I wondered where the boom was today when my big stone government building swayed and danced. The building’s hips moved to a beat…but I didn’t hear the band. I assumed “You Will Hear The Explosion” would be the title for a future miniseries, on TLC or Lifetime, about the terrorist attack of 2011. Probably be called 8-11 or some shit like that.
I thought there was a man-made source to the swaying, but alas it was just Mother Nature saying hello with a 5.8 earthquake. Mineral, Virginia, is now a known place. This is supposedly the first earthquake in the region since 1897…so with my shoes off…that means this is the first one in 113 years (somebody check my math). In retrospect, this was a weak way to announce “who’s your daddy!”
My professional career is based on 9-11 (thankfully it isn’t based on my blog writing abilities). So the serious side of me assumed it was a bomb. The other 95% of me found my reaction, the reaction of coworkers, and DC’s reaction highly entertaining.
So after having my “victim of a terrorist bombing” hopes dashed, I realized it was an earthquake. My coworkers and I stood in our office doorways staring at each other with an almost surreal (more on surreal later in this post) look on our faces. All I remembering saying was “let’s get out of the fucking building”…or some other inappropriate comment unfit for a professional workplace. The walk down the stairs wasn’t as panic-stricken as expected. Everyone moved in an orderly manner…matter of fact the Capitol Police were pissed at our lollygagging. At the exit, one actually yelled “move people!” “Move people” is not the phrase I expected. I expected them to tell people to calmly leave the building…but no…this person of authority (police during an evacuation are an authority) was actually telling me (and all the other peoples) to “move!” This utterance was the moment I knew this was going to be some funny shit. I wasn’t wrong.
Here is what I learned from 8-11:
1. Gaggling IS the appropriate response to an evacuation following a real event. If it had been a fire alarm exercise people would have faded off to Pennsylvania Avenue (SE) for a coffee and donuts, or heading home to take a nap…I live too far away to get a quick nap…damn!. No one strolled away, people gaggled because they honestly didn’t know what the hell was going on. This is what one would call a “goat rodeo.” Gaggling, or herd mentality, really does kick in when you don’t know what the hell is going on. In Apocalypse Now, Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) asked an unnamed solder at Dulong bridge “hey soldier, who’s in charge here?” The soldier replies “ain’t you?!” Today, I had my own Dulong bridge experience. We gaggled with bureaucratic efficiency. We gaggled so effectively that I was physically pushed into the sun by a group of older ladies who weren’t going to let me enjoy the shade more than them. Note to self: in case of summertime evacuation…take ball cap with you. Also, keep an eye out for Charlie on the wire!
2. The machines are decades away from enslaving us. If cell phones can’t get a signal after a small earthquake on the eastern seaboard, there is no way these machines, or their cousins (automated bank teller machines and computerized parking meters), are going to beat us into submission. This was their moment! We were helpless. Huddled (gaggled) masses were awaiting their technological overlords. Senor iPhone (in my mind, my machine overlord is named “Senor iPhone”) didn’t have the balls or ability to become dominant. The Terminator turned into the Textinator…the best Senor Textinator could do was send my text messages at a snail’s pace. A true technological sentient entity, who had some learning from the National War College (shout out to my fellow Warriors!), would have recognized this strategic opportunity. Nope…the best thing these machines did was to allow me to only post the two following Facebook statements: “eartquake” (yes I misspelled it…give me a break) and “Holy shit.” I lost my ability to FB my nearly, sort of, death experience immediately afterwards for a few hours.
3. “Eartquake” and “Holy shit” should not be your (potentially) last words to the world. “Shawn was a dumbass” would have been how I was remembered. I always thought I would have been funnier! (My memorial service should be one where people tell funny stories about me…not an event where everyone shakes their heads at my stupidity) My coworkers would have remembered me as the guy who told them to “get the fuck out of the building.” At least I didn’t run…matter of fact I didn’t see anyone run. Proudly, I can say I didn’t wet my britches either. However, I let the world know that we were having some sort of event that seemed similar to an “earthquake” and I thought fecal matter could be of a religious nature. I am a dumbass.
4. I never realized so many Germans visit DC in August. Every other tourist I saw wandering the streets aimlessly (obviously the Smithsonian kicks people out of buildings during an “eartquake”) was speaking Deutsch. Who knew that Hanzel und Gretyl enjoyed the swampy confines of our nation’s capital in the summertime? Well, they needed bread crumbs today. Every other street around the Capitol, Library of Congress, and the Supreme Court was blocked, by the police, to foot and vehicular traffic. No one was getting an easy route to their destination.
5. Looting cost me $8.89. This is the price for one liter of water and a can of Skoal (straight/long cut…no nasty ass flavors for me) in DC. Not only did I forget my ball cap for my balding head, but I forgot my can of dip on my desk! The machines may not be my master yet…but nicotine sure is the lord of my existence. Note to self: throw away official emergency pack (yes…I have one of these issued to me) and make a more appropriate emergency pack. Bourbon, Skoal, water, and Oreos are far more realistic.
6. Living in the suburbs sucks. I got to walk 3 miles home; didn’t have to rely on Metro or a car. Plus, walking home allowed me to think about this blog post and enjoy the Bratwurst eating tourists. In an emergency you can’t trust your car or the automated trains (see our machine overlords couldn’t even get their railroad act together!). I did offer a coworker my sofa…he chose the trains instead. Note to self: never be a good Samaritan, all it gets you is an uncomfortable silence from a coworker.
7. You can always get ice cream. Right there on Massachusetts Avenue, shimmering gloriously in the afternoon sun was a baby poop green ice cream truck! The driver was a REAL AMERICAN because he analyzed the situation and decided to sell ice cream to Germans instead of getting into the parking lot of DC streets. He knew that his time was better spent making money than worrying with getting home. This true entrepreneur, this Warren Buffett of ice cream, was representin’!
Overall, I learned an important lesson today. In case of emergency: get a fudge bar, stand back, and watch your world go crazy…there is some funny shit out there.
Now about surreal. Surreal is defined as something being fantastic or unbelievable. I used the word “surreal” early in this post. I was mistaken. Today’s events and reactions (even my own) were not fantastic or unbelievable. To be surreal the earthquake needed to be an alien invasion, or at least frogs falling from the sky. I didn’t react in a fantastic or unbelievable manner. If you’re reading this blog…then you know me. Nothing I have recounted of my actions says unbelievable. More than anything it reinforces your opinions of me. So for the record, I should do a better job editing my writing. Obviously, that won’t happen because I am haphazard in my written communication…like FBing “eartquake’ and “Holy shit.”