The Washington Post

Cicadas, May 21 and other world-ending paradoxes: A Q&A

Q: Any advice for cicadas just getting out of hibernation?

A: Absolutely. First, take a while to accustom yourself to your new surroundings. Things are different now. The last time you were here, Mel Gibson was someone people still liked. Now he is a washed-up raging loon starring in a film about a beaver handpuppet.

Q: What?

A: The last time you were here, Lindsay Lohan was recognizably human!

Q: What changed?

A: Why don’t you ask a less complicated question, such as “What is a Segway?”

Q: What is a Segway?

A: It is a device that was originally supposed to revolutionize transportation but wound up just being something you buy as a way of signaling to the world that you have run out of actual things to do with your money.

Q: Speaking of Segways, what about politics?

A: That transition was terrible. Listen, you probably do not want to ask about politics. Just know that Sarah Palin exists. Google her! So does Rick Santorum. Do not Google him.

Q: What’s Google?

A: Oh no.

Q: Is that one of the phat CDs are the kids are listening to?

A: I think your use of “phat” is anachronistic there, cicadas. And no one listens to CDs anymore. They download tracks. Unless of course they are hipsters, in which case they listen to vinyl or make ukulele word-songs in tiny tents in their living rooms.

Q: What are hipsters? They sound like illogical creatures.

A: Believe me.

Q: Can I still use AOL?

A: Ha! No. Unless you are someone’s grandmother who likes to send e-mails with long lists of Things Children In A Hypothetical Sunday School Could Have Said That Would Have Been Funny Yet Inappropriate.

Q: So what technology can I use?

A: Pretty much nothing that you have left over from 1998, with the possible exception of a clock radio, if it looks ironic enough.

Q: What’s “ironic”?

A: Remember that Alanis Morissette song from the last time you folks were above ground?

Q: Sure!

A: It isn’t that. I don’t know. Look it up. Or have someone else look it up for you. That is easy now, because there’s this thing called an iPhone. It’s a device for making people more obnoxious than they would be under ordinary circumstances, by giving them more access to meaningless facts.

Q: Life these days sounds awful. But at least Michael Jackson is still alive.

A: Sorry!

Q: Nooooo!

A: Also, there is no good way of breaking this to you, but you seem to have emerged from hiding at the worst possible time.

Q: You mean the imminent end of the world on May 21, as predicted by Harold Camping?

A: Of course not. He’s been wrong before. Besides, the world so seldom ends. Judgment Day is the most rescheduled event of all time.

Q: But isn’t there any truth to this judgment day stuff?

A: No one has ever correctly predicted the end of the world. If you want to prep in case, there’s someone you can hire to walk your dog, but in general, it’s unsafe to presume that you’ve led a less sinful life than your dog has.

Q: Then what did you mean by “worst possible time”?

A: I mean the release of Michaele Salahi’s new single, “Bump It.”

Q: Ah.

A: Yes.

Q: I don’t suppose we could go back into hibernation now.

A: On the bright side, the world might end in nine days.

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day. She is the author of "A Field Guide to Awkward Silences".


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