“What are all those people doing out in the street?” asked Julia. “Uuh, I don’t know, but that has to be one of the most impressive groups of rubberneckers I have ever seen in my life” I commented as we wandered down the well-worn streets of Georgetown on Penang Island, Malaysia. Dozens ambled up and down the sidewalk, even more in the street, all staring down the road like a flaming car had just crashed into a fireworks store Naked Gun style. Before I decided to wade into the crowd and tell them “there’s nothing to see here” like Lt. Frank Drebin, I decided to ask an shirtless older gentleman gawker just what the heck was going on. During our brief but confusing English-Malay conversation, the only thing I could make out in his response was the word “shaking” and an accompanying hand motion. There were obviously only two possibilities. Either he was a proud member of the Eddie Money fan club like my friend Tim from college or something was literally shaking. Either way, we didn’t think much of it and continued home to our air-conditioned igloo. Yeah, so it turns out there had actually been an earthquake.
|obliviously admiring my iced coffee|
Early information seemed to indicate that the risk was minimal, but as it is with these situations conflicting information was flying back and forth on the internet fast and furiously. Alleged breaking news saying everything from "a twin tsunami of the catastrophic 2004 wave was certain to hit Penang at 10 PM sharp" to "all is safe, go fly a kite on the beach" came across my laptop screen. Through the news maelstrom, I stayed calm with one thought above all others bobbing in a thought bubble above my head: please God don’t let my Mom hear about this earthquake! All this craziness was occurring in the middle of the night in America, so there was a fighting chance she wouldn't find out. But then the emails came in from my Dad and my sister, and I had to respond . I managed to massage the facts and downplay the doomsday news that they were hearing as much as I could to ensure by time the news got eventually back to my Mom, the potential tsunami heading my way was no more than a two inch wave in a kiddie pool.
|proceed as planned Penang|
Luckily a few hours and one jarring aftershock later, the virtual all clear was called. I chalked it up to one more travel right of passage passed and practice at putting on a calm face in the event something "crazy" ever really happens out here. Now I know very well that the odds of slipping on a roller skate at the top of the stairs or choking on a chicken wing at home is still a much more likely cause of my demise than a natural disaster abroad, but it can't hurt to be prepared, just in case, right? Oh, and if you are reading this Mom, please disregard that whole thing about the aftershock being jarring, it was no big deal, and the more I think about it was more of a gentle rocking back-and-forth.
"Shakin'" by Eddie Money
Album: No Control