It’s the end of the world as we know it.
Or maybe not.
After all, there are many people in Western New York who are taking the classical Maya – and their supposed prediction of a major conclusion, perhaps that of the world itself Friday, with a brand-new era beginning Saturday – with a grain of salt.
“Fudgie poo,” was the succinct way one Southern Ontario woman, shopping in Buffalo this week, summed up her view.
“The end of the world … in Buffalo is redundant,” opined Charles Haupt, a city resident.
Not everyone was so dismissive.
Some people were stocking up on end-of-the-world supplies, such as backpacks, camping gear, knives, water canteens and MRE rations.
“I’m prepared. Are you?” asked Mike Youdsavage, an employee at Uncle Sam’s Army Navy Outfitters on Larkin Street. He said that while he isn’t sure the Maya were right about the world ending, he still sees some sort of trouble ahead that is worth getting ready for.
“The way I feel is, it’s better to be prepared and not need it than to need it and not have it,” said Youdsavage, who keeps a “go bag” by his front door.
Meantime, some local business owners saw the Mayan prediction as a potential money-maker.
In Lake View, the owners of J.P.’s Pub on Lakeview Road were planning a Mayan party starting at 8 tonight.
“It’s just going to be a party, to get people together for the ‘last day,’ ” said Jane Melisz Coggins, sister of the pub’s owner, John Melisz, who was out of town Wednesday. “We do Dyngus Day. We do everything. St. Patrick’s Day is probably No. 1 – it has surpassed the Super Bowl.
“It’s just another reason to have a party.”
All this excitement has to do with Friday’s date, according to experts on Mayan culture and history.
According to some calculations, Dec. 21, 2012, marks the end of one great period of time, and Saturday is the beginning of a new era, as measured by the Maya of South America during the classical period of their culture, from about 250 to 900 A.D., said Dr. Walter R.T. Witschey, a professor of anthropology and science education at Longwood University in Virginia.
“We always have doomsayers and end-of-the-world folk with us, looking for these things to latch on to,” said Witschey, who has spent years studying the Maya and their culture.
Here’s the way the Mayan calendar worked, according to Witschey:
The classical Maya measured time in five long cycles, just as we count time cyclically, measuring it in years. One of these cycles, called the “Long Count,” included a measure of time that would read this way: 126.96.36.199.0, which is Friday on their calendar. The Maya marked the end of this Great Count as the day on which that number would turn over, marking the next date as 188.8.131.52.1 – which would be Saturday.
“Both of our cultures – our culture and the Mayan culture – are fascinated by the numbers that end with lots of zeros,” said Witschey.
According to some experts on Mayan culture, the end of the Long Count is Friday. Others say the date would be more likely Dec. 23 or 24, or another date relatively close, said Witschey.
He likened the changeover in Mayan terms to what we as modern-day Americans may remember quite vividly: the concern that surrounded the “Y2K” changeover, from 1999 to 2000. But, said Witschey: “The world doesn’t end on Dec. 31 – it continues on Jan. 1.”
He said that time moves on, through these calendar changes, despite the public hoopla. And the Maya understood that as well, he argued.
In fact, said Witschey, there is no real evidence that the Maya made any connection between the end of the Long Count and any sort of world-ending scenario.
“There were only two places where the Maya wrote down the dates for this week,” he said. “Neither of the scripts with the dates says anything about the end of the world at all.
“They were talking about a current ruler ... saying how great he was, and saying, even when we get to the moment at the end of the Long Cycle, he will still be remembered. Doesn’t say anything about the end of the world at all.”
Many people in Western New York seem to be paying the Mayan doom-and-gloomers little heed.
There was the cheery “Fudgie poo!” of Leona Sheehan of Selkirk, Ont., who was in town shopping earlier this week. “Let’s hope [the end of the world] is not before New Year’s Eve,” she added. “We have lots of champagne to drink.”
The folks over at J.P.’s Pub see no reason to let a little practicality throw cold water on their Mayan party. The pub hopes to get a good turnout.