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Friend or Foe?

Will 2021 be a kinder, gentler year … or will we all be painting our living rooms Urbane Bronze?


Illustration of man looking at TV screen

As you may recall, my December column offered a few suggestions as to how holiday revelers might toast the end of a year in which most people felt they’d already been toasted—to a burnt crisp. I can now reveal that my words were heavily redacted by my editors due to some language I used which they felt was unfit not only for a family magazine but for a sailor’s bachelor party. What can I say? I didn’t like 2020. It wasn’t so much a year as a disaster movie where someone forgot to write the ending.

Some have used the metaphor that the pandemic of 2020 made the world hit the “Pause” button. What button do we push for 2021—“Play” or “Fast Forward”? I would like to be hopeful, which is really saying something for a man who thinks just because the sun has come up every day for 4.6 billion years doesn’t mean it will come up tomorrow. But even I’ve had enough of the chaos. Give me a little predictability, a little stability. Don’t make me feel like the X in Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle.

I have no talent for predicting the future. The only thing I can say with infallible certitude is that my cable bill for January 2022 will be 22.39 higher than it is now for no discernible reason. Others, however, do have a proclivity for prognostication—or claim to—and it is to them I turn. You may call them charlatans and mountebanks but I have no choice. The suspense is killing me.

I will start with the Potentate of Prophecy, the High Priest of Predictions—good old Michel de Nostredame, otherwise known as Nostradamus, who lived from 1503 to 1566 and made some 6,338 prophecies while working his day job as a physician in France. I can only imagine having him for the family doc: “Monsieur Cadley, you have a condition for which there will be no cure until March 4, 1957. The best I can do for you now is leeches.”

Nostradamus had specific predictions for 2021, including that an asteroid would hit the earth on May 6 (mark your calendar!) and a zombie apocalypse caused by a mysterious virus would occur. He sure got the virus part right. As for the zombie thing, I can’t say he nailed it but after a year in lockdown some people sure look like they’re getting there. For that I’ll give Doctor No a B+.

The only thing I can say with infallible certitude is that my cable bill for January 2022 will be 22.39 higher than it is now for no discernible reason.

In more recent times, the blind Bulgarian clairvoyant Baba Vanga (1911–1966) prophesied that in 2021 the world would suffer great natural disasters and severe financial crises. I’m not sure if she was making predictions or reading the newspapers. More concerning is that she, like Nostradamus, mentioned the asteroid thing. When two seers agree, it’s time for me to call the guys with the algorithms and the plastic pocket protectors. And wouldn’t you know! The prophets were right—sort of.

According to NASA, a small asteroid called 2018 VP1 did pass near the earth in November 2020, and a much larger one—230 kilotons—has a 1 in 3,800 chance of causing some real fireworks in 2022. These are small odds, and the predictions are off by a year either way. Not bad, but if you profess to see the future, you gotta get it right. Consequently, I was going to give Baba a C- until I learned that Adolf Hitler visited her for a peek into his future during World War II and “left angry,” which means she must have told him the truth. For that she gets an A+.

Technology, of course, is where predictions fly fast and furious. This year could see the introduction of computers with speeds reaching one quintillion floating-point operations per second, thus simulating the workings of the entire human brain in real time—except for the part that thinks if you eat ice cream right out of the container it has no calories. We might also see a capsule you can swallow that will send health messages to your watch like “This is your duodenum and we need to talk.”

The possibilities are endless, but one thing we do know (aside from the increase in my cable bill) is that the fashion color for 2021 will be Urbane Bronze. We have this on the authority of Sue Wadden, director of color marketing for Sherwin-Williams Paints, who reports that this warm, earthy hue can help our homes feel more like a sanctuary. Sanctuary? From what? Does Sherwin-Williams know something we don’t? Only 2021 will tell.


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