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 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.