Quakin’

Yesterday afternoon, I was sitting in a little local Chinese restaurant having lunch. I was enjoying the last of my hunan shrimp and the company of some coworkers and friends.

This place is one of our favorite work lunchtime getaways. We can always get a seat right away, the food is delicious and reasonably priced, and it is close enough to campus that we can relax and enjoy our break but still get back to work on time.

We had just paid the bill and were finishing off our iced teas when something weird happened. There was a strange, inexplicable sort of noise, like the roof and the walls were being banged around. The floor beneath our feet felt like it was not moving exactly, but humming or vibrating. Our mostly empty plates rattled, and our tea sloshed a little in our glasses.

At our table, we all sat and stared at each other, wide-eyed. None of us were scared, exactly. Befuddled, maybe. Amazed, sure. The first words out of my mouth were “WTF?”

My co-worker’s husband said “I don’t know.” Then he thought for a second, and said “Earthquake!”

If we lived somewhere that quakes were common, perhaps it would have been just another day. It wasn’t intense so much as incredibly unusual. Now, if I’d been like some of my friends who were at home watching their refridgerators bounce or pictures clatter off their walls, I may have felt differently. For us, though, it was more bizarre than scary. We Marylanders just don’t get quakes every day.

I was more awed and amazed than anything, until I tried to call Lee and realized I couldn’t get through to him or my family. The phones were going haywire. Driving back to campus, we saw people coming out of their houses trying frantically to call or text family members.

When we got back to work, we saw all our colleagues standing outside the building. We’d been evacuated so they could make sure there was no structural damage. My phone still wasn’t working, and I was dying to at least get into my office and get online to touch base with my loved ones.

Usually, cell phones drive me nuts. But at that moment, I wanted mine to work so badly. I wasn’t really worried that my loved ones weren’t okay – since the quake hadn’t been overpowering where we were I figured they were fine too. But for us, an earthquake is probably a once-in-a-lifetime deal, and when you are awestruck you kind of want to share the moment with your nearest and dearest.

It was definitely a memorable day. So much so that a few of us pulled together an impromptu “earthquake party” at the pub when we were finally able to connect. We just sat around the picnic tables, had a few drinks and laughed and talked. I think it was more about seeing familiar faces and sharing such a unique day than it was about gettin’ our booze on.

There is one thing that will stick in my mind forever, though – that piece of the earthquake tale that will be my “what I was doing when” story 30 years from now.

Other than the rattles of the quake itself, the restaurant was dead silent during the tremor. We all seemed to freeze in place. People just got wide-eyed and looked at each other as if to say “is this for real?” When it stopped, all sorts of chatter broke out.

But in the corner, there was one old man. He looked to be about 90. He had been sitting alone happily shoveling some sort of spicy-looking lunch into his mouth before the quake. He continue to shovel while the tremors rolled through. And he didn’t even look up from his meal when we all started talking afterwards. He just sat and ate and savored his food as if it were just another day.

Part of me wondered if he was so far into his thoughts that he was missing the moment. Another envied his serene state. On the way back, we joked that when we were 90, maybe our reaction to an earthquake would be “hell, if this thing’s gonna snuff me out I wanna make sure I enjoy this szechuan chicken first.”

The quake is behind us now. Next up, Hurricane Irene. I was planning a trip to the beach with a girlfriend and my mom this weekend to stay with my aunt and have some quality sun-n-fun girl time. Needless to say, that ain’t gonna happen.

I’m trying to handle that with the serenity of the guy I’ve been calling “The Earthquake Eater” in my head. That’s not going so well, but I’m trying.

It has been a wild ride on the East Coast this week.

Stay safe and dry, my friends who are also in the hurricane’s path.

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About hawleywood40

Writer, Steelers Fan in Baltimore, Frequent Visitor to the Shot Fairy
This entry was posted in Baltimore, Memoirs, Slices O' Life, Work and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Quakin’

  1. akamonsoon says:

    What a bizarre day! It sounds like a good portion of the East coast felt it. Glad you were safe and I loved the idea of the ‘earthquake party.’ Sorry that your weekend plans got canceled because of the darn hurricane. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it just blows out to sea.

    • hawleywood40 says:

      Thanks Monsoon! It sure isn’t looking good, and now it seems set to terrorize New England as much or possible even more than the Mid-Atlantic. We’re battening down the hatches here and hoping every stays safe (and probably getting one more night out in tomorrow night before the weekend goes haywire …)

  2. Catie Rhodes says:

    How odd–I mean about the little old man who kept eating. I don’t think that was serenity. I think that was old folks’ fog.

    As for your experience, wow. I am so glad you came out on the other end okay. Isn’t it funny what natural disasters do to cell phone service? After we have hurricanes here, the cell phones take forever to come back up. My husband (who knows such things) explained why one time…but I promptly forgot.

