Fear of Fire

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.

7 Responses to “Fear of Fire”

  1. BF says:

    oh my word. please buy some bottled water. and stay safe.

  2. sara says:

    Wow. Scary stuffs. My one experience with an earthquake was quite mild by comparison (a baby 5.0) but definitely left me quite jarred and shaken.

    Stay safe. And I hope you don’t have to “get used” to this.

  3. Lynn says:

    I once experienced the TINIEST earthquake (not high risk, the Netherlands…) and it was terrifying. Yes, stay safe.

    BTW, the MC in Hong Kong was lovely, despite my doubts. :-)

  4. cindy says:

    i hope you remain safe and sound. although i am new to your blog, i thought of you when i heard about the earthquake. very scary. we experienced the tiniest of earthquakes shortly after we were married. we weren’t going to mention it to anyone as we were newlyweds, but apparently others felt the earth move, too.

  5. Astrid says:

    I thought about you the minute I heard about the earthquakes on the news. Good to hear you are fine.

  6. tiffany says:

    I remember my first earthquake though it was nothing on the scale of yours. It happened in the Spring though and it really brought to life a haiku by Issa:
    “In this world of ours
    We walk on the roof of hell
    Gazing at flowers”
    It actually made me appreciate Japan more. Life isn’t stable and earthquakes are true reminders. And yet we go on, searching for the beauty of it all.
    I am glad you were safe and hope you continue to be. Another good piece of advice is to keep cash in your house because in case of a real emergency, the ATMs will not work.
    Good luck.

  7. Malinda says:

    I was in Tokyo for the earthquakes as well. I live in California and these scared the heck out of me as well. I was in a hotel – and it totally freaked me out!

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