Growing up in New York, I really had no clue about earthquakes. News from California would roll in – the San Andreas fault, highways collapsing, prognostications about how long it might be before the entire state fell off the continent and sank into the Pacific Ocean – and I would think that I was pretty lucky to live in an earthquake-free city. In the aftermath of really big earthquakes around the world, someone would always go on TV and explain how Manhattan actually does get earthquakes and that we’re “overdue” for one and then would talk about how an earthquake in NYC would be an unmitigated disaster because nothing on Manhattan is built to withstand earthquakes.
But of course I never actually felt one. Since I’ve been in Georgia, there have been at least two noticeable earthquakes here and, ironically, one in Virginia that could be felt all the way up in NYC. I have felt none of these. I simply failed to notice the two earthquakes that have hit Tbilisi since I’ve been here, and of course I wasn’t in NYC when that one hit. I find this highly disappointing.
All the disaster movies and news reports and stories from friends and relatives who have lived in California led me to believe that an earthquake would be exciting, with plaster flaking off the walls, dishes breaking, and people huddling in doorframes or under desks or getting thrown from their feet in a series of comically overacted pratfalls, with William Shatner lurching one way and the rest of the bridge crew lurching the other.
Not so much. By all accounts, this morning’s earthquake in Tbilisi was about a 5.6 or 5.7, and I barely felt it. Not so much as a single ceramic item shattered on the floor. Our books remained sedate atop their shelves. I didn’t even realize what was happening until my gf called it and jumped out of bed to seek the safety of the kitchen.
Now, I don’t know if this is a Georgian thing or what, but apparently my gf has been told, by various people, that the safest place to be in our apartment during an earthquake is the kitchen. That seems totally counterintuitive to me, given that the kitchen contains the most potential projectiles of any room in the house, not to mention a gas line. In any case, I stayed in bed. The bed sort of shook a little. I probably wouldn’t have realized that it was an earthquake if someone hadn’t told me. I would have just accepted the fact that the apartment was shaking without giving it another thought.
After my first earthquake in Georgia, my roommate came home and asked if I had felt the earthquake. He seemed astonished when I replied that I had not. “Didn’t you feel the apartment shaking?”, he asked. Maybe. I just wouldn’t have noticed. I am used to apartments shaking. My apartment in Queens shook when someone walked down the hall. My apartment in Brooklyn shook when a truck passed on the highway behind the house. My house in Gldani shook when the wind blew. I’m just desensitized to vibrations.
So I guess I still have no clue about earthquakes.