Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Human beings tend to get cozy in our monotonous daily routines. We begin to feel a certain amount of control over our destinies and a rising level of confidence that each day will be just like yesterday, unless we decide to make it different. As we grow comfortable in this delusional state of complacency, it never fails that eventually, some major event will occur to remind us we are both mortal and at the mercy of much larger forces in the universe.

This week, our cosmic reminder took the form of a rare earthquake rattling the U.S.A.’s eastern coast. Now, being a California resident for more than thirty years, I understand that earthquakes are scary episodes—especially the first experience of one. But the panicked reactions depicted in photos from Washington D.C. to New York almost crossed the line from drama into comedy. I mean, really, people. It was an earthquake, not the Second Coming. And just think, it only measured 5.8 in severity. Pace yourselves. As anyone living in Japan can tell you, things can get much worse.

Who would have thought it, but this might be time for East Coasters to look into some basic earthquake preparedness drills. Running outdoors, where falling debris might be hurtling in your direction, is not the best course of action. And standing next to a damaged high-rise building, staring up at broken glass windows, is a definite no-no.

Yesterday’s earthquake serves as a stark reminder that we are not in control. Nature is vastly powerful, and we are often at its mercy. No matter how calm and uneventful our lives may seem, it’s best to be prepared for a disaster, be it natural or manmade. We have no idea what tomorrow will bring—or the rest of today, for that matter. As any Californian can confirm, it’s a good idea to have a few extra gallons of drinking water, some canned soup, and a couple jars of peanut butter in the house at all times. Don’t let your prescriptions run too low. Keep batteries in the flashlights. Stash a change of clothes and a pair of track shoes in the trunk of your car.

Do all this for peace of mind, if nothing else. Then, the next time life shocks you—as eventually, it will—at least you’ll be semi-prepared.