A conversation with a New Zealander minutes before the world is supposed to end

Harold Camping, the 89-year-old leader of the Family Radio network and driving force behind the May 21 Judgment Day prophesy said that the beginning of the end would be marked by a massive earthquake in New Zealand at 6:00pm NZST.

Having made a few friends over there while working in 2009, reporter Jeff Winkler decided to call one of them up a few minutes before it was all about to end. This is a transcript of their conversation.

Simon: Simon speaking.

Jeff: Simon, it’s Jeff. What time is it?

It’s about a quarter of, I think.

A quarter til?

Yeah. So about that. … When is the end of the world happening?

There’s suppose to be a massive earthquake in New Zealand, 6:00pm your time. It’ll be bigger than the one in Japan.

Oh ok. Well, that’s not good.

Well, I’m in Christchurch at the moment. So that’s kind of the epicenter for New Zealand quake activity for the past six months. So if it’s going to be anywhere it’s probably going to be here.

Yeah you said you’re still getting aftershocks?

Yeah, we get them every now and then. We’re suppose to get another in the next couple of days. Hopefully there’s not one tonight. It’ll scare a lot of people.

Look, it’s like 2:00am on Saturday here, so I’m not going to lie: Your last conversation could be with a drunk American wearing a silk robe. I apologize for that. Seriously. [The sound of a can opening cracks over the speakerphone.]

It’s ok.

So everything seems calm?

Well, I’m pretty much in the heart of suburbia so I’ll just go out into the middle of the road and report back on what it looks like. …

It’s a Saturday evening so not much is happening out. Let’s see, the school is next to me. No one’s there! And yeah … It’s pretty much a normal Saturday night so far.

Everything seems calm and chilled out.

I just want to say, if this really is our last conversation, I just want you to know that I had a great time hanging out with you during the few months we worked together at the Wanganui Chronicle and I wish we had hung out more. And if the world doesn’t end I want you to get back to writing.

I appreciate that and I feel the same way.

[We catch up on what he’s been doing for the past two years since we both left the same New Zealand paper. He said journalism was too much work for too little pay, blah blah blah]

If the world ends, what are you going to be doing?

If the world ends, we’re going to spend the night playing board games and drinking beer. It’s not the worst way to go out.

That’s how you’d spend your final hours?

Sadly yes, that’s how it would be.

Could be.

Right. Playing Trivial Pursuit and drinking beer and yeah, just enjoying life I guess. I’d like to think there’s some grand thing I’d do before I die but I’m … pretty happy.

It’s funny … and you probably don’t want to get too serious, though.

No, I do! If the world is about to end, this is the perfect time to get serious!

Well being here for the last couple of earthquakes, it kind of makes you realize that there’s so much in life you can’t control that it almost seems foolish to be worrying about the grand scheme of things and where you’re gonna end up.  The best you can do is try to do is … try to go along.

Have you started drinking already?

Sorry, I can’t hear you.

How is everyone doing down there? I saw the pictures of what happened to the Christchurch Cathedral. It broke my heart.

It was remarkably lucky that no one was in the church at the time, or rather no one died actually in the church. At first they reckoned that it was going to be 25 bodies but they did the whole search and rescue thing and they found no remains. It was amazing.

The central city is still locked down … so we don’t have a functioning city center. There’s still a lot of people out of work. For the most part, though, people have been remarkable about it. There’s no sense of feeling sorry for yourself, any kind of moaning. Obviously there’s a few people trying to take advantage of the situation, trying to get their hands on something that they can. But for the most part, everyone’s got each others back. It’s something I haven’t experienced before, this real community atmosphere and spirit going on and the sense that we can do it together. Does that make sense?