Wake-up Call

The 30th anniversary of the big quake (and my first quake) is tomorrow. It was 6.9 on the Richter Scale, the Loma Prieta earthquake, centered near Santa Cruz. The floor started rolling, and there was noise and lights swinging. It lasted for 15 long seconds. By the time I grabbed the baby and found the three year old (her birthday), it was over.

My husband at the time flew home from the barber shop with half a haircut. We are Midwesterners. He was as freaked out as I was.

Just to remind me to be ready for the next big one, the Bay Area was treated to a sharp jolt last night. It was centered fifteen miles north of here. I had just shut off the computer and was getting ready to turn off the news. Then bam!

The small dog jumped off her chair and looked at me. The big dog opened her eyes and then went back to sleep. Doggie dreams.

I turned the computer back on so that I could see what was what on Facebook. The newscasters threw away their scripts and started talking about the quake.

I looked to the china cabinet on my right, which never got relocated when I shifted the house around to accommodate my sister. I looked at all the glass I had piled on top of it when I redid my kitchen.

The cabinet is not bolted to the wall. It’s bad enough that if it fell over, I would lose 200 breakable antique items inside of it. Those pedestal glass cake plates and glass doorknobs on top could kill me.

I moved all of the pedestal plates to the kitchen counter. The next thing I knew I was washing off construction dust from months ago at 11:00 at night. As I put away the three random wine glasses that had also ended up on the china cabinet, I realized that I used to put rubber bands around the pairs of cabinet knobs to keep the doors from flying open and to keep things like wine glasses from falling onto the granite counter tops.

So here I was at 11:03 p.m. looking for rubber bands.

Then I went to bed.

With the freaked out dog.

I had my shoes, a flashlight, and my glasses next to the bed, just in case.

I looked at the heavy armoire filled with quilts next to the bed. It is deep and not likely to tip over. The mirror hanging over my bed is on rope wire over two picture frame hangers, not likely to fall.  But still, it might be time to retire that and hang up something lighter.

My sister’s board and care room had an ugly heavy picture right over her bed.  The first thing I did was to take down that picture and put it in the closet. I replaced it with soft card holders filled with all of her greeting cards from friends and family. Falling cards won’t hurt as much as a framed picture with glass.

Those of you in other parts of the country don’t think about bolting your bookcases to the wall. We Californians have to think about everything that could fall over.

A boy having a family room sleepover in the 90’s was pelted with bricks from the fireplace by a small but local earthquake. People in Napa had building fronts fall during their quake in 2011.

The stacked Oakland freeway pancaked in 1989, trapping motorists in their accordion-ed cars. An acquaintance of mine from the East Coast (in my mom and me playgroup) explained that her husband had been on the Cypress structure when the thing collapsed.  When he went to the tow yard days later to retrieve his briefcase that he’d left behind as he somehow got out of his vehicle that day, he saw the condition of his car, turned to his wife and said, “We’re moving back to Pennsylvania.”

It’s been thirty years. We have all been living on borrowed time. Last night’s jolt was our wake-up call to be ready.

Because ready or not, the next big one is coming.

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