Today started much like any other, and I’ve every reason to suppose it will end much like any other, too. But in between the reliable annoyance of my alarm going off at 6:50 and my lamely early bedtime (10ish, since there’s an outside chance you’re wondering), I experienced something so massive and seismic it garnered instant “Breaking News” status across the world: an earthquake.
And now I’m here to report that: a) I basically didn’t notice it, and, b) it was all, just the same, terribly exciting.
“Did you feel the earthquake?” asked Jackie via text. I was outside, had just finished eating my lunch (homemade bubble and squeak with a side of barbecue beans), and hadn’t the faintest clue what earthquake she could possibly be referring to. So I texted back that most unlikely of responses, “What earthquake?” Was I taking English understatement a tad too far, Jackie must have wondered, or was I just unusually unobservant?
It turns out I was neither. Thinking back, I did feel something: the sensation of briefly sitting in a slightly wobbly chair. With my eyes closed, while listening to a BBC Four podcast (Peter Hook interviewing John Cooper Clarke, to be redundantly precise). To the small extent that I thought of it at all, I figured it a particularly gusty bit of wind – plausible enough, given I was sat on a less than sturdy wooden bench not too far from the wide expanse of the Hudson.
Soon enough, I started to amble slowly back to work – and the great mystery of it all, and answering revelations, gradually dawned on me in satisfying waves:
First, and simply, wow! That wasn’t the wind from above but an earthquake from below… some 300-odd miles away (we’d soon discover).
And then, huh, I guess if you’re far enough away from it, an earthquake is something you can physically feel but still mentally miss (and how about that for a paradox to ponder: if something is massive and also massively infrequent it’s apt to pass by unnoticed).
And, hmmm, how serious was that exactly? In a big old city, suddenly everyone aware of each other; people congregating in ever larger numbers outside of buildings, looking about and puzzling – some, no doubt, thinking of the Taliban and looking out for smoke. And next a fire truck wailing by… (But, no, I look up at the nearby half-constructed Freedom Tower and it, like everything around it, is definitely still upright.)
And, at last, Holy shit, that was kind of fun!* A vast communal experience – from the top of ‘the south’ to as far north as Boston (we’d soon discover) – so much more bracing for being, well, completely unscheduled. This thing happened, and I was a little part of it! Me and a few million Americans… almost as if I was one of their number (in the elevator back up to my desk, to my working day, mine just another voice chattering away about the same sudden shock. What was that? Did you feel it? And where were you just now anyhow?).
Now can I do it all over again – and this time pay attention? (After all, my faraway England had the Great Hurricane of 1987, but never, thankfully, a whole lot else.)