“This Is Your 2 AM Shake-Up Call”

(NOTE: This morning we had a mini-earthquake here in LA. I thought this was a good opportunity to post a story I wrote a few months ago after a bigger earthquake we had in the middle of the night.)


I was in the middle of my recurring dream, the one where Hitler takes my bicycle and won’t give it back. I was up to the part where I punch him in the face so hard that his mustache comes off on my knuckles. That’s when I was unexpectedly awakened by a god-awful rumbling and my wife yelling “Earthquake, Earthquake!”

I hadn’t heard her that upset since Halloween when she wanted to go to a party as Lady Godiva but couldn’t find the right costume. I sat up and said, “What’s the matter?” now realizing that question was superfluous since the bed, the room, and the house were shaking like a wet dog drying itself off.

“Don’t you feel that?” she said. (Normally, when I’m in bed with my wife, I’m the one trying to make the Earth move, not the other way around.)

Was this THE BIG ONE?  My cat-like reflexes sprang into action.  I immediately coughed up a fur ball and curled up in an open dresser drawer until the shaking stopped.

When it did, I grabbed my phone. At times like this, I’d typically go on Twitter, but I had deleted the app after Elon Musk brazenly tweeted that he could “Name That Tune” before they even played any musical notes. The man has no shame.

I scrolled to the LA Times. No quake news yet. Just headlines about a recent mass shooting at an NRA Convention and editorials about why there need to be more of those.

My wife clicked the TV to the news channel where we saw the “Hysterical Hilda Malone,” our local earthquake expert who claims that every LA quake is THE BIG ONE. She often gives her seismology report from under a table wearing a hardhat and clutching a makeshift tombstone.

This time, she was calmly standing in a doorway saying that it was the safest place to be in an earthquake. Eventually, I realized that the doorway was actually attached to her shoulders, and it moved with her around the studio.  

Hysterical Hilda said the quake happened at 2:03 am and was 4.2 magnitude on the Richter Scale. No damage has been reported, although she casually mentioned that a quake that size was strong enough to tumble down the walls of Jericho, if the walls had been built by an unlicensed contractor without permits or rebar.  

To me, 4.2 is a good number for a college grade point average but rather “meh” for a California earthquake. It’s basically the equivalent of getting a hearty handshake from Jason Momoa. I’ve been through worse.

Like the one in 1996, which hit Grauman’s Chinese theater in Hollywood during the premier of “The English Patient” and woke everyone up.

And the one in 2003 that caused tiny fissures in the Sepulveda Dam and giant cracks in Cher’s face work.

As I lay in bed riding out aftershocks like waves in Malibu, I googled the name “Richter” to see why he was Mr. Earthquake. Interesting side note: he was a naturist and he and his wife frequented nudist camps (true). I imagined him being at one such camp when an earthquake hit and him running around giddily measuring all the jiggling body parts with calipers.

Continuing to doom scroll, I stumbled upon something that noted psychotherapist Jung N.D. Restless once said: “Earthquakes are caused by faults in the earth. But everyone has faults and we shouldn’t blame Earth for having them too because it could give Earth an inferiority complex and lower its self-esteem.”

He said, “It’s bad enough that all the other planets are named after Roman gods while Earth is named after something you stick dead bodies in and get under your fingernails.”

Jung insisted Earth would feel better about itself and have fewer natural disasters if we simply gave it a trophy that said “World’s Best Planet.”

Before I fell back asleep, my wife said that we needed to have our Earthquake Preparedness Kit ready. I assured her we did and grabbed it from under the bed. It contained our wills, the phone number of the Neptune Society, and two cyanide capsules. What more do we need when THE BIG ONE finally hits?

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2 thoughts on ““This Is Your 2 AM Shake-Up Call””

  1. Here in northern Indiana a 4.0 would take my whole town down. But on the other hand, California doesn’t see a lot of tornadoes–and until recently the snowstorms there didn’t seem too bad.

    1. We’re fortunate when it comes to tornadoes although CA does get a few. We’re plagued more by fires which to me are worse than earthquakes

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