Cell-ebrate being part of the big quake of 2011

August 24, 2011

So that was an earthquake, huh? I’d never experienced one before, so as the Washington Nationals relief pitcher Tyler Clippard said, scratch that one off the bucket list.

I was in my home office penning a marvelous piece of prose for Sunday and had just gotten up for a soda when the mobile home rocked on its blocks, or whatever it is that it’s resting on.

Being unfamiliar with quakes, I didn’t understand what had just happened, and as such, the event didn’t process. I would have ignored it, except that Beth had it pegged for an earthquake right away.
I looked back at my book shelf, and noticed that a blue cardboard box that once contained an authentic Royal Doulton Bacchus character jug (long story) was vibrating. Beth said that this odd phenomenon confirmed earthquake status. I was still dubious.

We live near a quarry, and truth be told, an earthquake isn’t much different than when one of the blasters over there gets a little too happy with the ammonium nitrate.

It was only later that I learned it was indeed a quake, and it had basically shut down everything this side of the Ohio River.

The reaction was so East Coast, baby boomer typical — no one gets greater returns of trouble on a more trivial investment of circumstance than us.

Really, a gargoyle falls off the National Cathedral and everyone heads for the hills. Or for their electronic devices, as the case may be. That’s us, man, self-centered to a fault. Sensible people run for a desk or a door frame; we run for our cellphones. Gotta tell everyone how this earthquake affected ME.

So, of course, all the bandwidth got sopped up like Kool-Aid in a Bounty and the whole network went down, which was apparently a crisis far greater than the earthquake itself. No lie, I saw one panicked woman screaming into a TV camera, “I got no signal! No signal at all!” like she’d just lost her own mother under the rubble, or something.

You wonder what the people of Japan thought of the insanity, although there were some indications of over-reaction remorse later in the evening.

Somehow we needed to justify the fact that we’d gone out of our collective gourd because a few jars of mustard got shaken off the grocery store shelves. So they hauled in the scientists to explain how East Coast earthquakes are somehow more dangerous than West Coast earthquakes because the East has bigger plates, or something.

Near as I could tell, it was along the lines of the heat index. Yes, the West has bigger earthquakes, but it’s a dry earthquake. Here, you factor in the humidity and a 5.8 earthquake feels like 7.2.

It is weird, though, the pattern of how natural disasters happen when the president is on vacation. Katrina. The Great Quake of ’11. (By the way, I would like to congratulate those members of Congress who boldly took time out of their monthlong August recess to criticize the president for spending a few days on the beach. Keep your eye on him, dudes, we’re all counting on you.)

Judging from the on-camera reaction of other public officials who were being randomly taped when the earthquake hit, it’s probably best the president wasn’t around.

I loved the guy from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or wherever it was, who was doing a video spot on Hurricane Irene: “...yes, and we’re fully  in control and doing everything we can to ensure the safety of our citizens through the orderly — RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!!!!”

Now that was worth making a cellphone call for.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 6997, or via email at Tune in to the Rowland Rant at, on or on Antietam Cable’s WCL-TV Channel 30 at 6:30 p.m. New episodes are released every Wednesday.

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