One Day More (blogisode two)

How many points is an entire Boston Cream pie?  Probably about 3 points, right?

How many points is an entire Boston Cream pie? Probably about 3 points, right?

Happy Friday!  Just think, Thanksgiving is right around the corner!  I’m not nearly as excited about that as I seem, nothing personal to my mother-in-law or her cooking, but I started Weight Watcher’s a few weeks ago (remember my post about my symphony dresses?) and I’ve been doing great.  I’m all in the zone and stuff, counting points on my iPhone, zooming down the scale (I’ve lost 10 pounds!) and then WHAM, Thanksgiving.  The all-you-can-eat weekend.  It’s not that I can’t make it through the weekend–I don’t think I’ll splurge and suddenly have to enter 2,563 points on my daily tracker (the limit is 29)–it’s more that I am already dreading being that girl.  The one who eats salad and some turkey at Thanksgiving and ruins everyone’s fun when I turn down pie (I hate pie, actually….unless it’s Boston Cream Pie, as I talked about in Don’t F*&$ With the Pancreas, which (remember) is not pie, it’s cake with pudding in the middle.  Skip the pumpkin and apple pie and hook me up with a Boston Cream Pie pudding cake, and I’d be in trouble.  19,437 points for sure with no regret.)

Tinkerbell lives on top of that tall tower (you can't see her, she's at the mall).

Tinkerbell lives on top of that tall tower in New York (you can't see her, she's at the mall).

WAKE UP!  I just started talking about diets and you all fell asleep.  So sorry.  Do you want to hear something cute?  We can see the top tower of The Cloisters Museum from our living room windows, and on top of the tallest tower is a red light.  Beatrix  likes to look for “Tinkerbell” (the light) which only comes on after four pm.  When she asked where Tinkerbell was the rest of the day, I told her she was at the mall.  I don’t know why the mall.  I was in a hurry.  End of story.

I’ll give that story a c+.

Okay, to save it, I’ll tell you the second (and sweet) part of the story is that Meema (remember her?–my groovy world trotting grandmother) had a water tower near her apartment (Mount Washington water tower for you Cincinnati folk), and it has a light on the top we’ve called “Tinkerbell” since I was a kid. Clever Meema would never say Tinkerbell went to the mall, she would have thought up something more fairy-appropriate like, “She’s making hats out of acorns.”

Tinkerbelle lives at the top of this tower in Cincinnati (you can't see her, she making acorn hats)

Tinkerbelle lives at the top of this tower in Cincinnati (you can't see her, she's making acorn hats)

Okay!  Let’s buckle down and get back to 1994.  Go here if you still need to read blogisode one.  We left off with me disappointed that I didn’t have an engagement ring, days away from getting my first stamp in my passport, and on the floor of my high rise hotel room in Pasadena, having just been thrown to the floor by what we now know was the Northridge earthquake.

Seriously, in my entire time on the planet I have probably spent a grand total of 60 days in California, and I somehow managed to draw the short straw that put me in LA the day of the Northridge earthquake.  Imagine being alseep and from Ohio, and being thrown from the bed by an earthquake.  I (and I am not kidding) had no idea what was going on.  And it was long!  I think they way that earthquake went was that it started out with a big BANG and then shook for about 45 seconds.  Everyone stop and shake for 45 seconds.  It’s a long time!  It was a 6.9 on the whatever scale,  which I think is pretty hefty, and sent me into a total panic.  Here’s a weird thing about tall towers in earthquake zones.  They are built to roll.  Literally.  They roll.  So here I am up on the top floor, rolling along and having no idea what to do.  So, I did what anyone would do, I turned on the television because I think I just needed to know that I wasn’t losing my mind and this was probably normal and not a big deal.  It’s LA, right?  They are used to earthquakes.

The instant the TV comes on (and mind you, the building was still shaking), I saw a shot of an empty news desk and a woman crying and screaming “Someone please help, the LA area is undergoing a massive earthquake and I am under the news desk.”  and the TV went to static.

Oh

my

god.

I was going to die.

And with that, the shaking stopped as quickly as it started.

I ran to the window and looked out, and could see some broken glass on the street, but other than that, nothing.  I

Couldn't they just post this to the door?  Or anywhere?

