As a child, I had an exaggerated fear of catastrophes. Fire, floods, tornadoes, explosions, avalanches, swarms of killer bees. It’s even written in my baby book. I don’t know know where it came from or why I began spending each night quietly plotting escape routes as I fell asleep. Blame teasing adults who casually threw around talk of plague and ruin with reckless abandon, or blame the popular disaster movies of the 70s. When I was a little older, there was of course this gem, written by a classmate’s dad, to add fuel to my very sensationalized fire. I was a curious, precocious and happy kid, but I do recall a fair amount of time spent sitting in quiet terror when, say, a toilet clogged, certain the entire house would soon be under water.
As an adult, there is little that terrifies me except maybe dirty shoes on furniture and Marriott Courtyards, though these might be better classified as “irritations.” I’ve traveled around the world, often solo, I’ve taken risks when it was easier to play it safe and I’ve weathered plenty of storms. I’ve been horribly lost, I’ve been found, etc. You can’t scare me.
Sunday night I experienced my very first earthquake — 7.1. Now, four days later, it is Thursday night and I have already experienced my second (Tuesday, 6.5) and third (this morning, 6.6). And I’ve learned something: I am afraid of earthquakes. And also, that earthquakes are a reasonable fear. That, “Um, wow, that was scary and I don’t think it needs to happen again,” is a perfectly reasonable response. What is not perfectly reasonable is “That was fun” or “You get used to them” or any number of unreasonable things uttered by my friends and colleagues this week.
But to be educated is to be prepared, so this week I’ve studied up and learned. For instance:
If you are in bed when an earthquake starts, stay there
Always make sure you have plenty of bottled water in the house
Keep a pair of shoes by both exits of your apartment in the event you need to hop off the balcony
Open the balcony door because if the door frame is crushed, you won’t be able to open it later
Turning the Daily Show up louder is not going to make it stop
Stop leaving heavy, fragile things like cameras laying around on tables when you live in the most earthquake prone country in the world
Be glad you live directly across the street from the fire station
Don’t be such a pussy
Please note that no doorframes or cameras were harmed. No stockpiling of water or balcony jumping was necessary. In fact, there was no damage at all unless you count the shattered pieces of my heart, devastated to learn that perfect little Japan isn’t quite so perfect.