Once upon a time. . .
I was in the middle of posting something to Facebook about how wrong it is that adult books don’t have pictures, and that kids have all the imagination they need so why do they get to have pictures when we as adults struggle to envision anything more unusual than a palm tree, when I heard loud machinery approaching. Of course I was at work, since that’s where I do most of my Facebook posting, internet surfing, and YouTube viewing. The machinery seemed to be getting louder, which got my attention away from the computer, since I was alone in my third floor office and the only sounds usually heard there come from my computer when I’m blasting Stevie Ray Vaughan “Double Trouble” or Koko Taylor singing “Wang Dang Doodle” or Buddy Guy doing “I Put a Spell On You.” Since I’m an adult and don’t have the benefit of picture books anymore (see first sentence of this paragraph) I was trying to imagine what kind of machinery could possibly be that loud, and why would it be coming in our parking lot, and why did it almost seem like it was making the building shake. I was pretty sure it was red machinery, though.
But then the noise seemed to stop and the shaking increased. The entire building was shaking — I felt like I was in a cereal box that some giant was trying to get the prize out of. Then all the little connectors in my brain finally found each other and I had a distinct “oh shit” moment. This was an earthquake, or the end of the world. Now, it’s truly remarkable how many thoughts can get through your brain in the span of about 5 seconds. I did a brief review of what horrible things I might have done lately for which I hadn’t repented and which now might dog me throughout eternity if this was the end of the world. I cast that thought aside pretty quickly since things are what they are and bargaining for salvation at the very end of life just seemed so hypocritical. A vision of the Twin Towers appeared, accompanied by the sad understanding of what those people must have felt as their buildings swayed and collapsed.
Then the true catalyst thought formed — I was not dying in this building at this job. Not for all the monogrammed sheets or Palm Beach hairdressers or private nurses or houses in the Hamptons. There are other jobs or places where being crushed in an earthquake would have been more acceptable — in the Magic Bus being flung into a newly opened gaping chasm with my brightly colored back door magnets the last thing seen as we disappear, or at Catalina coffee shop on Washington in Houston with friends having a latte with a pretty design in foam on top, or at a Robert Earl Keen concert with everybody singing along to “Merry Christmas From the Family.” But not there, alone, in that building, at a job that’s so surreal it defies description. I tore out of that office. I didn’t
know I could still run that fast or navigate the switchback staircase with such fleet feet. And clutching the black iron railing as a guide, I could feel the continuous shaking , simply the strangest sensation I can recall ever feeling. I, and everyone else, was completely unable to control what was happening. We were at the mercy of the earth.
I shot out the front door into the parking lot and came face to face with a dozen or so people who work at other offices in my building. And, true to form, my mouth opened up and a mightily inappropriate expletive flowed forth like lava, to be met by uniform glares and silence from the audience. What the hell, it’s a fault of mine, just a total disconnection between mind and mouth.
And the earth stopped shaking.
But I certainly didn’t. Those police shows on TV where they’re all so cool and collected while blasting automatic weapons are totally bogus. I trembled more than the earth had just done, and I’m damn sure Kyra Sedgwick does the same thing; she just looks a lot better doing it than me. And she gets paid for it. But I willed myself to stop shaking. Strangely, though our work phones and internet fail at the blink of an eye, everything was still functioning. Then I saw the true power of media — within 5 minutes the phone was ringing from around the country, with coworkers, family and friends calling to check on us. And the local beer place was offering earthquake relief in the form of $1 off all pints. God bless all of ’em.
Now, there’s a little bit of rain heading this direction for the weekend. I think it’s called Irene. . .