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Friday, October 21, 2011


Since moving to California in August 2001, I have lived through about five earthquakes in my immediate vicinity.  At least, people TELL me I have lived through these earthquakes.  I had no idea.  For example, I'd be sitting at my desk, and suddenly there would be this stream of e-mails from people around campus comparing notes on the recent tremor.  I would have no idea what people were talking about.

"What's everybody talking about?"

"The earthquake!"

"What earthquake?"

"The one that just happened!"

"We just had an earthquake?"

"You didn't feel it?"

"Well, no, I--  Wait, about ten minutes ago I heard what sounded like a really big door slamming.  Was that it?"

"Yes!  What did you think that was?!?"

"Um. . . I. . . thought it was somebody slamming a really big door?"

Talk about anticlimactic.  Before moving here from New York, I wondered about earthquakes.  What were they really like?  Were they scary?  Dangerous?  I admit, I felt more than a little disappointed by the relative unnoticeability of the real thing.  What was all the fuss about?  Is that all there is?  Now I know how all my old girlfriends must have felt--  Uh, because. . .they, too, had been disappointed by. . .uh,. . . earthquakes. . ..


Anyway. . .

Yesterday afternoon, in fact, there was an earthquake centered in Berkeley--only about ten miles from where I work--and I felt absolutely nothing--didn't even hear the by-now-unnewsworthy "door slamming."  Only found out about it when I saw one of my Facebook friends' status updated to, 'EARTHQUAKE!!!"  Another disappointment.

(DIGRESSION: Is updating your status to "EARTHQUAKE!!!" the wisest thing to do during an earthquake?  EOD.)

Last night, however, everything changed.  I was sitting on the couch reading when, suddenly, I felt an unmistakable rumbling.  It lasted about ten seconds.  Overall, it was quite mild--nothing even fell over--but it was definitely an earthquake.  It felt like I was sitting in the world's biggest massage chair, only without even the prospect of a happy ending.  Not terribly scary, but definitely unnerving.

I think I handled myself well for a transplanted Easterner.  I didn't panic, although I did wonder if we were supposed to run out of the apartment.  I took my cues from WOS, who has gone through far more earthquakes than I.  She didn't seem overly worried, so I figured we were probably OK staying put.  You would think the cats would have given us some kind of a heads-up, but they proved utterly useless--or maybe that just confirms the relative mildness of the experience.

Every geographical locale has its own natural disasters to which its residents become accustomed.  Northeasterners don't give a blizzard a second thought until it drops at least 12" on the ground, but a tremor like we had here yesterday would likely send even the most jaded New Yorker screaming into the street.  I definitely feel more Californian today.  Next, I plan to move to Kansas and live through a tornado.

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