that Britney Spears one. And who can’t empathize with someone making an incredibly, universally, brain-bogglingly wrong call? As much as I am deeply, deeply entertained by the idea of a bunch of profiteering lunatics standing around in an empty field waiting for a lightning storm to zoink them into Paradise, and I mean entertained in a way that I probably wasn’t since the first time I saw “Return of the Jedi,” it’s hard to make too much fun of kids whose parents Raptured away their meager college savings. These nincompoops were dead serious; they drove their families across the country, they promised their kids something, and failed on a level of epicness so awesome that it probably deserves its own word? (Let’s go with, “befluergled.”) My God, if I have to cancel a sleepover for my son I feel guilty enough to buy him off with candy and mini-golf for like two days afterwards; imagine the makeup for cashing out your kids’ college fund and driving them cross-country in your 1984 minivan? Then again, I enjoy a reasonable grasp on reality, so maybe this is an apples-and-oranges kind of thing.
In any event, there’s a huge what-now for apparently thousands of people who put up billboards in the South, right? I’ll just go ahead and guess that we’ll never hear from endtimes mastermind Harold Camping again, mostly because if he’s got any sense at all he left a pair of shoes with some dry ice in them in his house and flew to Aruba. In 2009, the nonprofit church that Camping’s Family Radio had assets of more than $104 million, including $34 million in stocks. I’d be OK with getting laughed at for a tenth of that figure. For everyone else though, life goes on.