I spend a lot of time thinking about earthquakes. what would I do when it happened? last summer I was told that the office procedure was to get under your desk. that seemed do-able until I began to fear that a small earthquake would strike, and I would jump under my desk in a panic, while everyone else went about their work. then I’d have to crawl out, while pretending that no one saw me.
I think about earthquakes while I’m under overpasses and on big highways. one of the landlords I spoke with a few months ago proudly told me that his building was built to be earthquake-proof and had make it though all the major quakes with no damage. I was almost ready to sign the papers based on those words alone.
I wondered if seconds of shaking would feel like an eternity. or if the bottles on top of the fridge would fall down. would any dishes would break? what would I do if I were in my car? in a movie theatre? these are the thoughts that go through my head, and yes, I know they’re a little crazy.
my typical approach to fears is to learn everything about them. in some backwards way I think it will assuage irrational elements of the fear. as such, my first week here I checked out a book from the library: Living with Earthquakes in California – A Survivor’s Guide. yes, I’d like to be a survivor, thank you very much, so I devoured it. I learned a lot from it, and I now tend to cite random earthquake facts when I have a chance. for instance, did you know that in the early 1900’s CA downplayed the level of destruction from earthquakes in order to attract more people to the region? as such, appropriate building codes and emergency procedures weren’t developed until decades later. a more relevant fact: following any earthquake, beach areas should be evacuated because even a small earthquake could be a precursor to a tsunami. OK, I’ll stop now.
I was prepared. no, I hadn’t stocked any canned food, water, or flashlights, but I was ready to face an earthquake. so imagine my surprise tuesday morning, eating breakfast in front of the TV, when suddenly the news reporter mentioned “the earthquake that woke los angeles residents this morning.” WHAT? I quickly texted Sam: “Did you know there was an earthquake this morning?????? At 4 AM????” He quickly rebuffed my astonishment by saying: “Yeah a 4.4. That’s nothing.” nothing? it was an EARTHQUAKE. and I slept through it. the event I’d fretted over for months had come and gone. and suddenly it felt less like a fear and more like an unexpected house guest. as in, if I knew you were coming I’d have baked a cake. but instead, if I knew you were coming I’d have WOKEN UP.
no one in my family will be surprised by this story. they all know that I once slept in a dead-bolted hotel room, while various people knocked on the door, banged on the wall from the room next door, called the phone, and yelled through the air vents to wake me. my lack of response sent my mom into a panic. hotel staff had to break the dead-bolt to open the door, at which point everyone discovered that I wasn’t unconscious or missing; I was just asleep. some things never change.