Select Page

When I was a child, and a dogged reader of Highlights magazine (or maybe it was World, the mini National Geographic), there were occasional articles on “decorating your earthquake shoes” or some such. The idea was for the kids living near the San Andreas fault to have a way to feel comfortable and happy and secure about the fact that their tectonic plate might suddenly give a shakea-shakea and bounce them right out of bed. They’d have some special tennies just for the occasion with googly eyes and whatnot, to slap on their feet and run to the nearest archway or doorway to protect themselves from the pending building collapse. How reassuring!

I grew up in New York, and although there is occasional slight seismic activity, there was one (barely) notable tremor throughout my entire childhood, and I slept through it. My first memorable earthquake happened in Portland, Oregon, and it was a teeny tremor. The second was on the coast in Ecuador not far from Jipijapa, which I mostly mention because it’s really fun to say. (cheepy-chapa, where the chs are that hebrew/yiddish/german/spanish sound you may or may not be able to say).

So that was one and two. I remember where I was, who I was with, what we talked about. But things get a little fuzzier after number three, which I felt in my bed in Providencia (a neighborhood in Santiago) within a couple of weeks of having moved here. Numbers four through about fifty have blended together in my mind, pretty much. Chile is seismically active, and we just kind of go about our days assuming that the earth won’t try to shake us off (with credit to the now-defunct Hummingfish for that catchy tune).

Sometimes I’m sitting in my apartment and I wonder if I’ve felt a tremor. Some of them are so quick that you’re just not entirely sure they’ve happened. So what I do, to know if I’m having some kind of episode, or if the building is really shaking, is go over to the satellite kitchen, where I have some mugs hanging from a baker’s rack. And if they’re swaying, or clanking, then I know that in fact, Santiago’s doing a little shimmy.

So… what’s your earthquake barometer?