About twenty years ago tucked near the bottom of a column of an interior page of a newspaper, I read that scientists had spotted an asteroid that had our name upon it and was on course to obliterate us at 6.35pm on October 26th, 2028. I recall speculating about what the tv page would look like that day with all the programmes going up until 6.35pm and then the rest of the page below it being totally blank. I also thought the weather forecast for that day might read ‘mild after early mist clears, sunny afternoon with risk of showers followed by record-breaking temperatures, earthquakes, tsunamis and hurricanes later.
The scientists did not specify where exactly the asteroid would impact upon our planet, but I guessed it wasn’t Bristol because with the amount of NIMBYs resident in this city the asteroid would be delayed from altering the landscape there for a good two decades plus and would probably give up the ghost. Any celestial body worth its salt would surely do its homework before embarking on a journey amounting to trillions of miles.
The following day in roughly the same spot in the newspaper, it was announced that the boffins had got it wrong. They made regular print-outs of our part of the universe using the most powerful telescope on Earth and it transpired that one of the scientists was eating his packed lunch that day when he spotted the asteroid heading in our direction. He got his measuring equipment and did his calculations, but he erroneously measured from the crumb that had fallen from his sandwich rather than the speck of light that was the asteroid. A re-calculation was done from that asteroid and it was now realised that it would be a narrow squeak but it would miss us by about a million miles.
The scientists were terribly embarrassed by the whole thing and wanted to assure us that the world was safe. However, as far as I’m concerned my worries haven’t been totally allayed as it can’t be that much fun being hit by a giant crumb travelling at about 50,000 miles per hour either. On October 26th, 2028 I will be taking precautions especially as when it hits the Earth’s atmosphere it’s likely to get burnt to toast and therefore become that bit harder.
But what if the threat had been real? There would be nothing we could do to save ourselves and Bruce Willis would by then qualify for a bus pass; so it would be no good putting our eggs in his basket. Had October 26th, 2028 at 6.35pm been our date with oblivion, here are some of the things I predict would have happened in the years, months and days leading up to it:
10 years to go: Recycling collections scaled down.
9 years to go: First death day cards marketed.
8 years to go: Manchester United announce plans to quit the Premier League and the European Champions League to join a new Universe League and play all their games away from home.
7 years to go: Sunday Services at churches become all-ticket affairs and it becomes easier to get one’s offspring into Eton than it does to get them into Sunday School.
6 years: Attempts made on a radio frequency never tried before to make contact with other planets in an effort to obtain help. No luck, but picks up a message from an old Marconi set from a pilot who has been airborne for 112 years in a box kite, requesting permission to land. The floor space in Bristol Museum is cleared to enable him to do so.
5 years: Mass redundancies amongst careers officers.
4 years: Alzheimer’s cured. Following day pleas made to reinvent it.
3 years: Fortune tellers reduce prices.
2 years: Customers can purchase items in electrical retail outlets without being pestered to take out an extended three-year warranty.
1 year to go: Babies being born with no lifelines on their palms.
8 months to go: Sudden slump in purchases of contraceptive devices.
3 months to go: First life-sentences handed out for theft and non-payment of Council Tax.
2 months to go: FA Cup Competition reduced to penalty-shootout only; so they can fit it all in.
1 month to go: Dissent increases at funerals as the deceased accused of being show-offs.
2 weeks to go: Famous people start committing suicide so that they won’t miss out on being eulogized with tributes.
1 week to go: BBC Asteroid Week begins.
5 days to go: If anyone phones an Accident Claims Company to say that they’ve had an accident in the last five years they are told, ‘tough ****, get over it’.
4 days to go: Huge waiting list on NHS for patients wishing to undergo hypnosis to send them back into a past life…and remain there.
3 days: Banks and Building Societies offer the best rates ever for savers.
Penultimate Day (Last Whole Day): Sydney Symphony Orchestra at the Colston Hall, Bristol at 7.30pm performing ‘The Last Night of the Poms’.
Final Day, October 28th, 2028: Crimes of murder, serial murder, arson and treason now punished by ‘On the Spot Fines’.
– Supermarkets ‘Reduced to Clear’ shelf extended to incorporate the whole store.
– New Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary published this day no longer includes an entry for the word ‘Tomorrow’.
– Coronation Street ends with all loose-ends neatly tied-up and EastEnders terminates with everyone blissfully happy in Albert Square (although the producers had to lock-up the scriptwriters and drummer to achieve this).
– Manufacturers of socks, stockings and tights start issuing lifetime guarantees on their products.