excerpt from a story from ny press... see entirety at http://www.nypress.com/print.cfm?content_id=11137
DURING A TAXI ride one day in February, a driver in Baltimore asked how I was doing. I told him my plans for the near future.
He turned around, gave me a very strange look and said: "I don't want to scare you, but the world is gonna end in seven months."
Hundreds of taxis, and I get this guy. But nothing about him seemed dangerous, so I engaged him in conversation. Apparently a disciple of a certain radio preacher, this cabbie could expound at length on why the world was expected to end that September. Drawing on my meager knowledge of eschatology, I asked, "Isn't the antichrist supposed to reign for several years before the world ends?"
"Oh, he's already here!" the driver assured me. "People just don't know it!" At my destination, he left me marveling at the vagaries of belief.
That was in 1994. Ten years later, the world is still here. How that driver explained its survival, I have no idea. If he truly trusted that seven-month countdown, then he must have been disappointed at the dawn of October 1.
The human brain appears to have a receptor for such stories, as for opiates, because the neo-doomsday crowd never lacks an audience. Just now, a lot of people again imagine the world ending very soon.
As I write, fears focus on the asteroid Toutatis, a mountain-sized planetoid that is expected to pass very close to Earth on Wednesday, September 29, 2004. For months, the internet has been abuzz with woeful speculation that Toutatis will hit us rather than miss by a few Earth radii. Depending on where such an object landed, it might devastate a hemisphere?or worse. An impact at sea might send colossal waves, or tsunamis, roaring around the globe to smash and drown coastal cities from New York to Singapore.
Yes, for some, for us, this could be scheduled for next Wednesday.
Well, relax. Not everyone anticipates "the end" tomorrow or next week. We might survive 2004, and maybe even 2005. But thereafter, doomsayers are having a field day. According to one Canadian website, the much-publicized "Bible code," which supposedly reveals future events as encoded in portions of the Bible, has been cited as warning of a global nuclear war in 2006.
But the big time for doomsday lovers is six years later. The other day, a friend who monitors end-times chatter told me, "They're predicting 'the end' for 2012 now." Specifically, "they" include:
? The Bible-code set, who also imagine the Pentateuch points to a comet striking Earth that year;
? Exegetes of the Mayan calendar, who appear to think it indicates something really horrible (conceivably the end of the universe) on December 21, 2012;
? An exponent of "novelty theory," according to which some unspecified but unpleasant "trans-dimensional" event is due on that same date, as the "center" of the galaxy rises;
? An unnamed doomsayer who puts the big event three days later, on December 24, when one-third of the Oort cloud, a giant swarm of comets circling the sun, supposedly will crash into our planet; and
? Another seer who suggests the sun and Earth both will undergo reversals of their magnetic fields in 2012, leading to tremendous geophysical upheavals on Earth.