You may have heard that yesterday we had an earthquake along the East Coast. You may have also heard that it was much ado about nothing.
Basically, I felt a rumbling in my office at mid-afternoon and assumed someone was pushing some heavy machinery around in the halls. (It’s the “That was a truck, right?” reflex of a spoiled Marylander who’s never felt a strong quake.) Then it kept going, and I heard other people saying it was an earthquake. In the hallways, one of my supervisors (Peruvian) and our HR manager (Ethiopian) were asking each other in what part of the room Americans take shelter when there’s an earthquake. I told them that if it was going to be a strong quake—and it probably wasn’t—then we needed to go downstairs and get outside.
Not that I’m an expert on the subject, or anything, but if it’s the type of quake in which we need to take shelter, then there is just no part of our 12th-floor office that’s a safe place to be. And sure enough, just then a voice came on the PA system and told us all to get to the stairwells. Want to know the American custom for dealing with an earthquake? It involves not being on the 12th floor of a building made of steel, concrete and glass. So we all cheerily skipped our way down the stairs, and thank goodness it didn’t take too long.
The quake doesn’t appear to have done any damage beyond knocking some objects off a few desks, but it gave us an afternoon outdoors. I quickly found that my phone couldn’t send any text messages, and wrestled and growled at the stupid thing until I tried using Opera and found that I could access Facebook. Pretty much everyone else was doing something similar; the whole neighborhood was outside and standing around in the streets, and, being Washingtonian office-workers (I work in Arlington, VA) we were all staring at our phones.
Most of my co-workers went home early. The real complication, for me at least, was that the Metro system spent the rest of the day running at 15 mph, which is about a third of their usual speed just in case there was any damage. So I said, if they’re going to run like that for the next several hours, then I need to get out of here early, so I followed my boss’s advice at a little after 4 PM and vacated the premises. Furthermore, I had no interest in spending two and a half hours sitting on a slow train, so I took the rail as far as Farragut West (got me over the Potomac and safely into the city), got off and walked as far as Columbia Heights (which is where I used to get off to visit my then-girlfriend, so I know the neighborhood) and took the Green Line home.
It was a lovely, sunny walk, but damn. I managed to get off the bus and reached my new apartment building at around the same time as usual, and after the subway and bus rides, my poor beleaguered feet were still screaming, “Help me!” There is nothing like walking a few miles in an hour on a gentle uphill slope to show you just how out of shape you are. Early in the walk I was thinking something like, “It’s a good thing I’m as young and able-bodied as I am, so I can do this,” and by the time I spotted the Target in Columbia Heights, the question of “What the Hell was I thinking?” occurred.
When I got home, there was just no way I was not going to take a nap, and sure enough, a little, “Just let me rest my feet for a few minutes” turned into sleeping for almost 3 hours. All that, and by 11:45 I was ready to go to sleep again and slept a full night. The quake didn’t do much damage, but it sure drove a wrecking ball through my day.