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  • Writer's pictureCourtney Heard

Atheist Life Hacks: How To Respond To An Earthquake Prediction

I like to think of myself as an intelligent woman, but Godless Mom was not always this way. I was once a stupid teenager and I, admittedly, fell for some shit from time to time.

I grew up on the West Coast of Canada, where earthquakes happened and were often talked about. For as long as I can remember, the threat of the “Big One” loomed unpredictably over us, thieving sleep and infiltrating dreams. In school, we had earthquake drills and were taught earthquake preparedness over and over. We had evacuation plans and escape routes, we had preparedness kits and checklists, there were cans of beans and bottles of water shoved in the darkest corners of every classroom, and I swear those canned fuckers would whisper, “did you feel that?” from time to time to keep us on our toes.

No kid in Southwest BC grew up without some fear of the Cascadia Fault. None of us reached adulthood without the ghost tremors now and again. The paranoia ran deep and where there is paranoia, there is always some profiteering motherfucker waiting to prey on it.

Chuck Norris Earthquake

Oh Chuck, you give me tremors.

Every month or so, one of these fear mongers would lie his way to the news and foretell that a large seismic event was imminent, sending shockwaves of terror throughout the city. Bottled water and spam would disappear off the shelves at Safeway and suddenly every Lower Mainlander had become critically aware of every last sliver in their doorways.

When I was around 13, on a Friday night over a feast of Domino’s pepperoni pizza, my Dad flipped from my Muchmusic countdown to the news. I was none too pleased, and held a small, teenaged protest as I grumbled my way through a pie slice. I hated the news, I hated it when my parents watched the news and I would always leave the room when they did. There were never any cute boys on the fucking news, who the fuck needed it?

On this evening, however, I stuck around because pizza. I was 13. Pizza was my tertiary interest after cute boys and music videos.

I stared blankly at a brief story about the Middle East, then there was something about a lost dog in Port Alberni, and then finally, as I was taking my last few bites of grease casserole, a “scientist” was consulted about our ever-threatening fault line, and he assured us all that the Big One was going to hit tomorrow, for sure, beyond any doubt.

Inner panic. I stopped mid-chew and waited for my family to fucking meltdown. They didn’t. I didn’t understand why they weren’t reacting. Throwing down my crust, I shrieked,

“What’s wrong with you people? Didn’t you hear what he just said?”

My 8-year-old brother looked at me, curiously and said no.

“The Big One is happening tomorrow! And you’re all just sitting there! What’s the matter with you?”

“The Big One? You mean the earthquake?” My little brother was starting to look concerned.

“Yes! The earthquake!”

He began to cry, “What are we going to do, Mom? We have to go get bottled water.” He continued to list off things we would need through sobs.

Like any good Mom, mine tried to calm my brother and I down while my very atheist and skeptic Dad repeatedly called the man on TV a “horseshit monger” a “sadistic fuck” and a “total fucking quack”.

We were not having it, however. We were sure that if we didn’t get prepared now and stay home from school the next day, we would all meet our deaths disappearing down some deep chasm as a sacrificial offering to Juan De Fuca.

My Mom piled us into the car to go grab some bottled water. We decided that my brother’s bedroom was the safest place because it had a couple of doorways and a large desk to hide under. We stacked our water bottles and cans of beans and corn into the closet and under the desk and went over our plan all while my Dad sat near us, playing Super Mario Bros. on original Nintendo and grumbling, “horseshit,” and “that lying sack of shit.”

My brother and I didn’t sleep a whole lot that night, and we rose groggy and scared. As the predicted time of the earthquake drew near, we all headed to my brother’s room except for my Dad, who continued to swear his way through saving the princess.

“But, Dad, you won’t be safe here.”

“Horseshit. There’s not going to be an earthquake.” He boomed over the incessant ding of Mario collecting coins.

“Dad, we don’t want you to get hurt! Please!”

“That lying sack of shit. What a fucking motherfucker. There’s not going to be an earthquake!”

“But Dad!”

We finally gave up, unable to get my Dad to believe there was going to be an earthquake (pretty sure my own skepticism began watching him that day). We all got into our safe spots in my brother’s room and waited.

Now, a few weeks earlier, we’d been watching an episode of Baywatch. Why, you ask? Be-fucking-cause. The episode we’d watched was about an earthquake. In the episode, a dog had spontaneously started to whine a few seconds before the earthquake began and my Mom explained to us that dogs could sense those things before they happened.

Back to the day of the predicted Big One, our dog, a floppy-eared, clumsy little Basset Hound, was with us in my brother’s room because he was family, too. We’d found the perfect place for pup to hide and be safe (hopefully) from the quake. He was curled up in his safe place, and things got so quiet that all we could hear was the Nintendo downstairs. Then suddenly, our doggy woke up and started whining and pacing the room.

Terror shot into all of us. This was it, the dog was fucking proof. My brother started to cry first, and that got me going. We were blubbering “I love yous” through sobs and bracing for the tremors.

And we waited.

Mario Bros.

Go, Mario!

We heard Dad pass a level.

More waiting. Fists clenched, eyes squeezed shut.

Dog began barking at a poster of Trevor Linden.

More waiting.

“I told you it was fucking horseshit!” finally broke the silence from downstairs.

It kind of hit us at that moment, that Dad was right. We started to giggle. Then we started to laugh. And we never fucking listened to another earthquake prediction again.

So, now that I’ve shared with you my most idiotic moment, I want to know what shit you’ve fallen for in your life! Let me know in comments!

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