    If I ever come to Baltimore to do the haunted thing, you’ll have to take me to that restaurant. 😀

    • hawleywood40 says:

      You could be right! Either way, I wish I had a little of his state of mind as the hurricane gets closer. I don’t do as well with this kind of stuff as others. All the constant news coverage keys me up and I hear all the horror stories others have already encountered and start bawling. Yeah, I’m a weather WUSS. We’ll definitely go to that restaurant if you ever make it to Baltimore, and the pub too : ).

  3. Glad you’re safe and hope the hurricane stays far enough away to not terrorize you too much. All this shake-rattle-and-rollin’ is only fun when the music is loud and you’ve got your dancin’ shoes on.

  4. l'empress says:

    I suppose, if you get to be 90, a little shaking isn’t that unusual. My first thought was that I should eat something to correct my sugar…it wasn’t until later that I realized my chair was moving.

    • hawleywood40 says:

      LOL – I had a lot of friends who were home doing laundry say they thought it was their dryers acting up. Lee’s first thought was the train tracks down the road, since we often get “vibrations” from trains going by. Once the fridge started dancing a little though, he figured that would have to be one hell of a train : ).

  5. tsonoda148 says:

    Happy to hear you and yours are all ok. What an experience! Most of my relatives live back east, so I’m looking forward to a few stories from them. I live in Nevada and the news tonight said that we get little earth quakes often. I did not know that and have never noticed anything.

    Maybe I’m even older than I thought! Where’s that lasagna????
    Terri

    • hawleywood40 says:

      I bet a lot of folks don’t know about those little earthquakes – I know I wouldn’t! I think we only notice what actually impacts us. Oooo, did you say lasagna? I’m hungry : )!

  6. Rosie says:

    I am glad for y’all that it was only a 5.9, just enough to notice and to have a little damage and add a bit of spice to your life, had it been a 6.1 or greater, it could have been a much different story… Years ago in San Diego we had a 5.9, and the only fatality was when one fellow died because all of the newspapers and magazines he hoarded fell on him.

    I’m just waiting for the New Madrid fault to give way, though it appears that it likes to wait 500 years before shakes, which means we’ve gotta wait another 300 years. But I’m patient. LOL

    • hawleywood40 says:

      Yeah, I have to admit, the earthquake itself was kind of neat. Since no one was hurt it was one of those amazing experiences I’m sort of happy to have in my memory bank now. But OMG – I can not imagine what an earthquake, even a little one, does to a hoarder’s house lol!

  7. Jess Witkins says:

    I’m so glad you are safe. A coworker of mine had to go to D.C. and was stuck there because of the earthquake, all the buildings had closed down checking for structural damage. I’m glad it wasn’t too intense and I will keep you in my prayers for no more turbulence ahead.

    P.S. I’m with Catie. If I ever visit Baltimore, I want in on that food.

  8. Marcia says:

    Glad you’re okay, Pam. we felt it here in central NY, too! I was cleaning up after giving my granddaughters their lunch and had to hold onto the kitchen counter while everything was swaying back and forth. At first, I thought I was terribly dizzy and called to my husband. Then my 6 yr old started crying, “Grandma, the house is moving!” My husband came downstairs, toothbrush stuck in his mouth, looking at us like we were all crazy. He hadn’t felt anything and didn’t believe me that it was an earthquake til he saw it on the news. The last earthquake here was almost 30 yrs ago, when my daughter was an infant…I thought it was cool back then!

    • hawleywood40 says:

      Wow! I think it must have been the weirdest experience of all for people who were home. Funny that your husband didn’t feel a thing! I have coworkers on the 6th floor of a building who said it was really awful there – their computers and everything else bobbling and them being afraid to go down the steps. I’m SO glad I was on ground level when it happened : ).

  9. Stacy Green says:

    Glad to hear you’re okay. It’s amazing how much of the East Coast felt the quake. I can’t imagine just sitting there and having the ground suddenly start shaking. It’s amazing how a natural disaster can mess up cell service. For all of our technological advances, we’re still at the mercy of Mother Nature.

    • hawleywood40 says:

      We sure are! Most of the time, I think of my cell phone as a leash that keeps me from going off the grid – that outage made me realize that I actually LIKE the darn thing sometimes : ).

  10. The T says:

    Gald to hear you’re safe… I was chatting with a girl from MD right when it struck and she freaked out about it and I told her we get them constantly in the islands and to remain calm…. then I remembered the first time I felt it… it wasn’t friendly…so i had to tell her it’s ok..cry all you want…then of course, she hammers me for being an insensitive bastard… yep…I deserved it… luckily many people are just fine… and of course I’m glad to hear you’re making it ok too! Can’t lose an amazing blogger like Hawley!

    T.

    • hawleywood40 says:

      Thanks T – after going through the quake and then being on the rough tropical storm conditions side of a hurricane a few days later, I feel like I DO live on the islands only without all the beautiful beaches and blue water and rum … okay, maybe with the rum : ).

  11. Aurora says:

    YIKES!!! And ditto what T. said, no not the bastard part, LOL. Just that everyone is okay. Love the way you write about things. Unique vision and great imagery for us. “Earthquake Eater” serenity. Now THAT is a phrase to bear in mind 🙂

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