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Ben Bromley
The good news is we aren't dead. The bad news is we will be soon. And that's a real shame, given how close I am to amassing a complete set of Smurfs glasses from Hardee's.

If only I had another year to find a mint-condition Gargamel glass. But sadly, according to doomsday preacher Harold Camping, the world will end Oct. 21, leaving my collection of 1982 fast-food chain giveaways tragically incomplete.

Of course, we've heard it all from Camping before. The California radio host first predicted the apocalypse in 1994, then blamed his folly on a mathematical error. He renewed his prophecy this year, stating 200 million Christians would be taken to heaven May 21, before the Earth was destroyed. But once again, he had forgotten to carry the 1: When the world didn't end, Camping went back to the blackboard and decided the Rapture would occur Oct. 21. He predicts our planet will be consumed by a fireball, so be sure to keep your SPF 80 handy.

Most of us figured from the start that Camping's math didn't add up. Unfortunately, the followers of his independent Christian radio ministry took him at his often-revised word. Family Radio International (motto: "All Armageddon, All the Time") spent millions - some of it from followers' donations - on more than 5,000 billboards plastered with Camping's Judgment Day warning. According to IRS filings, Family Radio received $18.3 million in donations in 2009 alone.

Robert Fitzpatrick spent $140,000 of his savings to advertise the Rapture in New York, and was dumbfounded when life went on as usual. "I do not understand why nothing has happened," he told the Reuters news service while awaiting the end of days in Times Square. Some families liquidated their savings, taking trips to the Grand Canyon on the basis of their belief that soon printed money - like vintage Smurfs glasses - would have no worth.

Camping originally claimed believers would be summoned to heaven May 21, leaving the infidels to sin up a storm over the next five months until becoming afflicted by plagues or burning in flame, whichever comes first. Now he says a "spiritual" judgment occurred May 21 and that God will still destroy the universe Oct. 21. So we still have the summer to look forward to. Might as well cancel my next dental appointment, though.

Despite the mainstream's skepticism, all this talk of the Rapture did give us pause to stop and reflect, if only for an instant. With everything going on, from earthquakes to tsunamis to tornados to a nuclear crisis, these are uncertain times. Most of us dismissed Camping's prophecy, but somewhere in the back of our minds, we asked ourselves, "What if he's right? What if this is our last day on Earth? Did I leave the oven on at home?"

Camping's theory rests on a complicated and highly debatable mathematical formula based upon numbers he feels carry special significance in the Bible. So far, the evidence suggests Camping is about as handy with math as your average humor columnist.

This is why most of us posted mocking comments on Facebook that not-so-fateful Saturday, delivering insincere goodbyes to family and friends. We jammed out to REM's It's the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine). But maybe we thought, just for a moment, about how we would spend our last day if we knew it was coming.

What would you do? Call faraway loved ones? Put away six plates of entrees at the local buffet? Finally pay back your brother the $10 you borrowed from him in 1979 to buy a Supertramp LP?

You already know how I would spend my last day: Shopping for that Gargamel glass on eBay. I had better spring for same-day shipping.

Columnist Ben Bromley doesn't really collect Smurfs glasses, as far as you know.