Tuesday, September 1, 2009

An apocalyptic car ride

Tonight I got a ride from Jersey into the city from a pleasantly plump middle-aged fellow who talked about movies, nature and how everyone will soon perish in a fiery death. The normal taxi chit-chat.

It's only a 15-minute ride, but somehow by minute four, he was listing the reasons why he thinks no one has much time left. Maybe someone stiffed him on a tip or maybe his wife yelled at him. But for whatever reason, this guy was looking at the darker side of life while hurtling us over the George Washington Bridge.

There are certain people who you wish wouldn't be fervent believers in the apocalypse. If, for example, a person has a nuclear arsenal at his disposal, I'd rather they not be such a firm believer that we're living in the end days and that they have a special role to play in the big production. On a more personal level, if you're driving me over one of the largest bridges in the country at 75 miles per hour, I can think of better conversation than a point-by-point analysis of how the sun will one day melt everyone on Earth and we're all doomed so what's the point? For all I know, he wants to beat the rush and with a single jerk of the steering wheel send us over a guard rail, driving us to our own personal apocalypse, if not the world's.

Just keep the hands at 10 and 2, pal. Eyes straight ahead. Check your mirrors. Ease up off the gas, that's right.

The conversation came up because of an impressive-looking moon that dominated the western sky at 3 in the morning. It was large, round, and orange, just like it's been hundreds of thousands of times. Most people can appreciate it for what it is: a nice night-time gift from Mother Nature. Nothing less, and, more importantly, nothing more. But somehow, it reminded Earnhardt Jr. of the sun. And of death.

"You seen the movie Knowing," he asked, and I have, so I said yes, even though a lie was the way to go.

Knowing, for those who don't know, is one of Nicolas Cage's latest offerings. He plays the same character as always, with the same hair and same voice but a different first name. In this one he's a scientist who figures out the world will soon be done in by an overheated sun, which is apparently about four billions years ahead of schedule when it comes to ending the earth's reign. It's a decent rental. You can finish some shredding or clip your nails in between doomsday proclamations and airplane accidents. The movie did not, however, cause me to rethink my future and the future of all mankind, which was the reaction it sparked in my driver.

There are signs, he said, that the end might be near. And I suppose he's right, if by signs he means there's war, famine, death, and destruction, which certainly exist in our world today. Just as they have since man first stood upright and decided there was something worth fighting for. I gently told him that every generation has people who believe they'll see the end of the world - whether through nature and an angry sun or an angry son with long hair and a beard sporting the initials J.C. It hasn't happened yet and probably won't so he probably doesn't have anything to worry about.

"Yeah, but that movie made me think," he replied, words that had never previously been uttered about a Nic Cage movie.

Thankfully we soon neared my street as his existential crisis kicked into high gear. He's convinced this will finally be the time when we can all throw on some Jim Morrison and unironically sing The End.

"Could be the sun's radiation or fire, could be some disease," he informed me as I filled out the credit-card slip (my last credit-card slip?). "But it's going to be coming."

I think many people who believe we'll live to see the apocalypse do it because they want to feel special. That or they've read way too much Tim LaHaye. Somehow being there for the end would bring validity to their life. By being here for the conclusion and dying with everyone else, it somehow means they accomplished something while alive.

No, you didn't. And, no, I don't think it's going to happen anytime soon, no matter what holy books, movies, or long-dead Mayans believe. I don't think we're that special.

We're all going to be here for quite awhile, some longer than others, depending on the mood and competency of your taxi driver.

No comments: