The Common Good
February 2010

Thar It Blows...

by Ed Spivey Jr. | February 2010

I’ve been surfing the Internet, looking for ways to escape the coming apocalypse that ancient Mayans, using science available at the time, predicted for two years from now.

I’ve been surfing the Internet, looking for ways to escape the coming apocalypse that ancient Mayans, using science available at the time, predicted for two years from now. This prediction was based on their assumption that the Mayan civilization would have run its course by 2012, instead of the weekend after they made the prediction, some 1,100 years ago. This really caught them by surprise. (Mayan scientist: “I figured that since we were the dominant Mesoamerican civilization we would be around for centuries, or at least until we could watch ourselves on the History Channel. On the other hand, we also thought we were descended from jaguars, which, on reflection, should have raised questions about our scholarship.”)

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I was interrupted in my Internet search by the constant screen presence of the words “Sarah,” “Palin,” and “teenage vampires,” words that in their own way confirm the coming End of Days.
(For the record, the Congressional Budget Office estimates there are no actual teenage vampires, just a rumor created after author J.K. Rowling refused to write another Harry Potter book. This created a literary vacuum, which was filled by underage vampires who prowl the night until they’re old enough to drive.)
Be that as it may, to my mind all that’s left to usher in civilization’s dramatic conclusion would be—in the midst of a crippling global recession—a shocking new symbol of materialistic indulgence.
And no, I’m not talking about those fabulous Harajuku Lovers Snow Bunnies ($99.95 for a set of four), because it’s not indulgent if you can’t live without something. I refer instead to the launch of the largest cruise ship in the history of the world.
Weighing more than 200,000 gross tons—slightly less than one printout of the health-care bill—the “Oasis of the Seas” has room for 8,000 passengers and crew, who add considerable gross tonnage after each all-you-can-eat buffet. In another historic first, the ship combines the experience of 24-hour shopping with hanging over a railing being sick.
The enormous size of this vessel accommodates 6,000 sleeping berths as well as several different “neighborhoods,” distinct geographic sections that have their own personalities and price tags. One wonders if, like in most cities, there are good and bad neighborhoods. Do vacationers need to avoid certain street corners on board where elderly retirees hang out, menacingly? If the top deck has swimming pools and day spas, do lower decks have liquor stores and check-cashing places?
The ship is four times larger than the Titanic (before it became several smaller pieces on the bottom of the ocean), and similarly unsinkable, according to structural engineers who apparently missed the movie. They are confident the natural buoyancy of thousands of passengers filled with endless quantities of popcorn shrimp will keep it afloat, regardless of the weather. And speaking of food, the Oasis looks like a birthday cake somebody sat on. (But what do I know? I thought “starboard” was a coffee shop.)
In terms of sheer indulgence and unnecessary bulk, the Oasis ranks with the Great Pyramids, which architects at the time tried to downsize to a simple headstone with perpetual care. But the Pharaohs had no more self-restraint than a cruise passenger facing a pile of steamed crab legs. The bottom line is, unless we can use it for storing nuclear waste, the only justification for a ship this big is to watch YouTube videos of pirates trying to capture it. They’d be confronted by passengers angry at not being told that it was Dress Like a Pirate Day. Then, in their attempt to escape, the pirates would wander into the wrong neighborhood and get robbed by elderly toughs hanging around the liquor store.
Ed Spivey Jr. is art director of Sojourners. His book, A Hamster is Missing in Washington, D.C., is available at store.sojo.net.
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