Wednesday, June 20, 2012

I feel the Earth move under my feet.

My father has a fascination with storms.  When we were little and there would be a tornado watch, he would always say how he'd like to see one.  God only knows why he thought they were fascinating, I grew up with a healthy fear of weather, and every time we had a watch or a warning I would recite what I would need to do.  I learned my recitations from tv and movies, and from that book about the night of the 7 tornadoes that my 4th grade teacher Mr. Spillane read to us.  (tornadoes at night?  horrifying.  How would you even see it coming?)

Here is my very limited tornado preparedness mantra:
If you were in your house, you'd go to the south east corner of your basement (I had/have no idea how to tell direction so that would be helpful), and stay away from windows.  And you get under a mattress (note, drag mattresses down into the basement)
If you were outside of the house, you should get under an underpass, because that's what that dad did with his kids and they were fine. (though I think they say NOT to do that now...)
If there aren't any underpasses, lie in a ditch. (this STILL seems unhelpful, because what, if the tornado can't see you, it can't suck you up?  I understand it will probably help me from getting impaled with a straw, but still....)

I'm not sure what my dad's stance is on earthquakes.  I know when I was younger, he told me behind my cousins house in Tolland that there was a fault line.  I'm pretty sure it was just a quarry.  As a child you actually couldn't trust much what my dad said.  If you fell asleep in the car, he'd tell you you'd missed all these fun things. (re: Herbie Hall of Fame, which is the hall of fame for Volkswagon beetles)  He also told me that those giant water towers made apple sauce (all the apples compress down on each other, how ELSE did I think it got made?) and told one cousin on our trip to Illinois that Hostess had a 50 ft. Twinkie in storage when we drove by the factory.  When he learned my dad had been joking, he was devastated.  What can I say, my dad's a pretty convincing guy.

But I digress.
Although pretty famous for its blizzards, New England isn't exactly what you'd call a severe weather hot-spot.  Thus there are only a few natural weather/occurrences that a New Englanders' brains are equipped to handle.  This makes it a bit challenging when something out of the realm of my weather knowledge and experience occurs.

Case.  in.  point.

In July of 2008, Shawn and I were living in Rhode Island.  I was heading home from work, chatting with my brother on my cell when a vicious storm hit.  Looking out my window, I see a funnel cloud begin to descend from the heavens.

Me: Uh....there's a tornado.
Brother: Are you serious?
Me: Uh......what do I do?
Brother: Get out of the car and lie in a ditch! (He swears he did not say that, I swear he did.)
Me: NO!  I'll drive back to work and hide in the basement.

You see, in situations like these, you don't really know what you're supposed to do.  Do you lie in ditch?  Do you hide in a basement?  Because New Englanders are not often faced with this situation, we don't really know how we're supposed to react.  Or maybe that's just me.  (Side note, we DO have blizzard skills.  Things I like to say in a blizzard "NO, YOU IDIOT, why are you breaking on the hill???  NOW WE ARE ALL GOING BACKWARDS!"  Seriously, don't break on a hill when it's snowing.  it's just bad news.  This public service announcement brought to you by the "don't break on the hill, ya idiot coalition for keeping a constant speed on hills in blizzards")

The tornado was barely a 1 on the F scale but my brain had fried anyway (we later theorized that the storm was brought upon by our discussion of this horrible piece of rubbish that I refuse to acknowledge as a movie, lest causing more tornado touchdowns)

There is a second part to this story.  The part when I arrive home.  Brain fried, doubting my choice of residency, shaken AND stirred, and in need of comfort.  I arrive home to then-boyfriend-now-husband seeking solace.

Me: I saw a tornado on the way home.  I COULD HAVE BEEN KILLED.  (my performance is nothing short of oscar worthy)
Shawn: Did you remember to pick up the milk?  We are out of milk.
Me: I could have been KILLED and all you care about is milk??!
Shawn: I like milk.

He does like milk.

