Having ignored the officially titled Earthquake Preparedness Month in April, I was left spectacularly unprepared when my first earthquake struck in May. I had just completed a sentence of a book I am writing that was a tad sneering of the religious fundamental types I seem to be attracting on a dating website. That's when it happened, I kid you not. The Rolling Stones and their subwoofers had arrived en masse in my apartment, shaking my walls and sending the candy lollipop in my mouth hurtling down my gullet.
The experience saw me scuttling straight away to my local hardware store, Pioneer, which, in addition to offering computer repairs, handymen, knife sharpening and sales of parrots, also sells "earthquake kits". When I went in to buy one, I was told that I could put together my own, although I was in such a state at having to have one at all, I didn't really listen to what I might need and came away with a Le Creuset casserole dish.
One friend, who has lived with the threat of earthquakes since he was a child, has been instructing me as to where I should head next time. He says it is good that I live just one floor from the top of my block, so that the other floors will not come crashing down on me, and that in an emergency I should on no account leave the building, where I will undoubtedly be hit by low-flying rooftops. My best bet, he says, is to head for the door-frame; failing that, I should take refuge under a table. I have a better idea: as he is well over six foot, how about HE stands under the door frame or goes under the table, and I take refuge under HIM? I have yet to put this idea to him.
I have become mildly obsessed with the earthquake problem and panicked again in my gym when the floor started to shake in the ladies. The receptionist explained that the trembling was a result of the various cardio-vascular machines operating on the floor above, so I just pray that I am not in the gym when the earthquake strikes and be subjected to a double whammy of terror.
It was a bit of a nerve-racking day all round at the gym. Shortly after the non-earthquake in the ladies, there was an almighty roar of an alarm that sent me reeling from the treadmill. Thinking that it must be an earthquake warning (I told you I was obsessed), I ran what seemed like miles to the nearest door frame, only to find dozens of men playing basketball in the Magic Johnson gym. The hooter was sounding for reasons I have yet to work out; but if you want to die among fit men (in both senses of the word) when the earthquake strikes, then the Magic Johnson basketball court is your place. Well, it'll be mine.
As if the hooter was not terrifying enough, a man on the step machine next to my treadmill made me think that all my earthquakes had come at once. "AAAAAAGGGHHHH NOOOOOOOOOOOO! PLEASE NOOOOOOOOOOOO! WHAT'S HAPPENING . . . !" He wasn't just sweating, he was a geyser of open pores, all of them spraying in my direction. "What is it? What is it?" I squealed, frantically looking for yet another door frame (why can you never find one when you need one?). "Baseball," he panted. "Sport. It's important."
The television screen above his machine was showing a match (at the moment it appears to be baseball, as well as earthquake season. Aren't I the lucky one), and someone on his team had apparently just done something incredibly stupid. He told me he was rooting for the Boston Stranglers (or some such ridiculous name - I could hardly hear through the downpour), and that their opponents were evil. Yeah, whatever.
On my way back to Beverly Hills in the bus ($1.25 to go just about anywhere, incredible), a man opposite smiled and said "How ya doin'?"
He told me he was on "high risk parole", and something told me he wasn't talking about the department he worked for in CSI on the telly.
"I have to get me a woman to sort myself out," he continued. Oh, no. Why me. I averted his eyes and kept them fixed on Wilshire Boulevard, actually wishing that the earth would swallow me up. If it was going to move at all, I didn't want it to be with somebody booking our honeymoon on Death Row.
Read more of Jaci Stephen's blog, LA Not So Confidential, at lanotsoconfidential.blogspot.com