Couldn't they just post this to the door? Or anywhere?

stood in the middle of the room, paralyzed.  I mean, what do you do?  I went through safety procedures in my head.  In a fire?  Stop, drop and roll.  In a tornado?  Go see the Wizard, fall asleep on your bed and wake up in Oz.  In a thunderstorm?  Stay in the car or stop ironing near a window if at home.  In an earthquake?  No frigging clue.  Do they come back?  Does it happen once or in waves?  And with that there was a small after shock.  They come in waves. I searched the hotel room for instructions.  There was a fire evacuation guide and a bible, but no earthquake how-to.

I picked up the phone and called the front desk.  This is what happened:

A nervous sounding voice:  “Hello, Pasadena Hilton.”

Me, trying to sound calm. “Hi, uh,  I’m wondering, that was an earthquake, right?

Her:  Yes, Ma’am.

Me: Okay, well, uh, what do you DO in an earthquake?

Her:  Meaning????

Me:  What is the safety procedure?  Do I stay in my room?  Do I go outside?  Do I take the elevator?

Her:  I’m sorry, but due to insurance regulations, I am not allowed to give you any advice.

Pause.

Me:  WHAT?

Her: I am not allowed to give you any advice.

Me:  Listen, I am from OHIO.  I have NO IDEA what to do.  You have to help me.

Her:  I can’t.  I’m sorry.

Me:  You’ve got to be kidding me.  (Slamming the phone…..dial tone)

Google 2011 gives me great images like this to tell me all my earthquake instinct in 1994 were terrible.

Google 2011 gives me great images like this to tell me all my earthquake instinct in 1994 were terrible.

I looked out the window and saw a crowd starting to form outside.  I decided to go for it, and made my way to the stairs, thinking the elevator was probably a dumb idea, although the building did have power.  Down, down, down I went, praying the earth wouldn’t start to shake and toss me down the stairwell like a rag doll.  Let me say that what is so terrifying about an earthquake, is that there is absolutely no warning.  It just throws you out of bed.  At least a hurricane, a tornado, a lightning storm, a typhoon, a monsoon, a wild fire–all these things can be predicted or seen coming.  An earthquake just happens.  And then the aftershocks just happen.  Again and again.

By the time I got to the street, most of my Les Miz company had gathered, along with other hotel guests, all of us in some kind of nightclothes.  We swapped stories (in that way that actors can) and there were some funny ones, including detailed stories of being on the toilet when it hit, of fearing that the compressed air for the scuba diving trip–which was in the closet–might explode, and a personal favorite–two people having, uh, let’s just say “night time relations”–when the mirrored closet door fell on them.  After a while a police car came by and basically called us all idiots for standing on the street (“It’s the LAST place you should be”) because of gas leaks and falling glass, so we all went in to the lobby and started calling loved ones.  I feel compelled to remind you at this point in the story that it was 1994, so there were no cell phones, or smart phones, or iPhones, or pagers, or computers, or Internet.

We had:

1)  CNN, which was running live pictures of massive destruction and fires all around LA, including collapsed

Images from CNN

Images from CNN

highways–one of which I’d been driving on hours before.

2)  Payphones

3)  Calling Cards

4)  Complimentary orange juice, served by the front desk staff, who can’t give out advice, but is authorized to dish out free orange juice in an emergency.

You can imagine the lines for the pay phone.  No one wanted to go up to their rooms, we were all much too traumatized to leave each other, so we stood in line and made or one quick phone call (like in prison).

As you remember, Rob was in the air on the way to Detroit, so I couldn’t reach him.  So, I called my parent’s house, figuring it was about 8am Eastern Standard Time, and they were probably a complete wreck waiting to hear from me.  I dialed, and my father answered the phone.  Hearing his voice, I burst into tears and the first words out of my mouth were, “Dad!  I’m okay!”

The first words out of his mouth were:

(To read the next blogisode in this series, go here)


 

 

About Sharon Wheatley

Mother of Charlotte and Beatrix. Sometimes an actress. Sometimes a writer. I'm glad you're here.
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5 Responses to One Day More (blogisode two)

  1. Jennifer says:

    I remember this night! I thought the building was toppling over but it was actually on rollers. And then, do you remember Cameron would not cancel the show? I was playing Eponine, hiding behind the barricade while Javert was singing "STARS." We kept having aftershocks. I looked up and all of the lights and electrical equipment were swinging above my head. I thought for sure I was a goner.

  2. L.S. says:

    Just started reading your blogisodes! I have a personal interest in this one: I lived through the Northridge Earthquake, too. January 17th, 1994. 4:31 am. I was 9 years old and the experience scarred me for life. Native Californian though I am, earthquakes still scare the bejeebers out of me.

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