Sometimes I wonder what the hell I'm doing with my life. Then I get a Facebook comment from a photo studio intern whose primary function is "hair wizard" that uses the words 'anachronistically', 'trans-located' and 'Age of Enlightenment' in a syntactically-correct manner in a joke, and I wonder why I didn't shove all the important shit into a My Little Pony backpack and hitchhike right the fuck back out here twenty-five years ago. Christ, but Arizona is a sucking hole in the face of civilization.

Living there has also left me woefully unprepared for New England in many ways, I've come to realize. For example, I haven't the foggiest fucking clue what to do about any natural disaster that doesn't involve venomous wildlife or being baked into a mummy by a cruel and uncaring sun. I have mad survival skills when it comes to shaking centipedes out of rarely-used shoes, and hauling one bottle of water per person her hour along like some sort of terrible jobsworth dromedary camel on any kind of extended walking excursion, but they're not really much use here. I'd probably be great in the wilds of Australia, but people do not drop dead of heat stroke walking out to the bus stop in Boston.

I apparently survived my first earthquake last week. Pedants might point out that it wasn't actually our earthquake, it was up in Maine, but the ground wobbled down here in Medford, so fuck 'em. I wasn't really sure that's what it was at first; I'm prone to hypnopompic and hypnogogic hallucinations, since my brain is apparently not all that great at synchronizing the sleep/wake functions across all parts of the network, and I was dozing at the time. But I eventually decided the wibbling was a bit too much and went on a bit too long for me to have made that up, and the internet confirmed.

The house was not perturbed. Twitter was a bit shrieky, but I suspect that's because for some reason people think that you have to customize your buildings to your natural disasters exactly, or the patterns will clash the Holy Roman Empire will collapse rocks fall everyone dies terrible things occur. They all use the same laws of physics, people. It's true that not a lot of Massachusetts is earthquake-proof, but whole fuckloads of things in this state are hurricane-proof, which is not necessarily all that different. The object for both of those scenarios is to build things that can take the bendy-twisty wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey jiggery-pokery forces of nature, and then settle back down where they were when those forces stop. It's not like trading off solidity vs. weight when you're designing a yurt; things that respond elastically in a hurricane also respond elastically in an earthquake. There are some differences when it comes to protecting underground utility pipes and things of that ilk, but if your main goal is to not have an entire building fall down on your head, then you're reasonably well taken care of.

I'm sitting in a wood-frame house that has been on this spot for 102 years now, and I really do not think it is going to go anywhere. Similar logic kept me from going completely insane when I survived my first hurricane last year. The weather services said it was going to be a hurricane anyway -- mostly it was an unscheduled day off for transit workers, as subways were temporarily closed from Boston down through New York. I think I had an appointment cancelled. People pulled leaves out of bits of guttering they didn't even know they had and the Tufts campus was kind of squorshy for a few days, and then Irene was forgotten.

The generic New England Disaster Plan seems to be to close all the windows, cram yourself into an interior corner of the house with a big fat book, and ignore whatever is going on as hard as you possibly can. This strikes me as just about the laziest conceivable disaster plan ever created, short of rolling over and sleeping through Armageddon. It's the kind of thing an undergraduate would come up with at about 4pm on Thursday of exam week, after having been informed that the wrath of the Almighty God YHWH (who, I feel compelled to point out, is not marking his paper) will be bearing down upon them in about a day and a half.

The bit about animals predicting earthquakes is complete hogwash, by the way. The box o' rats lives in my room, and at least one of the little bastards was still snoring when the wobbling stopped.


  1. I totally missed the earthquake. Didn't feel a single thing.

    Re: New England disaster preparedness
    I would say that the only thing you really need to be worried about is a blizzard. And since you don't drive, you don't even need to worry about it too much! Just make sure you have a lot of blankets, candles, batteries, canned goods, some bottled water, maybe a camping stove (it's also a good idea to check if your gas stove can be lit with a match before the power goes out!), and a snow shovel. Also, if you do need to go out for any reason, make sure to give yourself a lot of time and that someone knows where you're going and when you think you'll get back.

    1. I haven't the faintest fucking idea how to deal with a gas stove. Either it works or I phone someone up to tell them it doesn't. There are fairly large portions of Phoenix that just don't have gas service available by default, and I grew up in one of them; the apartments and dorms I lived in while in Flagstaff all had electric ranges, because they were student housing, and the owners weren't that stupid.

      The heating was also converted to gas last year, to save us the hassle of oil deliveries, so I expect I'll just go back to accumulating four hundred bajillion blankets like I usually do. I've gotten a lot of complaints out of people who've helped me move house, and not one of them has ever been, "You have too many goddamn blankets." It's like keeping track of your towel, only even more useful for padding large computer monitors in the backseat of a borrowed car.

    2. Exactly. It's not a lazy disaster plan at all; we just prepare in advance so that when the disaster hits, it is not an emergency.

      Likewise the Zen of Driving in Snow: move gently and gracefully, feel the road through your tires, do not rush or make sudden movements, and plan ahead. Last-second course corrections or sudden dodges don't work when the road is icy, so you have to make sure they aren't necessary.

    3. Mercifully, I don't drive, so I don't have to worry about that. And Flagstaff, Arizona, is actually up in ski country; I have loads of experience slogging through snow up to my thighs in order to avoid killing myself on icy sidewalks.

  2. short of rolling over and sleeping through Armageddon.

    What, that is totally our Armageddon disaster preparedness plan.


Post a Comment