The Official Singaporean Earthquake Survival Manual
Posted by intellisg on March 9, 2007
There is nothing like a good old earthquake to frazzle the nerves, huh? There I was sitting last Tuesday in the conference room somewhere in the CBD, with a few executives as we scrutinized like Talmudic scholars the details of the next quarter’s budget. Yes, the hard science of intercepting the future to create opportunities. If it sounds reminiscent of alchemy or rain dancing that’s because it is. Only it dressed up as something more serious, strategic planning. But don’t tell anyone just yet, it pays the bills. I even have a comfy cubicle with a sea view and job title that keeps me reasonably happy by pretending to be a very important know it all savant.
The earthquake wasn’t so much a jolt as it was a friendly head popping into the conference room with a quizzical look followed by, “Errh do you all feel the building swaying ah?” We looked at each other, then at the rattling windows and just before you could say, “Earthquake!” Everyone headed for the stairways, except me of course only because a two metric ton auntie was clutching on to me for dear life.
Rule number one of earthquake survival. If you want to survive an earthquake learn to seat strategically, next to people who you can push and have the decency to fall down. Petite ladies are good, midgets are even better. Otherwise you will just get bogged down.
For those who fear earthquakes, it may comfort you to know. According to the experts, the safest place is actually the doorway. What they didn’t tell you of course, (after all dying is just a minor detail.) is you have roughly an even chance of being flattened by the stampede even if you managed to survive the earthquake. One sure way of surviving a quake is by getting under something heavy, such as a desk, a bed or a fat auntie, just make sure you can hold your breathe for 5 minutes. Tremors rarely last longer than 2 minutes. And don’t forget “le poison”, not the rat pills, the Yves St Laurent parfum variety. Remember a little goes a long way to neutralize the BO.
It also helps if you happen to work in SPH. All you have to do is declare your love to one of those famous “Bo lang ai’s*.” (*hokkien dialect: for nobody wants i.e spinsters) When the ground beneath you starts to open and trust me they will gladly play the part of human bunkers and air raid shelters. Since those erudite ladies are a domineering and fierce lot (judging from their charming post to all of us!), they will definitely insist on being “on top,” thus valiantly bearing all the falling brickbats. The only problem is all of them are built like Soviet tanks, so they would probably survive to make sure you keep your end of your bargain. So remember plan B, a good escape plan: get a Bolivian passport and make friends with dodgy South American plastic surgeons with oily accents. Because there is no escaping those bloodhounds, they will hunt you down! Nothing is foolproof, just to let you know my earthquake advisory comes with considerable risk! What did you expect, it is free!
It also pays dividends if like me you happen to like burying your piggy bank in your backyard. Those skills really come in handy when the building comes tumbling down and you have to dig your way out. Remember to keep a handy excuse ready when you leave the auntie behind, “I will be back in a while,” should do the trick 60% of the time. If all fails just tell her, if you don’t leave you would need to have sex with her. Trust me she will believe you, an earthquake is an earth moving experience. After all, the whole conversation takes place in the dark in a confined space. So try to sound really commanding, find something hollow like a tube, cup, vase or put your hand over your mouth. That way your voice will come across as really authoritative and convincing like God, besides even if it doesn’t she will probably think she has gone over to the other side. You know the dark side where she’s condemned to spend the rest of her days with Darth Vader that should do the trick of spurring her to dig faster.
Cultivating strange friends in the office also helps if you want to survive an earthquake. You know the type: dooms day adherents who typically stock up on one years supply of tuna and spend all their bonus building a bunker in their backyard because they are always expecting some cataclysmic event like a meteorite, tsunami or alien invasion to bear down on Singapore. It pays to be friendly with these weirdo’s, wearing a camouflage anorak goes a long way to look the part leaving gun magazines lying around, gets one into the inner circle, the holy of the holiest. Where these post modernist doomsayers will be more than willing to share with you their kabala: 1,000 ways to make a meal out of your boots or how to turn your pet dog into a handbag or post apocalyptic lampshade. Just make sure you have a written agreement should both you get trapped, you have the right to eat him first. Otherwise you will end up in simmering in the pot. Like I said, there are cost and benefits calculations, this not a bullet proof earthquake advisory. There are real risk!
I will have you know. I am not simply an arm chair pontificator. I have the scars to prove it as well. A few years ago, my evil boss posted me to Fukuyama in Japan where I experienced the full terror of an earthquake. It wasn’t an imperceptible tremor either like the one we experienced last Tuesday. This was the real McCoy, a Richter 6 and the epicenter was less than two blocks away! There I was finishing off the last of my millennium 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle when it struck. Everything was suddenly possessed, even my teddy bear started to do a song and dance. Everything was rattling and shaking all. There wasn’t even enough time to get beneath my desk and as soon as it started it stopped, followed by an eerie silence. Did I see my life flash before me? No but I saw a naked Japanese man running out of his hotel room frantically. A flasher, but that doesn’t count, does it? Ever since then I can never seem to pronounce “Fukuyama” without mangling it, my shrink tells me it’s a form of post traumatic stress syndrome. Yes folks I am a survivor and like a Vietnam veteran such an experiences certainly leaves deep mental scars, one where I am inclined to drop the second “u” whenever I scream out, “Fuk-ya-ma!”
Yes folks, there’s nothing like a good old earthquake to rattle the sensibilities to remind one from time to time how vulnerable and insignificant we really are to the majestic forces of nature. I guess in our age of mechanical and scientific conquest, we have more of less settled quite comfortably into the idea all natural phenomena’s ranging from sending a man to the moon or staking a flag on Everest is after all quite passé and downright cliché – no doubt it still manages to provoke the regular chorus of “oh really!” or “wow! But I am sure that only because people are too kind to label me a bore.
But we all experienced those sorts of thrills haven’t we, technology makes it all possible to experience it all vicariously: a force 10 Richter earthquake while computerized sound systems and pneumatics recreate the earth shattering experience. Imax even takes us all the way to the moon and back to the mall again, without even leaving the safety of our seats.
No I am afraid man is terminally jaded, perhaps even resigned to the idea he has deciphered much of the mysteries of nature. What else can really account for his arrogance? But fortunately, nature still holds the master card, the element of surprise and when the rumble comes and the earth starts to shake, we can do nothing except remind ourselves how small we really and truly are. Now you know why I like earthquakes – they keep ones feet firmly rooted to the ground even if everything shakes and rattles.
(By Astroboy / Satire / Life / EP: 9938932 -2007 – The Brotherhood Press 2007)
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