Earthquake struck about 10 minutes ago. My building shook momentously, an enormous cement-stiffened meringue. Without blinking I jumped up like a wild-eyed terrier and made my orderly exit, legs spinning in Warner Bros cartoon propeller fashion. Unlike Charlton Heston or some other jut-jawed leading man in an ascot walking languidly through falling plate glass, I found myself instantaneously at the other end of my office’s largish cubicle village before I even realized I’d wet my pants. The quake felt and sounded like the building was going to come down. The floor was swaying. There was rumbling. “Zeus or whomever! Stop this! Please?” As I lurched to the office exit on my pitiable sore foot I clearly saw myself buried in taxpayer-subidized University of California rubble, two statuesque palms sloping upward from the wreckage like a beautiful woman’s arms reaching for that famous California sunshine. The Golden State! Don’t flee the quake too recklessly, though, or you’ll sprint straight into the nearby forest fire. This is not a joke. Our bipolar Shangri-La occasionally and without warning morphs into a Dino De Laurentiis B-movie. Oh, we love it.
I charged panting through the double doors and into the building’s main hallway. Our unflappable building maintenance guy was standing there and turned on his heel, a grinning celebrant, his cell phone raised like a daiquiri. “Heeeey! We shakin’!” Epicenter said to be 5k from campus, out in the Santa Barbara channel. Too close to shore to cause tsunami trouble but close enough to cause a middle-aged coward with thinning hair to waddle hurriedly for the exit like a panicked upright manatee. I was for once grateful I work in an enormous windowless bunker of grooved concrete. My heart is still aflutter as I type this. Note to self: in rewrite excise mentions of incontinence and Fay Wray-like screaming.