Shake, Rattle & Roll

Crooked Letters, Straight Lines - Jottings from the other side of the pond


I decided to re-vamp the company web site and start adding pages to our blog. But I never thought that I would be writing about earthquakes and tsunamis. For those of you outside of Japan, you probably switched on your tv or fired up your computer and was surprised to find that a major disaster had hit Japan, mainly in the Tohoku area. 


What was I doing on March 11th at 2:46 p.m. when the earthquake struck off the coast of Japan near the Tohoku region? I was napping in my office chair. Usually around 3 p.m. or so, I begin to get sleepy and I take a nap in my office chair. It wasn’t anything out of the ordinary that day.


I slapped on my headphones and put on some meditation music to lull me to sleep and propped my feet up on my desk and leaned back in my office chair. I don’t remember how long I had been dozing when I said to myself, “Man, this music is great! I feel as if I’m in a gently rocking row boat on a warm spring day.” 


Suddenly, something hit me on the back of my head and I suddenly sat up. I realized that I was slowly being shook in my office chair. 


There was a low rumbling sound in the background while the windows rattled. “Oh, another earthquake!,” I thought. Nothing to make me get out of my chair.


However, the shaking continued to get bigger and longer. I stood up in my chair and began to hold onto the three monitors that sat on my desktop. As they skittered across my desk, I glanced over my left shoulder, I saw that my laptop was slowly creeping to the edge of my other desk. 


Since I was using my hands to hold my monitors still, I raised my left foot and started to hold it against the sliding laptop. Instantly, I realized the stupidity of my actions. “Eric, which is more important? Your computers or your life?”


I waited till the shaking stopped when I dashed to my filing cabinet, grabbled my “get-away bag” and ran downstairs. In the foyer, I put on my jacket and hat and opened the door when another shake started. 


I looked across my driveway and saw that my neighbor was having trouble opening her front gate with her grandson over one shoulder and the family dog over the other shoulder. 


I ran over. “Nakamura-san, Let me help you with the gate.” We then both ran to the middle of the street where we met the elderly occupants of the community center for the elderly  standing near the front door.


Next to the center was our neighborhood park where about 30 mothers clutched their small children and babies while squatting on the ground. I thought to myself, “I think this is no ordinary earthquake.”


Soon, the ground began to shake beneath our feet. I looked down at my feet and saw the asphalt literally undulate beneath me. Both Nakamura-san and I looked at each other with our mouths wide open in shock.


My mind was reeling from this strange sensation of the rolling earth beneath my feet. I heard voices starting in front of me starting to panic. I looked up and the three elderly people were standing by glass sliding door holding on to it. 


I rushed over and told them to get away from the door and come with me to the park. I helped them walk over the very short distance and left them their with mothers and kids who by this time crying.


I went to get Nakamura-san when the shaking began again. I felt like I was surfing on water. Luckily this former hobby of mine came in handy. I told her we should wait it out in the park.


We went to the park where by this time, the number of people had grown to about 100 or so. Many of the newcomers were from the surrounding homes. They didn’t want to find out if their new homes would withstand the shocks and not fall down. (In Japan, the houses and buildings are pretty safe because of good construction designed to withstand earthquake tremors.)


After about 30 minutes, I decide to return to my home to check if there were any damages both inside and outside. I first checked around the house for fallen objects or cracked walls or foundation. I couldn’t find anything and went inside.


On the first floor of our house, I couldn’t find anything serious except for some stuff that had fallen to the floor. The gas and electricity still worked. However, on the second floor, it was a different story.


In my home office, stuff had fallen off my two desks/table. Fortunately, none of the monitors or laptop were found on the floor. In the tv room, books had fallen from the shelves. The incense bowl and family photos where we offer prayers to the deceased had fallen on the floor and had made a big mess. Our bedroom seemed not to have been affected though some clothes had fallen off their hangers.


I was happy to see that we really haven’t suffered any serious damage. I quickly opened my browser to find any news on the earthquake. Little did I know that I was going to learn how dramatically my life had changed.