I work on the thirty-eighth of forty five floors, and sometimes the floor shakes.
This is the reality of working in a high rise office building. There is not always a reason for it. There seems to be a certain square of carpet positioned half the office away from me that, when walked over with vigor, causes my chair to shake.
I’ve never quite discerned which square of carpet it is, but yesterday a little bit before 2pm I was ready to find it because clearly someone with a little bit of heft to them was jumping up and down right on top of it.
I stood up from my chair.
I kept shaking.
Plan B. Maybe I was having a white-out? I used to have them in high school when my diet consisted entirely of allergy pills and Altoids. The world begins to go white around the edges and you have the sensation you are shaking and try to correct it, but really you weren’t shaking in the first place, except the shaking correction turns into you anti-shaking.
It’s all very confusing. Except, yesterday I didn’t feel confused. Well, I was confused about the shaking, but it didn’t seem to be originating from my person. And I wasn’t seeing white.
Also, I had just eaten a really big lunch.
It was at this juncture that I picked up my phone and tweeted:
Um, did Philly just have an earthquake? Our building is shaking.
Here my cultivation theory kicked in. If life is like the movies, we’ve all seen the disaster movies – we all know what not to do.
I checked to make sure my enceinte cube neighbor was okay, picked up all of my things (people are always going back for their cell phone or laptop), and walked to the doorway to the fire tower stairway, where I continued tweeting. After all, one wall of my cube is solid reinforced glass windows. Not where you want to be in the event of an earthquake or alien attack.
I just watched Skyline. I know what’s up.
Camped out by the stairs it took one swipe through my Twitter stream to see the shaking was not localized to Philly. I noticed mentions from Syracuse and Arlington.
We all know the story from there.
There is a beauty in shared experiences on the internet. And, while a pretty big percentage of people might see a certain television show or comment on a political revolution a world away, nothing tops direct, personal experience with natural phenomenon. Twitter was abuzz for Snopocalypse and it’s been abuzz during our summer deluge of rain.
For an earthquake felt by the entire disaster-deprived northeastern seaboard, it was electrified.
I felt only slightly reassured once tweets identified the source and magnitude of the earthquake was in Virginia. What about aftershocks? Or, what if it was just a pre-tremor tremble presaging the big one?
Also, there was still the alien angle to consider.
Plus, I still had that pregnant co-worker. If this really go down like a real disaster movie my chances of survival as a gawky meta-aware white guy were ever lower with her in the cast.
I have seen 2012.
With our expectant friend safely making her way home our office belatedly made an announcement about our relative safety and encouraged us to do the same.
Everyone in the building ran for the elevators. It was practically an aftershock. Because you totally want to be packed into elevators with 3,000 of your closest friends right after an earthquake. That sounds awesome.
I proceded back to the fire stairs and walked down them. All thirty-eight flights. I emerged from the lobby just ahead of my co-workers who took the elevators.
Then I walked twenty-five blocks. Sure, I could have jumped right on the El near my building. But I thought of people. People on the El are incredible stupid and rude on any day of the week. In the aftermath of an earthquake with the entire city dismissed from work all at once?
I have seen War of the Worlds. I know how that turns out.
I had no interest in being underground with other human beings. I walked to 46th street and waited in beautiful sunlight for the El to carry me home.