Underground bunkers. Food stockpiles. Suicide pacts.
All of these are coming into play as people interpret the infamous "Mayan calendar" to mean that the world will end on Dec. 21. According to a Reuters survey of 16,000 people in 21 countries, at least 10 percent of the population is genuinely concerned that we'll all be annihilated on that date.
Yes, one in 10 people are really agitated by all the books, documentaries and bumper stickers ("How's my driving -- as I dodge lava, meteors and stampeding wildlife?")
(Let's not forget the Incas and Aztecs who are agitated about missed opportunities -- slapping their foreheads and declaring, "Calendars! And we wasted our promotional money on stupid ink pens!")
The diehard true believers, who've immersed themselves in occult tomes and survivalist manuals, inspire me to paraphrase my favorite line from "Monty Python's Life of Brian": "I know an end-of-the-world scenario when I see one. And I should know -- I've been through a few."
Then there are the anxiety-plagued individuals who have overheard and retained just enough to be dangerous. ("Yeah, I remember this guy on this show said something or another about the end of the world and stuff. Something to do with trans fats -- or was it adjustable rate mortgages...?")
Thank goodness there are still a few individuals who have remained mercifully oblivious to the whole business. ("2012? Man, I thought it was 1954. No wonder I've been waiting so long for my pipe and slippers.")
(Granted, some people are actually EMBRACING the apocalypse. Some of my co-workers are planning to take tequila shots every time someone screams, "Help! That indestructible building is collapsing on me! Aieeeeeee!")
It doesn't help when quasi-governmental agencies buy into the hysteria.
Archaeologists, astrophysicists and other mainstream types have made little headway in dispelling the panic. Perhaps they'll benefit from a recent proclamation from the Vatican: "If a calendar doesn't have puppies, daffodils, classic cars or Norman Rockwell, it's not worth diddly."
Some scholars admit that there's a grain of truth behind the far-fetched predictions but say that the "end of the world" is much more narrowly focused than the universal cataclysm usually pictured. Says one expert on the classical Mayan period: "The Mesoamerican Long Count calendar actually says that on Dec. 21 Jeremy Higgenbottom must take an afterschool job and start paying for his own &%$# first car." ("Nooooooooooo!")
Of course not everyone who gives credence to the "2012 phenomenon" interprets the calendar as indicating doomsday. Various New Age types view December 21 as the beginning of a touchy-feely "dawning of the age of Aquarius" sort of transformative spiritual event. Ere long, mankind will join hand in hand to declare something like "Please be kind...remember to rewind." (Hey, YOU have trouble remembering anniversaries. Cut the Mayas a little slack if a 5125-year calendar cycle is a few decades late.)
Maybe we should all just ignore the hype, focus on cherishing our loved ones on Christmas, change our fire alarm batteries on New Year's Eve and make sincere resolutions for a bright 2013.
It wouldn't be the end of the world.
Danny welcomes reader e-mail responses at firstname.lastname@example.org and visits to his Facebook fan page "Tyree's Tyrades."