When I said that I was going to be earning my Master's degree in California, the first reaction I got from most people was "Oh, but does California not experience many earthquakes?" In India, for some reason, people used to be quite familiar with news from California rather than from any other part of the US and the 1989 earthquake had still not faded from public consciousness. I said, "Er - yes. But apparently everything else is great about the place".
When I landed in Davis, I was not very surprised to see instructions on what to do in case of an earthquake in almost all rooms in my university. After all, sitting as California is, on a number of faults, it was not at all that outlandish a precautionary measure.
All my six years here so far have passed by quite unremarkably in terms of the number of earthquakes experienced. Ironically, in the meantime, the supposedly super-safe (earthquake-wise) Chennai from where I had left for California experienced a devastating tsunami! There were a few minor earthquakes in California in-between - but nothing big enough to even be noticed by imperturbable (or more accurately, thick-skinned) me.
And then, last week Tuesday evening, I was at my fitness class. After putting us through a gruelling set of moves, the instructor had finally (hallelujah) wound up and we were stretching on the floor. All of us were flat of our backs when I suddenly heard a loud rumbling sound. Almost simultaneously, the building started shaking pretty strongly.
For about two seconds I thought someone had turned on generator or some such thing. Then it struck me that no generator could cause a building to shake so much. And then it hit me - earthquake!!! Us being California residents, this conclusion was arrived at rather fast by all and we sprang to our feet yelling "Earthquake!"
By then, the shaking had stopped and all of us looked at each other, taking stock. One of the women said that any aftershock would have occured immediately and since we were not feeling any more vibrations, we were good at that point and the earthquake was done.
My fitness instructor, however, was still quite shaken (pun unintended) and she wondered what would be a safe place to be in. The lady who had come up with the theory about aftershocks said that standing under door frames was considered "safe". We all looked at the two small door frames and the fifteen or so of us. Then we shook our heads, laughing and just decided to head out of class.
What was my reaction you ask? Oh, I was so super-duper thrilled and excited :-D. A real earthquake! One in which I felt every second. Was it cool or what! Of course, the fact that no damage had occured in the immediate area contributed greatly to my hyper-positive frame of mind :-)!
But the weirdest reaction award should go the lady who started to put away her fitness equipment as soon as she sprang to her feet. While the rest of us stood discussing safety steps, this lady was calmly replacing her weights, mat, step and raisers!!!
The only out of ordinary event which occurred after that was my cell phone network being down for 15 minutes or so. And then being jammed with the busy signal for another 10 minutes or so. And of course, all the excitement among the bay area residents - we are still talking about it!
The earthquake did not make it to too many headlines outside of the Bay Area though the magnitude was 5.6 on the Ritcher scale. Which was good in way 'coz I got tell this story all over again to each non-bay-area person I talked to ;-)!
After all the initial euphoria however, too much news/facts reading has brought back my self-preservation instincts. And I am now planning to invest in a earthquake survival kit. Hopefully, I will never need to use it. Really, last week's earthquake is about all the excitement I am willing to take!