1 down, 1 to go

An earthquake! We had a real earthquake last night that went BOOM! and made the building rock back and forth just like a boat on rough water. Buildings aren’t supposed to do that, y’know, which is I guess why my brain sort of short-circuited and went south for a little while, leaving me feeling a little punch-drunk, like I needed help falling down just then. I had to bend my knees and ride the floor like a surf board just to stay upright. It was a 6.5, centered underground south of here a ways. No damage that I heard of; B says one or two things fell down at home, and the food in the freezer shifted so that the door swung open in the middle of the night and everything in there thawed. Calamity!

And there was snow on the ground when I woke up in the afternoon. (I was sleeping off a mid.) Not a lot, sort of a pitiful amount, really, but snow on the ground nevertheless, which you really should have by December if you’re going to brag about it, which they do here all the time. The 1st Sergeant asked me, “Have you heard how bad the winters are here?” I said yes. “Well, it’s not true. They’re much, much worse.” I’ve heard that last year they got two feet of snow before Thanksgiving and they never got rid of it until spring. I’ve heard a lot of things, but this winter is pretty disappointing so far, to nobody more so than Tim, who has big plans for igloos and snow forts and tunnel systems that reach from here over the north pole to Canada. He waits by the front door every day with shovel in hand.

B’s a holiday helper at the base’s post office, which makes me a teensy bit apprehensive. The other day I was in line at the counter to mail a package. One of the counter workers stepped out and, through the open door, we could all clearly see two people in the back putting on those bright blue moon suits that biowarfare reaction teams wear when they have to go clean up anthrax or nuclear spills. Everybody in the lobby sucked air through their teeth before they realized it was an exercise.

[11/23/14: The earthquake hit while I was at work. I was walking across the operations floor when I heard the BOOM! Everybody stopped what they were doing and looked around at one another. The building seemed to jump into the air; maybe it actually did, or maybe that was just something I associated with the sound. Then it started to slide back and forth; that’s something it actually did. I learned later that the foundations of earthquake-resistant buildings are standing on cement pilings that are driven deep into the ground, and there’s a thick layer of rubber between the foundations and the pilings. The energy of the earthquake is gently transmitted to the building through the rubber pads, “gently” being a relative term in this case. Then the energy is slowly dissipated as the building rocks back and forth. It’s a big building, so it rocks for a long time, maybe five or ten minutes. It’s a very sickening feeling to stand on what had been the rock-solid floor of a building that is now swinging and swaying. Your brain doesn’t want to accept that that’s possible.

I’d been working a mid, hence the reference to sleeping it off. I think mid watches ended at six in the morning. I usually went straight to bed when I got home and slept for as long as I could, usually until about an hour before or after lunch time.

I wasn’t exaggerating about the mild winter. We got hardly any snow the first year we were in Misawa; again, “hardly any” is a relative term here. We got enough that I would have to shovel, but everybody kept bragging about how we were going to get buried in snow. I didn’t believe them until the next winter, when we got buried. In fact, every winter after that first winter, we got buried in snow. The first one was a freak, apparently.

Speaking of getting buried, every December the post office put out a call for volunteers to help keep up with the huge volume of Christmas packages that were shipped to the base from the States. My Darling B volunteered for several years, but that first year, remember, was the crazy year when nutjobs were mailing envelopes filled with anthrax to various people in the government. We never got any at Misawa that I know of, but people were still pretty nervous about it, me no less than anyone else.]

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