The headline on San Mateo Patch read “Meet Your Maker at the Maker Faire.” I don’t know if it was intentional or not but the irony in that line was sublime. My family and I and thousands of others were in fact at Maker Faire at the stroke of 6:00 PM on Saturday, May 21, 2011, the hour when the Rapture was predicted to occur and the destruction of the Earth guaranteed. The moment basically when humanity was indeed to meet its Maker. I am happy to report there was no global cataclysm (though there was a magnitude 3.6 earthquake in Hercules an hour later) but I will tell you this. Had civilization as we know it fallen that day, I can’t think of a better place to be than at Maker Faire.
Much has been written about Maker Faire, the annual expo put on at the San Mateo County Event Center May 21-22 this year by Make Magazine to celebrate handmade crafts, do-it-yourself spirit, and infectious eccentricity. We were there courtesy of GeekDad.com and GeekMom.com of which my good friend Ken Denmead is Editor and Publisher. They are blogs for and by geeky parents about the ways they share their techie/sci-fi interests with their kids. (I aspire to be a geek one day, but today I only rank “nerd.”) It was my family’s third time going to Maker Faire. This year we helped the GeekMoms and GeekDads by volunteering at their booth, showing off fun musical toys and tee-shirts from ThinkGeek.com. My favorite was the Otamatone, a note-shaped puppet that sings when you squeeze it. Many passersby didn’t quite know what to make of it but I got pretty good at playing the theme to Star Trek on it and the keening synth hook from MC Breed’s “Ain’t No Future in Yo’ Frontin’.”
The alleged Armageddon was treated with general amusement by the denizens of the booth. The kids monitored their watches and occasionally shouted out the remaining time: “Forty-two minutes until the End of the World!” Together we counted down the final 10 seconds and at the stroke of 6:00 PM PDT Ken dropped a test tube full of Mentos into a two-liter bottle of Diet Pepsi, causing a spout of soda to erupt 20 feet in the air in a physical reaction well-known and much-loved by geeks and children everywhere. And that was it. No catastrophe, no second coming, no nothing. One GeekDad hilariously summed it up: “Worst…Rapture…ever!”
As I said though, had this been an actual Apocalypse, San Mateo Expo Center may well have represented mankind’s last best hope for survival because there were thousands of people there who knew how to make things. Useful things. At their disposal were contraptions and tools and raw materials. We had engineers, knitters, artists, and chefs. We had solar cells, compost containers, organic vegetables, and kits to make your own chewing gum. Should the End Times have also spawned a savage zombie horde, we could have defended ourselves with flame throwers, laser-cut trebuchets, a remote-controlled navy, and Victorian jet packs. I have no doubt that Maker Faire would have become a near-mythical outpost, a destination for the last Californians to seek out for salvation, and El Camino Real would have become the pilgrim road that brought them there. Someone get me Hollywood’s phone number; I have a screenplay idea to pitch to them.
In all seriousness I don’t like to make light of the failed Rapture predictions. I gave them no credence and they didn’t fit into my core beliefs about the destiny of mankind, but recent world events have brought us true disasters and unfathomable human and ecological suffering. Reflection on the end of existence on Earth did not inspire levity in me. That being said, I do consider humor to be a force of nature and there was so much wit and waggishness at Maker Faire intermingled with imagination and creativity, it forced me to view my most dreaded doomsday notions in a brighter light that put them in perspective. Everywhere at the Faire I saw faith, hope, and generosity of God-given talent in abundance. I did not meet my Maker, but I became reacquainted with the wonder of Creation.
(Disclosure: Ken gave us free passes to Maker Faire and kindly treated us to dinner afterwards with the GeekDads and GeekMoms.)