I Feel Eric Move under My Feet

As the above headline so boldly proclaims, this week’s topic is, indeed, EARTHQUAKE SAFETY.

People who concern themselves primarily with weather (called “meteorologists,” or, sometimes, “dorks”) have informed those of us who are either interested or who have to write a column on the subject because they have been receiving threatening phone calls from their editors telling them to quit messing around because The Readers are getting sick of picking up the paper faithfully each and every week expecting to see earthquake safety but instead seeing some lunatic subject like “Presidents’ Day,” and — Oh, shoot. I seem to have gotten off track. I’ll have to start that one over.

All right, let’s try it again. Meteorologists have informed us that unlike other natural disasters (fires, hurricanes, Jimmy Carter, etc.), which are usually found during one particular time of the year, earthquakes are permitted in their contracts to strike wherever and whenever they please, thus earning them the distinction of being Nature’s Most Obnoxious Disaster.

It’s a good idea, then, to be prepared for “The Big One,” which, according to “seismologists” (Greek, meaning “people who study seismos”) will absolutely, positively occur sometime between now and a zillion years from next Thursday. With a major catastrophe looming in the near future like that, you should make sure you have plenty of food, or anything else relatively edible, in your house. This will be important if, after an earthquake, the Domino’s Pizza cars can’t get through.

Also, be sure to have a video camera on hand. What good is a natural disaster unless you can get some good shots of people falling down and/or being hit in personal areas by steel girders from nearby collapsing buildings? Who knows — maybe you’ll even get to meet Bob Saget!

Okay. Now that you’re fully prepared, we may as well have an earthquake. When one hits, you MUST:

1. Run around and scream as though your vital organs were being violently removed. This is important, as it makes the news footage look good.

2. Drive your car into what’s left of the lake. Nothing is more boring than an earthquake where no one is hurt and no damage is done. I take that back. “Charles in Charge” is more boring.

If you get the urge to protect yourself, try holding household pets over your head. Almost anything will do, but large dogs work the best. Yappy little dogs with names such as “Fifi” and “Boofy” are pretty much worthless, but I guess that goes without saying.

When the shaking stops, you are required BY LAW to say, “Wow. Was that an earthquake?” Everyone must then pretend that you are not an idiot for asking such a stupid question and reply, “I think so.” Of course, it will be obvious that an earthquake has occurred because any old people who may be present will be laying on the floor, mumbling incoherently to their dead spouses. But you must ask the question anyway.

The next step, once you’ve established that everything at your house is okay, is to turn on the TV to make sure that some damage WAS done somewhere, because, as I mentioned earlier, an earthquake without damages is like a rap concert without stabbing victims.

If the quake was a major one, perhaps you’ll be fortunate enough to see some “expert” opinions on television. I remember how after the San Francisco earthquake, before official results became available, the reporters spent a good half hour asking World Series fans — the same World Series fans who had compensated for the “One-Beer-at-a-Time” rule by getting good and drunk before they got to the stadium — how big THEY thought the quake was on the Sphinctor Scale.

I’m sorry. Richter Scale.

Anyway, so there were all these intoxicated baseball fans attempting to sound like they knew what they were talking about (or, at the very least, to sound coherent). One man placed the quake at five, another at eight, and yet another at 12. This last man was most drunk, and, I think, most amusing.

One interesting fact about earthquakes is that animals can predict them.

No, wait. That’s not interesting. Come to think of it, NONE of this is interesting. I don’t even know why I wrote it.

Ugh. You'd think a column I'd hinted at and promoted for a month would have been funnier, but this is what I wound up with. It's violent, lame, and obvious. Even worse, it's not funny. I don't like this column.

When it was printed, the reference to stabbings at rap concerts was removed (heaven forfend we should mention something that actually happens all the time in real life). Also, the line about videotaping things falling on people was changed to say "falling on YOU." The logic here was apparently that videotaping OTHER people getting hurt is cruel, while if its yourself you're videotaping, that's fine. I guess I can see the logic there, but I thought the line was fine the way it was.

Laneta Meeker, who was the Lake Elsinore News's copy editor at the time, was a big fan of my column. She said that this one seemed forced and strained, though, like I was getting burnt-out and struggling too hard to be funny. She suggested I take a few weeks off. A few weeks later, I took her up on that. (See column #33 for the details.)