Last night sitting at the computer working on a personal writing project, I gradually became aware of a queasy feeling in my stomach. It was around 8 in the evening, long past supper. The queasy feeling grew worse and then it was gone. But the chain of my banker’s lamp mysteriously swung gently from side to side even though I wasn’t bumping the desk or typing heavily enough (as sometimes happens) to make things on the tabletop tremble. Then in my periphery vision I noticed that the dining room chandelier was also moving back and forth.
I became scared. That’s when it occurred to me that maybe it was an earthquake. Which would explain the queasiness, since I am prone to motion sickness. However, when I went out into the hallway, everything seemed normal – sounds of my neighbours hosting their usual Saturday night get-together; various televisions on different stations; the two people in the other end apartment down the hall from me having a conversation. I returned to my apartment thinking maybe I had imagined the entire thing, even the queasy feeling.
Curiosity got the better of me. At 10 p.m. I tuned into CBC News and sure enough it had not just been a hallucinatory experience. A 7.7 earthquake had hit Haida Gwaii (situated off the northwest coast of British Columbia about 720 km north of Vancouver), and people all along the Pacific coast including Vancouver were feeling the effects.
It also occurred to me that even though I have lived in Vancouver for 15 years now and with all the talk on the news of earthquake preparedness, I wasn’t. In those seconds of watching the gently swaying chandelier, I realized I did not have a clue as to what to do in an earthquake. Walking out into the hallway to see if the neighbours had felt what I had felt probably was not part of a well-thought-out earthquake survival plan. Googling emergency preparedness as we speak…