Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On

I was standing in the bathroom at my office, washing my hands, when the sink began to bounce in front of me. I felt dizzy and vaguely nauseous. "Oh holy shit," I thought, "I'm going to pass out in the sink." My chronic sleep deprivation was finally going to do me in, and in an office bathroom of all places.

Then my brain flipped, and I realized I was in the middle of a damn earthquake. Not just any earthquake, mind, but a record-setting (for Washington, DC) 5.8 magnitude earthquake. The last one we had in my area was only a 3.X, and I never even felt it.

There is something profoundly disturbing about an earthquake that you're not going to understand unless you've been in one. It's not like being in a bumpy car or a carnival ride: reality itself is warping around you. The ground, that thing you understand as defining "solid", is now juddering like a living thing in the grip of a seizure. If you're indoors, your whole world could literally come crashing down on your head.

5.8 on the Richter scale. That's peanuts compared to what hit Japan, which was an 8.9. And Richter isn't linear: 5.8 to 8.9 is a difference of tens of thousands in terms of destructive power.

There wasn't any real destruction in the area: a few damaged chimneys, some minor bits and bobs that fell down. I think the only injury near my home was an older man who fell down in his shower (and I do hope he's okay). My office was evacuated and I was sent home as a precaution. A pipe may have broken on the first floor; I'll have to call in to see if I'm going to work. That's 5.8.

I'm going to send some money to the Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund tonight; also the Red Cross. Late, I know, but still not too late.

I got to my cell phone half an hour after the quake ended, but the lines were still choked with traffic. By the time I got through to Sarah I only had 5% of a charge left on my battery. That was hours after the actual quake, and we only had enough time to make sure the other was okay.


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