Shakin' All Over, East Coast Style
A Shake, Rattle & Rollcall
"If it bleeds, it leads," goes the time-tested axiom about news headlines, to which I would add, "If it quakes, it also rates." Yesterday's 5.8-scale earthquake at approximately 1:51 p.m. was a shock, to be sure, but mainly because we just don't expect these sort of things to happen on the East Coast.
When I felt the tremors and saw the Enoch Pratt Central Library's walls shake, I was sure it had something to do with all the downtown infrastructure construction going on (especially on torn-up Franklin Street), thinking maybe workers had hit a gasline that exploded. Only later, upon closer inspection, would I learn the full impact of the quake on the library - several videos were knocked off their vertical axis and fell to the horizontal plain (as shown below)!
"Roots" was uprooted by the quake!
Up in Towson, my girlfriend Amy freaked out, thinking she was gonna die.
"I'm freaking out here!!!"
As at the Enoch Pratt Central Library, her building was evacuated and no one was allowed back in until inspectors could survey the building for structural damage. (Poor Amy had left her apartment and car keys inside, so it was a traumatic day for her, to say the least; she tried calling me, but it seems everybody was on their cell phones, resulting in connection problems for most people. See "Cell Phones Useless During East Coast Quake.")
Unable to reach my girlfriend, I called to see how my dad was holding up at Blakehurst retirement home in Towson. My dad reported that when he noticed his coveted silver service set start rattling and moving about, he immediately called housekeeping - he thought mice had gotten into the apartment and were using his silver service as a habit trail!
Pratt Library sent everybody home and as I drove home, heading north on Howard Street, I encountered a wild, reckless force of nature infinitely more dangerous and unpredictable than any earthquake: dirt-bike kids.
Unsafe at any speed
These are feral urban "wild childs" like something out of Lord of the Flies or a post-Apocalyptic sci-fi novel...they remind me of Sierra Leone's "Child Warriors" in that they obey no laws (traffic or societal) and have no respect for the lives of others. They basically took over Howard Street around the light rail stop near Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., two cycles side-swiping my car while others weaved recklessly between cars and lanes, racing through red lights and causing both pedestrians and vehicles to stop in their tracks. Wearing expensive, gaudy Polo shirts, some riders (many looked like they were between 10 and 12 years old) popped wheelies, while others defiantly shook their fists in the air at (terrified) motorists. These gangs (with names like The 12 O'clock Boyz, Wheelie Boyz, B-More Outlawz) make Marlon Brando's "Black Motorcycle Club" gang look like well-respected pillars of the local community. What they rebelling against? Whaddya got? I hereby pledge my support to any Baltimore City mayoral candidate who introduces "Dirt Bike: Shoot on Sight" legislation. (OK, I'm being facetious here.)
Before I arrived home, I made a pit stop at the Roland Park Video Americain store, half-expecting to see manager Scott Wallace Brown reshelving scattered DVD and video cases. But instead, a non-plussed Scott (who's no stranger to 'quakes, having lived in Alaska for many years) said he barely noticed the earthquake. When I asked him what impact the 5.8 quake had on his stock, Scott said, "Oh, maybe four DVD boxes fell off the shelf. So you could rate this earthquake as a four-boxer." OK, a new video store scale (5.8 quake = 4-boxer damage). Scott commented that former Video Americain co-owner Michael Bradley had already called to see what effect the quake had on the store's stock. Ah, you can take the Video Americainers out of Video Americain, but you can't take Video Americain out of their hearts!
And speaking of videos, some people were quick to capitalize on the day's events, with Evil Angel rushing out the new DVD title Earthquake Booty 3:
An Inconvenient Truth: For the record, no scientific evidence links yesterday's earthquake with any surge in big booty activity.