Shawn was used to my penchant for...uh...'theatrics', but honestly, I WAS pretty freaked out.  I mean a tornado, in NEW ENGLAND?  What was next?  Epic Mississippi  river style floods

Fast forward to the week of our wedding.  We took a mini-moon in Connecticut and went to Lake Compounce.  While standing on a staircase for a water ride, several stories up, the structure began to sway.  I clutched on to Shawn for dear life, (what, I already feel pretty vulnerable in a bathing suit, we don't need to add the possibility of plummeting to my death into the equation) and the man in front of us joked "earthquake!"  well all kidding aside,  it was

So there you have it.  I survived a very minor tornado and a very minor earthquake.  I also knew in my heart of hearts right out in the open that I have NO BUSINESS living any place that is prone to natural disasters.  (God love Japan, I could never live there because of the tsunami factor.  I am terrified of the ocean/earthquake combo)

Melbourne, Australia on the other hand, is not really a city prone to many natural disasters.  Yes they get the odd cyclone (that's a pacific ocean hurricane for you US folks), but so did New England.  You get plenty of warning for hurricanes/cyclones, so they are pretty easy to avoid.

Our evening went thusly. I had just arrived home from my first day at the Accounting firm, so I was tired.  Since it is winter and I want to blend in with the locals, my skin is doing it's very best effort to crockodile-ize.  (Seriously, ask my parents, I am itching like crazy on skype.)  Anyway, this particular evening, I was watching Good Game's wrap up of E3 and slathering my feet with lotion when something odd started to happen.

There was a very loud banging.

My thoughts were the following.

1) why are they working on the apartments this late at night?  aren't they supposed to be done by 4pm? (For those of you following along at home, they have started the 2 year fixing your crappy living residence project)
2) Maybe it's not the trades, maybe it's the neighbors?  what the hell are they bringing up the stairs that's making so much racket??

I realize very quickly that this is an earthquake and all my 'survival' training kicks in.

Leaping off the couch, I run for the nearest door frame.

Me: Shawn!  We need to get in a door frame!*
Shawn, sits nonchalantly at the table, and looks at me, as he saunters towards the doorway.
Me: no wait!  We're on the third floor!  aren't we supposed to go outside??!!  isn't that what you do?? (I begin to turn in circles because that is what I do when i panic)
Shawn, gives me a look that lets me know in no uncertain terms, we are NOT going outside. (I guess I did have a hand full of lotion and one sock on)

Perhaps I may have over-reacted, but in my defense it WAS a 5.4 AND it's the biggest this area has had in like 100 years.  I've never been in a real earthquake before, so I wasn't sure if the shaking would just get bigger, or if the swaying of our apartment (which is apparently made of jello, children's laughter, and twigs) was an indication that we should not be in it. 

Since Shawn was unconcerned (he went back to studying) I called C&K and did admittedly panic a little bit when I couldn't get through on the phone.  Eventually we had some texts, so I felt a bit more calm. 

Though i'm still worried about the structural integrity of our apartment (though, that's really nothing new), I realized it could have been so much worse and happy to add another mostly harmless natural event to my repertoire.   

 It was fun today chatting at work, and hearing everyone's stories about where they were and what they were doing. I most certainly did may or may not have tried to play it cool and neglected to tell about the pure unadulterated panic. 

*I briefly considered getting in the tub, but I think that's tornado related and it also has to do with having a mattress.


  1. the most likely natural disaster to kill you here is a bush fire... but only if you leave the city. never leave the city.

  2. I told you to park your car and get back into your work building during the tornado. You told me there were too many cars on the road and you couldn't drive back. Laying in a ditch is a dumb idea, I've always thought that.

    We did have that earthquake here in CT last year too, don't know if you felt it or not.

    1. yeah we felt the earthquake last year in CT but it was really an earthquake that was in virginia and it was a gentle swaying. the epicenter in this one was an hour from my house, so it was pretty intense.

      I will swear to my dying day that you said get in a ditch. maybe you were just joking though, we could agree on that.

  3. Lying in a ditch is suggested because tornadoes don't actually touch the ground and so being sub-ground level can be a good idea (if there is no rain and therefore flash-flooding).