Jewish Journal

Earthquake Shakes Up California, But Not Facebook

by Mihal Levy

April 5, 2010 | 11:00 am

Yesterday, Los Angeles not only rocked but rolled as a 7.2 earthquake hit Mexicali, not too far from the San Diego/Mexico border.  Reports explained that the “rolling” lasted for forty seconds, which felt like hours.  Feeling a little woozy, I still tied my running shoes up for a quick run when the quake hit, only I thought it was me and not the earth shaking things up.

To confirm reports (after the shaking subsided), I logged on to Google and then Facebook (a valid news source, of course) to confirm that the earth did, in fact, shake and I hadn’t had too much caffeine; as well, as to see if my friends in San Diego and L.A. were safe.  (Being a native Californian gives one an inherent feeling of needing to confirm the fact that there was an earthquake and needing to know the size and epicenter as well for some strange reason.  Perhaps to see if it was, in fact, “the big one?”)  Lo and behold there were updates from many of my “friends” in the area of course.  (I put the word friends in quotes, because how many people out of your 500+ pool are truly your friends?)  All was ok, but what wasn’t ok was the number of people that actually updated their status during the quake.

Correct me if I am wrong, but shouldn’t we run and take cover before we update our statuses, or at least wait for the shaking or rolling to subside.  I understand Facebook is a source of validation (I don’t know how anyone ever felt validated about their decisions, career choices, gigs, opinions or even what they were going to eat for dinner before Facebook), but before validation or the comfort knowing that others experienced it as well, please take cover and make sure you make it through to update your status afterward.
Reading the updates, I realized that living in California automatically makes people experts in the field of earthquakes (myself included).  Even the infamous woman at Cal Tech (who happens to be at Cal Tech during ever major earthquake since I was a toddler and happens to appear on the news shortly after each hit) has nothing on the California resident experts. She is not the only expert.  Talk to anyone living in California and they can give you the same information she does, only without a seismograph.

From the updates on Facebook yesterday and having grown up in this shaky state, I realized that we truly are earthquake experts - seismologists, in fact.  Whether someone has lived here all their life or for a good few years, they become experts.  How can you not?  I realized that we all share the same knowledge in fact. 

Here are the things that Californians just know.
1) Know the scientific term for the type of earthquake that hit.  “It was a rolling earthquake.”  “A couple of quick jolts.”  “More of a rocking-type motion.” (Just a few of the familiar descriptions.)

2) Can tell you how the latest quake compares to all the others.  “This was more like the one back in….”  And everything is always compared to the Northridge quake (I was attending Cal State Northridge when that one hit - just had to slip that one in here).

3) Use fancy words like “seismologists, epicenter, faultline, Cal Tech, and seismograph,” when talking about the quake.

4) Can tell you where the fault lines are located.

5) Can tell you the size of the earthquake and the epicenter of it.  “That definitely felt like a 7.0 at least…and it must have been centered around here, because we really felt it.” 

6) Will joke about the quake when it is over, even though they were scared beyone belief during the quake.  “That was fun!”  “Oh, it’s over already.”  Or the famous one yesterday as it hit on Easter - “Maybe that wasn’t a quake at all, but a return visit from JC.”  (He was Jewish - it was both Passover and Easter…so perhaps?)

7) Will prepare an earthquake kit immediately following the quake, drive quickly through tunnels, rearrange hanging pictures and glass objects on high shelves, reinforce bookshelves to the wall and even plan on moving out of state for up to a couple of weeks after each earthquake hits, then they we quickly forget.

8) Don’t usually take cover until the rolling, jolting or shaking has gone on for over a few seconds too long.

9) Don’t even take cover until they are reassured that it actually is in fact an earthquake, asking the people around them, “Did you feel that?”  “Are we having an earthquake?”  And once confirmed, they move into hiding or a doorway, because who drops and covers like we did in elementary school any more?  And no one wants to feel stupid if they are the only one dropping and covering.

10) Can even predict an earthquake by the weather.  “It is definitely earthquake weather lately, you know what that means…”  or “We haven’t had an earthquake in a while, I can just feel it…it will happen this week.  You’ll see.”

11) All bring it up in almost every conversation for at least the following week and recap where they were and how they felt (often denying the truth, of course, that they were scared out of their minds).  “Did you feel it?  Because I didn’t even feel it, I mean, I felt it…but it didn’t feel like anything, really…I wasn’t even sure it was an earthquake…I just went on with what I was doing…so used to them by now..if you know what I mean.”  But what the person really meant was, “I was scared sh!&less and didn’t know which way to run.  The whole time I kept thinking…I hope this isn’t the big one, I hope this isn’t the big one.  And that is just what every Californian always wonders: “Is this ‘the big one?’”

We have had quite a few “big ones” and unfortunately so have many other countries as of recent.  There is nothing to do but “ride it out” and be as prepared as we can be (whatever that means), but whatever you do in typical Californian style, just don’t Facebook and ride.  Wait until the ride is over and the validation that you receive is that you made it…what more can you ask for?  I know, I know, a comment on your status update…or even your blog.

By the way - you can add me on Facebook: JewMama

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Mihal Levy used to collect degrees as a hobby.  After receiving her B.S. and M.S. degrees, she worked as a psychotherapist and research scientist before continuing her hobby of...

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