“There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why,” said Robert Kennedy not long before he was assassinated in 1968. “I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”
I may not have the same gift for oratory as the late senator, but I definitely catch his drift.
“I look at things that happened in 2010, and go, ‘hunh — I don’t remember that,'” I say. “Then I think of things that could’ve happened instead and ask — wouldn’t that have been cool?”
If the earth had spun just a little wobblier on its axis last year, all the notable events we’ve heard recounted in recent days could’ve transpired a bit differently. Rather than rehash recent history as others are fond of doing, I like instead to imagine an alternate history.
Jan. 1 — A suicide bombing takes place at a volleyball game in northwestern Pakistan, killing at least 95. The perpetrator is discovered to be Wilson, the discarded ball found by Tom Hanks on a desert island in the movie Cast Away. This attack, meant to heighten awareness of the mistreatment of not just volleyballs but footballs, basketballs and baseballs as well, backfires in the court of public opinion. Balls worldwide are abused more than ever.
Jan. 4 — The tallest building in the world, the Burj Kahlifa in Dubai, is officially opened. Unfortunately, the bursting of the real estate bubble only months before keeps occupancy rates unsustainably low. By year-end, the magnificent complex is converted into the Burj Dick’s Sporting Goods. Customers complain because women’s activewear is located on the 157th floor, and the elevator has been replaced with a climbing wall.
Feb. 12 — The Winter Olympics begin in Vancouver, Canada. During opening ceremonies, International Olympics Committee president Jacques Rogge apologizes to athletes and visitors alike for the complete lack of snow in and around the major venues. “Sorry,” he tells a worldwide television audience estimated at 1.5 billion. “We thought snow was automatic for Canada in the winter time. To compensate everyone for their understandable disappointment, let me announce the following: Free Slushies for all!”
Feb. 27 — An 8.8 magnitude earthquake rocks Chile, knocking the new Honey-Chipotle Baby Back Ribs and the Fire-Grilled Corn Guacamole all over the floor. Chile’s assistant manager gives food-splattered victims each a $20 gift card toward a future purchase. Most customers are satisfied until they are all killed by a tsunami of margaritas moments later.
March 19 — Sweeping healthcare reform is enacted by the Democrats and signed into law by President Obama. Republicans vow a campaign of not covering their mouths when they sneeze and not washing their hands after using the bathroom in an effort to overload the new system and bankrupt the plan.
April 7 — Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev flees the capital city of Bishkek amidst fierce rioting, and is replaced by foreign minister Roza Otunbayeva. “That’s not enough!” demand protesters. “Give us a leader whose name it’s easier to chant death to.”
April 14 — The Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokull begins a series of eruptions, scattering ash and disrupting air traffic across Europe. Only days later, on April 20, the geological imbalances this provoked deep within the Earth cause the Deepwater Horizon oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico to explode. At least, that’s BP’s explanation.
April 27 — Standard & Poor’s downgrades Greece’s sovereign credit rating to “junk” status. While they’re at it, they declare Greek food to be “garbage,” Greek architecture to be “rubbish,” and the entire Greek economy to be “debris.”
May 6 — Scientists announce they have sequenced enough of the Neanderthal genome to suggest that Neanderthals and humans may have interbred. The Geico Caveman immediately claims Newt Gingrich as his long-lost son.
May 7 — Arizona passes strict new anti-immigrant legislation. Challenged in the courts, the law is eventually interpreted to mean that only aboriginal Hopi Indians can live in the state, though on appeal members of the Arizona Cardinals NFL team are also allowed to stay.
May 20 — Scientists announce that they have created a functional synthetic genome. The public responds by telling the research community to “get back to us” when they create a magic pill that makes us fly and/or lose weight.
June 11 — The month-long FIFA World Cup is held in South Africa. Spectators are thrilled when a goal is scored at the beginning of the third week.
July 25 — The first WikiLeaks release is made, revealing over 90,000 internal reports about details of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. Most documents point toward evidence that a wide-scale war is taking place there.
June 29 — A nest of Russian spies is uncovered in New York and Washington. Never mind the threat to national security — one of them is a hot babe!
July 30 — Plans to build a mosque near Ground Zero in New York are scuttled when protesters claim such construction would be a slap in the face to former patrons of the Burlington Coat Factory that used to reside on the site.
August 9 — The World Health Organization declares the H1N1 influenza pandemic is over. During the disease’s six-month rampage, millions suffered from the sniffles, tummy aches, scratchy throats and a slightly tired feeling.
August 10 — After a Jet Blue attendant curses out passengers and exits his plane on an evacuation chute, the Transportation Safety Administration begins new security screening procedures that forbids anyone named “Steven” or “Slater” from flying.
August 28 — At a Glenn Beck rally in Washington, Tea Partiers pat themselves on the backs for not carrying racist, hate-filled signs. Beck tells crowd he feels a spiritual calling so crowd tells Beck “go for it.”
Sept. 11 — Rev. Terry Jones of Gainesville, Fla., gains international attention when he threatens to burn a Koran. He withdraws the threat at the last minute but — known previously only to his congregation — he takes it inside and puts it inside a microwave, cooking on medium for 45 seconds, then removing the plastic cover, then microwaving another 30 seconds.
Oct. 13 — Thirty-three workers trapped for 69 days in a Chilean mine are rescued after a hole is drilled nearly a mile in the ground to rescue them. Within days, 46 curious newsmen fall into the hole while posing next to it for a picture. Massive efforts follow to permanently seal the well.
Oct. 25-26 — Indonesia is rocked by simultaneous earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions, probably because God is mad at them for being so Muslim.
Nov. 2 — Led by a conservative backlash against the President’s policies, Republicans get a majority in the House and see big gains in the Senate. The most extreme fringes of the right wing suffer losses, however, as the ghost of Adolf Hitler narrowly loses in a recount for Alaska’s Senate seat and the recently discovered remains of Genghis Khan fail to prevail in the Delaware contest.
Nov. 13 — Burmese opposition politician Aung San Suu Kyi is released from house arrest. The joy of her supporters is short-lived when the government orders the human rights activist that now she has to live confined to her carport.
Nov. 17 — Researchers announce that they have trapped 38 atoms of antimatter for a sixth of a second. Public response is muted. “How nice for you,” comments a mom of one of the scientists.
Nov. 22 — Hundreds are killed in a stampede during Cambodia’s Khmer Water Festival. Extremely tasty funnel cakes and corn dogs are blamed for the disaster.
Nov. 23 — North Korea shells an island claimed by South Korea, killing four civilians. The United Nations declares it to be one of the most serious incidents since the end of the Korean War, but fails to substantively respond to North Korea’s taunt “yeah, so what’re you gonna do about it?”
Nov. 26 — Air travelers protest increasingly intrusive security measures by staging a flash mob dance to the tune of the Doors’ “Touch Me.” TSA officers are evenly split on joining in the dance or wrestling the mob to the ground.
Dec. 2 — NASA announces the discovery of a new arsenic-based life form in California. He is Allen Block, a gaffer on the hit TV series Desperate Housewives.
Dec. 5 — President Obama and Republican leaders reach a compromise on the Bush era tax cuts set to expire at the end of the year. Obama offers to the GOP “to do anything you want” while Republicans counter with “we’re glad you see it our way.”