Last week I was in California for the first round of the USAC Honda Generation Next series. California is known for many things; beautiful weather, the Pacific Ocean, and earthquakes. I had never been in (is that the terminology) an earthquake although I do remember a time, perhaps it was 1989, that someone predicted that Indianapolis was going to have an Earth shattering (okay, I know that isn't the correct terminology) earthquake so my dad and mom had everyone play outside that day. (Anyone remember this prediction?) That was my only run-in with an earthquake, up until last Friday.
Practice day at the track had concluded so we went to Claim Jumper (oddly, the same place this memorable story of social manners took place in 2011) to have dinner. It was a great feeling being back in racing mode and at dinner we were talking about all things racing but a little before we ordered there was an odd event. At first it felt as if someone were shaking the table so no one thought anything of it but it persisted and I said, "I think this is an earthquake!"
I quickly looked to my left were a couple of locals were looking to the ceiling with just a hint of concern which was a stark contrast to my face because I figured I was about to die and I looked to my right were all of us Midwesterners had a look of concern. Beyond our table there were more looks of minor concern and on the ceiling the chandelier had an obvious sway to it.
The quaking was brief, maybe five seconds, but it seemed longer. Some people that didn't feel it later asked, "What did it feel like?" and I have two answers; either it felt like someone was shaking the table or it felt like a steamroller was driving right outside the building causing the room to shake.
Afterwards the conversation at our table had just one topic and that was earthquakes. "Had you ever been in one?" and, "Aren't we in the Midwest on a major fault?" which the answer is yes as The New Madrid fault is supposed to be huge if it ever goes again (it unleashed a big one in either 1811 or 1812.) Also talked about was how one could live under the constant threat of an earthquake. The one we experienced was only a 5.2 and we were 55 miles from the epicenter which meant this was, in terms of earthquakes, nothing. I don't know if I could handle the constant threat of "the big one" which our waitress mentioned that she couldn't stand the storms of the Midwest. But there's a difference here; an earthquake is sudden and without warning whereas a storm has a predictability to it. Never has a tornado formed out of no where within a few seconds and just went BOOM! A tornado comes from a severe thunderstorm which can be tracked via many different mediums and live updates can be viewed on television and when a tornado warning is issued sirens go off (like this morning in Saint Louis, story tomorrow) but there's still warning. An earthquake? Instant.
The rest of the stay in California I was awaiting the next jolt, but it never came. There were many aftershocks but none strong enough to make it to San Bernadino, thank goodness, but I was constantly aware. On the local news that evening of the 5.2 the news anchors were talking about having an earthquake plan and where to go in a building which, being in the Midwest, I knew nothing about so I wanted them to tell me what to do but they never did which furthered my hopes that no more quakes would occur.
Next time I go to California this will be on my mind for sure hoping that all earthquakes will stay away. However, as mentioned, I don't know if Saint Louis is any safer, or less stress inducing, as today is a day of storms and that story tomorrow.