you know you live in a cool town when…

… your local post office has informational pamphlets entitled: “How to Survive a Tsunami.”

Yep, there’s nothing quite like the inherent risk of living on the edge of the land to get the blood pumping.

I don’t know if those pamphlets were there prior to the March 11, 2011 9.0 earthquake in Japan that led to a rush of tsunami warnings for the Pacific Coast, but it’s good that they’re there now. I’d like to be better prepared for the next potentially life threatening tsunami to hit my cozy adopted hometown.

Last go around, I was awakened around 3 in the morning by an answering machine message from my sister, who was already up in Virginia watching the morning news. She sputtered something like: “There was a big earthquake in Japan, and now there’s a tsunami warning for the entire west coast. You need to get to higher ground!”

Of course, being a laid back Californian, I promptly fell back to sleep.

Later that morning, I headed off to work just shy of 6 a.m. While there, emergency crews patrolled my neighborhood issuing megaphone warnings to evacuate to a designated higher elevation location in town, and an emergency message line called homes to leave prerecorded messages stating the same. I missed those warnings. And where I was working in a nearby town we were already on high ground, so we received no warning there.

I heard about all the hoopla from the neighbors after I got off work at noon. I checked the internet for vital news and evacuation instructions. News clips and weather service warnings made it sound so urgent. Get to higher ground, you ninnies. But the neighbors were all heading down to the wall (a cement embankment separating the beach from the main row of shops in town). They wanted to check out the waves.

And I, quite curious as well, went along somewhat trepidatiously and somewhat thrilled.

The following video gives you an idea of the general consensus of the locals who didn’t head to higher ground.

In the end, almost everyone’s vibe was, “What was all the fuss about?”

The news media and weather warnings seemed rather overblown, and I felt like the lone skeptic who wanted to head for the hills. Because you never know. There might be a rogue wave any minute, and then who’ll be laughing?

We weren’t exactly cavalier about the catastrophic event that caused the National Weather Service tsunami warning here in California last year. It felt more like prayerful gratitude. The images of the devastation in Japan we saw on the news reminded us how precious life is, and how impossible it may be to ever be truly prepared for such a catastrophe.

Facing our own mortality, and the realization that we’re all just tiny specks bumbling about on an imperfect sphere, sometimes it’s best to just laugh at ourselves — be joyful in the moment — rather than take life too seriously.


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