Nothing ruins a bran muffin like news of impending doom. In the first place, the only reason you choose a bran muffin is because you’re trying to ward off disaster (heart failure, constipation, obesity etc.), so they should have served us donuts at Earthquake Preparedness 101. Eating a donut is a brave move: each circle of fried dough is its own natural disaster. If I had been eating a sprinkle donut, I would have felt daring, bold and ready to entertain the dozens of apocalyptic situations that Dave, our very own retired fireman, was about to describe.
As I had a bran muffin in front of me, I felt like a neurotic pussy. I felt critical of the whole event, a defensive reaction to my sudden vulnerability. First of all, I was the youngest person in that room. I rolled in with my homeless-chic-look and a chip on my shoulder. Who were these squares taking everything so seriously?
I should explain that high-rise office buildings are required to train their tenants in disaster preparedness. Otherwise they would face costly law suits. Usually some poor receptionist is elected the position of “floor warden.” By attending this meeting I was essentially announcing, “I’m a new hire!” I think it’s ironic that the lowest man on the totem pole always gets chosen to be the office savior. In all other things, we’re taught to turn to our CEOs. Why do we trust an administrative assistant with our lives? Is it because she’s our office mother figure? I digress.
So I was sitting in this sterile, cold conference room nibbling on my bran muffin when Dave, our disaster teacher, started his power point presentation with a declaration, “We will 99.9% have a high magnitude earthquake within the next thirty years.” I started taking notes. I needed to spread the word, save those lovely people who gave me a job and appointed me floor warden. Floor wardens even get their own flourescent orange vests. Suddenly I felt overwhelmed and honored.
Dave was a pro. You could tell by his memorized jokes about duck and cover, but he took his job very seriously. “I have attached my glasses to the headboard of my bed. If an earthquake happens in the middle of the night, I’ll be able to see.” Will he also be able to see in the dark? Dave must also have night-vision goggles.
This man entertains death and destruction twenty-four seven. I thought that was the definition of depression, but strangely, the people around me didn’t seem to recognize Dave’s disorder. To the contrary, they chipped in with other tips for the apocalypse.
Dave was explaining how we should store money in our cars because, “They won’t be taking credit cards after the big one.” A woman raised her hand and explained that we should keep small bills because during the Northridge earthquake, the people selling water didn’t give change.
Dave agreed heartily with this woman, who I noticed was daringly eating a chocolate, chocolate muffin. If an earthquake happens while you’re in your car, you can expect to walk home and encounter exploitative street vendors. Why wasn’t Dave teaching us how to be the people selling the water? Maybe this was the unspoken lesson of the class–buy water in bulk at Costco and wait to strike it rich. But more importantly, after a huge earthquake, the last thing I’ll be worried about is my change.
Anyway, when you’re walking home from your stranded car, you’re going to want a pair of comfortable walking shoes, especially “for all you ladies out there.” I imagined putting a pair of jogging shoes in my car, and it seemed like a huge embossed invitation to the earthquake Gods. It seemed comparable to putting cookies and milk out for Santa. Dave also wanted us to keep survival kits attached to our bed frames, so we could easily reach them, along with our prescription glasses, if disaster strikes during the night.
This suggestion revealed that Dave’s been married for a long time. There’s nothing sexy about a bag of granola and band aids swinging above your head. Dave also wanted us to prepare for disaster in each of the places we spend the most time. What are the emergency plans at In-N-Out and Goodwill? Would Goodwill already have a kit that could accommodate me? Would it be second-hand? I’m sure In-N-Out prepares for the apocalypse. After all, they are owned by born-again Christians.
I went back to the office determined to affect change, without being an annoying floor warden. I would rule with a gentle touch. I sent out a panicked email, summarizing the lessons I’d learned in the meeting (remain indoors and don’t stand in doorways because the door may slam on your fingers). No one responded to my email.
I was also determined to attend the Disaster Fair on Friday and purchase an emergency kit for my house. When Friday came around, I completely forgot about the fair. To this day I don’t have an emergency kit, but at least now I feel guilty about my lack of preparedness. Previously I felt defiant and haughty. I thought nothing could touch me because I eat bran muffins.