This is Only a Test

We had an earthquake drill at work. It wasn’t the first one. Our office building is required by law to do them every so often, because we live in an area where an earthquake is a possibility, and they want to be sure that we rehearse crawling under our desks regularly, so we don’t forget this critical and highly specialized skill.

In the event you’ve never taken part in one (I hadn’t until a couple of years ago), the process is fairly simple. They come over the PA system, and read a script that describes what would be happening in an earthquake. You’re instructed to climb under your desk, protecting your head and neck, and stay away from windows.

Because the script was written by a government agency, it has all the charm and linguistic finesse of an airline boarding pass. It never varies from one drill to the next, and every time we hear it, it is a source of mirth and amusement. It begins by notifying you that the earthquake is starting. It describes the shaking causing items to fall, the lights flickering and the air filling with dust. You are instructed to stay away from the windows, crawl beneath your desk and wait. Once the fictitious quake ends, you’re told that you should move toward the “core” of the building, near the elevators, as this is the most stable location. (I find it interesting that six 30 story empty shafts through which the elevators travel is the most solid part of the building. I get why, but you have to admit, it’s still a little odd.) You’re told that once the quake was over, you’d be notified of further emergency procedures to follow. Then they thank you for participating, and you ostensibly climb out from under your desk and get back to work.

I think that speech was written in about 1985 and hasn’t been updated since. When they talk about the falling items, they talk about “binders.” Who uses binders anymore? I mean my kids do at school, but in my office the only binders you can find are in the supply room. It appears that at one point they held training materials (they all have various company names on them), but the training documentation has all been removed and the binders abandoned, unloved and unneeded. Seriously, binders?

The announcement about further emergency procedures seems a bit strange. I hope they have a readily accessible supply of poster board and huge markers, because that PA system is going to be completely out of commission after an earthquake. If the power’s out, the PA’s going to be out too. The only way they’re going to get information to us is by handing out post it notes, or by mental telepathy.

This was the first drill we’ve had since we hired a few new contractors. Quite frankly if we really do have an earthquake, we’re going to lose a huge percentage of our contractors, because they sit right in front of the windows. They’re pretty much doomed.

Once the drill was over, I heard one of our contractors talking to another one.

“I took notes,” she said.

Wait, sorry, what? You did what? You took…notes? On what, exactly? I can only assume she was so moved by the dramatic narrative during the drill that she wanted to record her feelings in the moment. Because seriously, what is there to take notes on about “crawl under your desk”? I’m also wondering what’s going to happen if we really do have an earthquake. How long is it going to take her to locate those notes to figure out what it is she’s supposed to do? It’s worth pointing out that this woman is the same one who spent four straight days humming, “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” under her breath.

A friend of mine was telling me about his experience in a quake that happened before I moved here. He was at work, and they heard the noise. Because they worked near a train yard, he said their first thought was the train cars were slamming together, as they apparently sometimes did. When the noise continued, everyone in the office looked around at each other, and they all promptly dived under their desks, just as the (non safety) glass in the windows above their heads began buckling. They recognized the circumstances, they remembered the correct procedure, and executed flawlessly. I’m confident in a similar position I too will be able to do as well, even if I don’t practice constantly. Call me arrogant, but I think I’m a natural.

12 comments:

Brooke Takhar said...

Sometimes (all the time) I "take notes" in meetings so I can doodle "fucccck this shiiiit" in cute curlicue script. I look "busy" and "attentive."

Something tells me that your co-worker Mary Poppins might actually need those notes though.

Cassandra said...

Glad to say that we are spared earthquake drills out here on the East Coast. I'm sure if they had them, though, I'd be a pro at diving under my desk.

Tracy said...

Rumor has it that she does appear to be a couple of aces short of a full deck. She's the type who apparently needs a note that says "In case of earthquake hide under desk."

Tracy said...

As an East coast transplant I can assure you that you'd be a pro in no time.

Sarah (est. 1975) said...

Things I write when I am "taking notes": Sarah. SARAH. Cursive Sarah. Sarah in 3D lettering. A picture of a cat, but from the back so you can see the butt and tail. About ten thousand see-through cubes. Sarah with serifs.

Tracy said...

I draw a million transparent cubes too. Sometimes I write my first name with different movie star's last names--Tracy Pitt, Tracy Clooney, Tracy DiCaprio.

samaraspeaks said...

That picture of the kite and the caption under it is genius.

You're hilarious! I'm glad I found my way to your blog!

Tracy said...

Thank you! I found you too (thank you Linda Roy), and need to do some binge reading, but I think we have lots of things in common (I have an 11 year old boy too, plus a serious lack of tolerance for shit like obsessive crafting and Stepford mommies). I'll be over to say hi soon!

p.s. I comment as qwertygirl--it doesn't totally fit with Orange and Silver, but I created the two independently of one another.

Michelle said...

HAHAH...I work with a woman who ALWAYS TAKES NOTES.

I can probably count on two hands the times my notes have ever been referred to...in 30 years of working.

Tracy said...

She's one of those types anyway. You know in school she reminded the teachers when they forgot to give homework.

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