As you may know if you endure this column often enough, I occasionally uphold my journalistic obligation to create a completely unnecessary panic out of nothing.
Typically, I do so by declaring, in my traditionally soothingly calm and discerning manner, WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE!
Sometimes, though, it's difficult to find reasons for such panic.
With that said, I'd like to thank my new buddy, 2012 DA14.
That's the name scientists have given to a 150-foot-wide asteroid that is — and I quote directly from a statement by Don Yeomans, the head of NASA's asteroid-tracking program — "hurtling at deadly speed on a pinpoint path toward earth and it will hit Friday, at which point, WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE!"
Well, that's not EXACTLY the way Yeomans put it. What he actually said was, "2012 DA14 will definitely not hit Earth," so basically the same thing.
OK, so it's going to miss us by 1 or 2 miles. Or 17,200 miles, according to NASA calculations, but this is a rare, once-in-a-lifetime chance for an asteroid to come so close that I can genuinely panic.
Now I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "But Bernie, what about those more than 997 times you panicked about an asteroid passing close by?"
Well, I'll just say this: We're almost at 1,000? Wow, that's pretty impressive. We should have some type of ceremony when we hit 1,000, assuming, of course, DA14 hasn't killed us first, which I'm fairly certain it will.
Besides, 17,200 miles is just a tad close, in my opinion. I mean, what if the asteroid gets lost and heads toward earth? And even worse, what if it's a man? Because if it's a man, you know it's not going to stop and ask for directions.
It'll just plummet right into us while yelling at its wife, "For the last time, Martha (a very popular female name among asteroids), I know exactly where we are!"
Martha will respond, "Oh, DA14, just stop at the moon and ask someone for directions. I need to pick something up at Wal-Mart, anyway." (I assume there's already a Wal-Mart on the moon; it would be just like them.)
But DA14 will stubbornly keep going and hit Earth. Maybe he'll even hit a WalMart, or perhaps he'll seek a rival of Wal-Mart's just to defy Martha, and crash into an ironically named Target.
Officials say DA14 could pass close enough to hit one of the many satellites flying around earth.
So here's my proposal, DA14: If you see a satellite marked "AT&T iPhone," could you just give it a little nudge so that it points more directly toward the Shoals?
A lot of us would appreciate the improved reception.