Before I get to that, I want to thank those who took the time to comment on the Story of my Wife. Unfortunately, this was done face-to-face by the locals who see me at work, or around the neighborhood. There isn't any real reason for me to invest time in this blog if we're going to have these discussions across a hose rack. This is strictly in the nature of "Do me a favor." I'm begging you, if you see something here you'd like to talk about, click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the post, and do it there. I do this in large part to exchange ideas with people I otherwise have no access to, and to a great extent, it works. Witness my lively interchanges with everyone from the Nerds to Bob the small dog, and know that these contacts benefit you, as you can contact them and strike up your own conversations; the sites I find interesting tend to appear in the sidebar under "Collected on my Travels." Just click on them and enjoy. So please, I ask again, talk to me here! During the two weeks that Love and Fate on the Government's Payroll was up, my counter showed hits from people from Baltimore to Bremerhaven who didn't bother to say anything, and I have to wonder whether they would have if there had already been a dozen or so comments on the post when they first saw it. Would that have sparked more interest on their part? Who can say, but I'd like to find out. Click and post, please.
All right, we out here on the Ring of Fire (yeah, that Ring) got a good laugh out of the cabaret that went down following the east-of-the-Rockies earthquakes that happened last Tuesday. Don't get huffy, it's fair. People in the Hurricane Belt laugh themselves silly at us sliding around the freeways in the annual drizzlefest we call "winter," and the folks in Tornado Alley must snicker fit to bust when they see us boarding up our windows to fend off one of our killer breezestorms. Out here on the Left Coast, we know fires, and we know earthquakes. Fires are never funny, but a small earthquake sprung on someone unaccustomed can be better than an hour with Seinfeld.
Okay, now that we've enjoyed our laugh, I want to offer my fellow citizens in the rest of the country a few pointers to help you get through the next one relatively intact. First, there are basically two kinds of earthquakes. The first begins with a sudden lurch, a violent wrench that can throw you off your feet if it's strong enough. Sometimes you even hear it, a sharp "crack!" or "bang!" followed by SHAKE-SHAKE-SHAKE-shake-shake-shake -- shake -- shake -- shake, becoming slower and weaker as the energy is dissipated. In these, the brunt of the energy is released in the first second. If you feel the "bang!" and you look around and everything is generally okay, you're safe. It's going to get weaker, and weaker, and all you need to do is enjoy the ride. If this pattern is reversed, however, if you gradually become aware that there is movement in the room, like the ceiling fan begins to sway, or you feel like you are standing beside an unbalanced washer during the spin cycle, and then you start hearing rattle-rattle-rattle-RATTLE-RATTLE-RATTLE-RATTLE-RATTLE-RATTLE, that's when you need to dive under the nearest table and try to protect your head by shoving it up your bunghole, 'cause it's going to be bad! When you hear that crescendo of shaking start up the scale, no one alive can predict where it's going to level off, and the theoretical limit is about 9.5, which is plenty enough to topple skyscrapers, change coastlines, or open a new Grand Canyon.
The more astute among you will have detected my tongue firmly in my cheek, but the fact is that if you feel the ground start moving beneath you, if you aren't accustomed to the sensation (and often even if you are), you're going to freak. You may experience a panic freeze, but eventually you are going to start moving, and your life may depend upon moving in the right way, so I'm going to give you three simple things to do that are easy to remember, and should protect you from the immediate effects.
#1: Get away from any large sheets of glass; mirrors, windows, interior dividers will all be torqued by the rolling forces being released, and they don't have to be twisted very far before they explode into shrapnel as effective as any hand grenade. Put something between you and them if possible, but at the very least, get away from them.
#2: If your survival instinct tells you that this is going to be a hard shaker (and trust me, if you don't have a body of experience to draw on, you're going to think it's the end of the world), get under a solidly built table, desk, or counter. The main thing that happens inside buildings during an earthquake is that things fall, and you will want something sturdy between you and these impromptu missiles.
#3: For the same reason, never, never, never try to run outside. A substantial quake will shake nonstructural pieces, i. e., decorations, window frames and ledges, glass, and sometimes chunks of building materials, loose from the building. These will head for the ground at a high rate of speed, and if you meet one at the door, you're going to lose! Here in earthquake country, we have a saying: Earthquakes don't kill people, buildings kill people. Protect yourself from the immediate effects of things falling during the shaking, and you'll be around to deal with the aftermath at your leisure.
I hope you Easterners find something useful here, or at least comforting, that will help you when the ground moves again. And know that it will. Once a source of ground movement has exposed itself, it doesn't just go away. It may not move again for decades, but it's there. If any of this information saves a life, we can only hope it was the right one!
All right, coming up Sunday morning, a look at how first the media, and then social networking, has changed our language, as I tackle the subject of word mutation. See you all then, I hope, and remember, please, please, put your comments on the page!