Thursday, March 22, 2012

I know how to speak a little Spanish but that doesn't mean anyone will understand me.

Having been born and raised in Southern California, I shudder everytime I see a breaking news story about a major earthquake event.  Of course, my first concern is the location.  The majority of my husband and my familes live in the Los Angeles, Orange, and San Bernadino County areas where there always seems to be a little shakin' going on.  I'm constantly concerned for their well being.  Also, because of this phenomenon and my earliest memories of being jolted out of bed as a child - next to gang warfare, smog, traffic, and the high cost of living - I considered it a pretty good reason to move to a more stable environment, so to speak.

I have my fears.  One of which is airplane travel.  Just knowing that I'll be boarding a plane in a few weeks has already begun my panic attacks(Lovely.  Let's not dwell on this, Bri.  Place your fear securely in its appropriate box and tuck it away before you begin hyperventilating.)  My second one, well - of course, you've probably guessed is the dreaded, Oh-my-God-I think-I-just-felt-the-2.3-Earthquake-in-Mexico-City anxiety.

Everyone has irrational fears, for instance; falling, bugs, or halitosis, (oh my - I'm a walking bundle of nerves ready to go postal) the solution is how we deal with them.  My answer for tremors was to get the Hell out of Dodge City and into Denver; however, this was after I proved myself to be the biggest wimp and worst speaking Spanish student ever to have survived a major non-Earthquake in Los Angeles county history. 

When my father was alive, he was the Operations Manager of a steel foundry and manufacturing plant.  All of his children, save for my youngest brother, worked there during our summers and as young adults.  The business was located in an area where the majority of employees spoke only Spanish.  My sister Ellen, the Personnel Manager, had taken her high school language classes very seriously and therefore was able to communicate fluently with the employees. I, on the other hand, was her assistant and never quite applied myself with as much fervor to Ms. Duvall's Spanish 1 and 2 courses.  Frankly, the only reason I passed was because some goof ball sold me the teacher's manual in error.  Of this - I am not proud.  AND karma always finds a way to come back and bite me in the ass.

Like most businesses, we were mandated by law to have safety precautions in place in the event of an emergency.  With my father's company in particular, due to employees handling molten metal, it was critical to protect them immediately if there were a major earthquake.  Oftentimes, front office employees could feel the quakes much faster than the warehouse folks due to the enormous machinery they were handling. 

After the Whittier Narrows Earthquake in 1987, my quake anxiety was hyper-sensitive.  The city of Whittier was very close to my parents' home where I was living at the time.  When our house started shaking, I heard mom scream from the kitchen.  The rule was to get to the front hallway where the house frame was the strongest.  Without shoes (since this experience, even in Colorado, I always keep hard soled slippers next to my bedside), I jumped out of bed, dodged glass pictures flying down the hallway, and remember the surreal moment of looking out the back window and seeing three foot waves leaping out of the swimming pool.  Watching your mother, a sister, and younger brother cling to violently shaking walls, crying, and praying the "Our Father" does not sit well in my memory bank.

Months after this harrowing experience, my older sister needed to leave the office to run an errand.  She reminded me of the safety drills.  If there was an earthquake or fire I was to immediately get on the overhead speaker and read an evacuation notice in both Spanish and English.  No worries.  Yeaaah..right.

No sooner had she left when the building started to shake.  Oh my God!  EARTHQUAKE!!!  THE BIG ONE!  The San Andreas Fault is ready to give way and drop us into the Pacific Ocean.  Damn, and I haven't made it to Australia yet! (Maybe I could catch a wave on the Tsunami?) 

Since I didn't share an office with anyone else but Ellen and she had left me in charge, I had no time to confirm what I was feeling.  I knew what it was dammit!


I may have been cowering meekly beneath my steel, industrial green desk but my voice was calm, steady, and extremely loud on the overhead speakers.


At this point in my story, I will sadly admit that this is where karma bit my ass.   I continued reading the evacuation plan in both Spanish and English; however, my Spanish accent was so horrific (and still is) that I could hear laughter resonating off walls in the front office.  Later I was told it was so awful that I confused some of the female employees and brought them to tears.

During this lovely display of my professional ability or lack thereof, the company foreman, Dennis, whom I had a debilitating crush on since I was a little girl, stuck his head into my office door, saw me cowering meekly beneath my steel, industrial green desk, and said, "Girl, what the Hell are you doing?  That was no Earthquake.  That was a couple of 18-wheeler rigs goin' down Atlantic Blvd." 

Damn, my phobias anyway!