Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Day the Earth Stopped Standing Still

Look, I realize that for many millions of people around the world, an earthquake is just another day in paradise. But for the East Coast, they just don’t happen. It’s like being on a lake and watching a great white eat a water skier. It could happen, it just doesn’t. It’s not on the level of having the Loch Ness monster suddenly pop up and ask for an interview, but it is pretty damn close.

I happened to be sitting at my desk in the back room of my home. I had guys working under the house on my crawlspace all day. My kids were upstairs watching a movie. Quite suddenly, my desk started to shake. My initial thought was that it was the guys under the house. As I started to make my way through my kitchen and down the hallway to my front door, the entire house started shaking around me and there was n noise somewhere between the growl of wolves and the odd sound of wood under pressure. Walking through the hall, I felt like I was in a horror movie – things seemed so much slower, everything was in Shaky-cam, and the hallway seemed to go on forever. I realized I wasn’t having some sort of massive dizzy spell/psychotic break when I heard my daughter crying from upstairs. Surely, she and I were not hallucinating at the same time. By the time I made it out the front door with my daughter by my side, my mailbox (built on top of a pole) was swaying as if in a stiff breeze. The guys in the truck looked at me like I was nuts when I asked them if they had just caused my house to shake. Only when the neighbor came out looking as surprised as I was did I realize it probably wasn’t the contractors.

I know it didn’t take long, didn’t do any damage, didn’t hurt anyone, but what it did do was shake me to my core. I have taught my kids that home is a safe place. It doesn’t matter what type of storm is raging outside. Under my roof, within my walls, with me and my husband, they are safe and sound. And then the walls shook.

It took me all day to get my equilibrium back. Now, I know Left Coasters can “stir their coffee with a 5.8”. That’s great. But us East Coaster’s are considered more grounded for a reason: because our ground doesn’t shake. It has always been firm beneath our feet. I don’t think there were any hysterics, no holy men coming forward to proclaim that the end was near and that it was time to sacrifice a goat to appease the dogs. Well, except for my husband, and he was just hoping to forestall Hurricane Irene from ruining our coastal vacation this week. In fact, the coolest part of the experience is how much we all shared it. Facebook lit up like a Christmas tree. The Twitterverse went nuts. With cell phone towers jammed, texting became the communication of choice with my husband and his family. Sure, we didn’t need to check in with each other. The already infamous picture of one plastic lawn chair out of four being knocked over by the jolt does indeed give the right picture of how minor the quake really was. However, we weren’t calling to find out if our houses were still standing; we were calling to share stories.

Let’s be honest. The earth should only move for some very specific occasions: great sex, powerful thunder, bombs, and nearness to public transportation. If you were lucky enough to be getting lucky when the quake moved the world, then I hope you enjoyed it. You’ll never have better again. If you were unlucky enough to be driving or in motion enough that you missed the motion of plates shifting, then I am sorry for you. You missed out on an experience that will hopefully never be repeated. A moment when a dozen states, with countless millions of people, all stopped at the same moment in time and thought, “What the fuck?”

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