Still Got It
First things first – I’m okay, family is okay, mostly everyone I know is fine.
(In case you don’t watch the news, or are reading this post in the archives, I’m referring to the 8.8 magnitude earthquake that struck off the northern coast of Japan yesterday afternoon.)
Kansai is quite far from the earthquake epicenter, so for us the quake wasn’t nearly as bad. I work on the 16th floor of a building in Osaka, so whatever was felt on the ground was probably magnified quite a bit by the time it got to us – there was some swaying and rolling that got stronger and persisted for 2-3 minutes (which in earthquake time, is freakin’ forever…), but nothing fell over or anything like that.
The interesting thing about Kyoto/Osaka is that unless a natural disaster strikes us specifically (such as the Hanshin Earthquake), we’re usually fine. The biggest example is the typhoons – during typhoon season a few will usually hit Japan. The initial reports will have a typhoon pretty much bowl through all of Japan. However, at some point it will either just veer away from Kansai, or hop/skip/jump over us. Leaving us with a bit or rain and wind while other areas get slammed. For some, this is a point of contention, as if the tsunami’s actually did hit, we would get days off work and school.
So my wife is sitting here watching news coverage, and on one station I see entire rows of houses swept away in the tsunami. On another, raging fires. On another, towns buried in mud and deluge. So, I understand why people are worried. Watching this makes me worried too. But as I look outside my window, it’s life as usual. Nothing is destroyed, on fire, or being swept away. The old folks are playing cricket on the school grounds. Kids are tossing a ball back and forth in the street. Just the right amount of cars are on the road for the time of day. The trains are all running on schedule. Tomorrow, I’m going to go out and film some stuff for a TV show. Everything is business as usual here. It’s a bit surreal to know that a few hundred kilometers up, it’s a much different story. But I guess that’s just part of life. My thoughts and prayers go out to any and everyone affected by the earthquake. Meanwhile, I’m relieved that I and my family are safe and unaffected.
Yesterday the quake hit as most of us were toiling away at work. I felt the shaking, looked at the guy next to me, and he instantly voiced what I was thinking – “Isn’t this an earthquake?” The floor rolled around quite a bit, especially unnerving since we’re on the 16th floor. Not that I’m usually afraid of heights, but when the ground underneath you isn’t exactly terra firma, being 16 floors up doesn’t really help matters much.
After the swaying and rolling stopped, people gathered around one of the TV’s to watch the news. An announcement came over the com system – there was just an earthquake (you think?), but the building is fine, please go back to work. Most people continued to watch the TV coverage of what had just happened. The foreigners on our floor – some mid-west and east coast Americans, as well as Europeans were visibly shaken by the whole experience. As an Earthquake Veteran, I went back to work. I was in both the Loma Prieta quake in 1989 and the 1994 Northridge earthquake. I actually mostly slept through the Northridge one. I remember mom waking me up and telling me we were in an earthquake. I asked her how strong…she estimated 6 or 7. I remember saying “wake me if we hit 8” and trying to go back to sleep. …You have to understand that I’m not really a morning person.
Anyway, around 4PM or so I was kind of hungry, so I went down to the nearby 7-11 to grab a snack. As I entered there was a kid, a young boy maybe around 3 or 4 years old, playing in the aisles. He took a quick look at me, and then immediately ran back to his mother, crying while saying “scary, scary!” Unfortunately for me, this is by no means a rare occurance, so I’m actually used to it. I tried to smile and look as non-threatening as possible, but the poor kid was terrified out of his wits until his mother carried him out of the store and apparently to his safety. While paying for my goods, I had to take a moment and process what had just happened – the kid had just experienced, albeit mildly, one of the largest recorded earthquakes in human history. And yet somehow, I was the scariest thing that had happened to him all day. So either – on his priority scale, large black man outranks the Earth itself rolling around under his feet, or he was too young to comprehend the idea of an earthquake but could still process big black man = OMG he’s going to eat me!
I’m not even mad or angry at the situation (I wish the mother had taken a moment to explain that there’s no reason to be scared of a person simply because they’re different, but meh whatever), I just had to take a moment and find the humor in it. Nice to know that some things haven’t changed at least.