Friday, August 01, 2008

Shaken But Not Stirred

Loved the comments on my last post. Almost American, I had to laugh when I read what your brother had written, because it reminded me of the London bombings (not funny) and everyone in the States asking me 'if my family was OK' when they were comfortably hundreds of miles away in the wilds of Yorkshire. Or so I thought, until I got an email from my brother who'd been down in London on business or some such and wrote a rather clipped email along the lines of 'don't worry everyone, I'm fine, in case you cared of course....'. Apparently he'd spent the entire day with colleagues who'd been barraged with phone-calls from concerned relatives, and he hadn't received a peep from any of his clan.

Anyway, your comments brought up a good question - how do you 'live' with the idea of the constant threat of earthquakes? I'll admit I used to think the same thing when watching some National Geographic documentary about the San Francisco quake, or Northridge, or some other recent disaster. It's the same with people living on the slopes of an active volcano. Muppets, right?

I liked Skeletor's rationale, that yes, the Big One is statistically going to hit at some point in the next 30 years, but California is vast, and the chances that you will be at the epicentre, slim. Plus I know two very good friends who've lived through a big earthquake, and even though in one case their home was completely destroyed (hi Chilly!), they still live in California and are able to make great dinner conversation. After all, would you rather get flattened in an earthquake in gorgeous Santa Barbara or hit by a bus in Bury?

Hovering over a fault line as we are (one runs straight through Santa Barbara), how much time do we devote to thinking about earthquakes? Are our large pieces of furniture strapped to the walls? No. Do I have an earthquake kit? No. Idiotic I know, but I used to console myself that we always had a flat of water in the house, but ever since drinking out of a plastic bottle became tantamount to clubbing a baby seal to death, the only liquids we have are chocolate milk and wine. At least two thirds of this household would be happy in the event of an emergency....

This is as much thought as I give to earthquakes on a daily basis:

  • I always think about them when stuck in traffic under a freeway overpass.
  • I always think about them when standing next to a large plate glass window, or a shop full of china and glass.
  • I keep my fingers crossed that one doesn't hit when I'm in labour.
  • I always think about them if I go to bed naked, or plastered, or in any way compromised should 'the big one' hit. I have a morbid fear of them pulling my pasty, naked body out of a pile of rubble bum first. One must always dress for earthquakes.
  • I try not to think about them now that Anna is sleeping in her own bed on the other side of the house, or when she's not with me.
  • I should have at least a rudimentary earthquake kit. That does NOT include me 'knowing where the candles are'.
  • I have asked LK where, structurally, he would recommend I stand if one hits and I'm at home (after watching countless Blitz films, I thought under the stairs, but he says our house is practically made of out of papier mache and feathers, so it's much better to stand under the big steel beam in our living room).

That's about it really. Hopefully I'll never find out , but it's not looking likely.


Anonymous said...

We lived in San Diego for 3 years and had only 1 little earthquake - I was pleasantly surprised to learn that 3.2 on the Ricter scale felt much the same as a large garbage truck driving down the street.

I too only worry about natural disaster when going to bed naked - though only enough to put some clothing on the floor next to the bed.

(So glad you 'found' me - I had a lovely moment of post-baby-loss psychosis and decided a new start was in order.)

Norm said...

Heh. We had our "hmm, what is the state of our disaster preparation" moment when the power went out due to the Gap fire. Sorry to say our stuff was scattered, disorganized, and we'd drunk all the water.

... like everyone else in this town! ;)

Almost American said...

Ali - funnily enough, my brother was in London on the day of the bombings too. My mother called to say, "Have you heard the news? I haven't heard from your brother yet, but I'm sure he's fine because he wasn't at work." I think she was terrified! He'd taken the day off work, but was staying in a hotel with his wife near the London Eye. From their hotel room window, they watched the London Eye shut down and thought it must be a bomb threat. As soon as they figured out something serious was wrong (at the time they didn't know what), they headed for Waterloo mainline railway station and amazingly managed to get on a train that was headed out of the city. (Apparently that was the last mainline station to shut down.) The tube bombibg could have affected many of his colleagues as it was very close to where he works, but amazingly no one he knew was hurt.

He had close colleagues visiting NYC on 9/11 too - their offices had been relocated from the Twin Towers only a couple of weeks earlier! One of his colleagues called home as the news coverage started, knowing it would be shown in the UK and the call got cut off when the first tower went down and the telecommunications system went to pot . . .

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