Tuesday, April 17, 2012

This is Only a Test

Sometime last week employees of the COB got handouts telling us about an upcoming earthquake drill and how to respond to it. There were pictures with urgent labels telling us to Drop! Cover! Hold On! and pictures of a friendly stick-mail office worker getting under a desk and gripping it for dear life. Monday we were told in a staff meeting that the drill would be today, Tuesday, at 10:15, and that we all had to participate. The members of the Emergency Response Team would be coming around to see that we were all under our desks and holding on before giving the all clear. One of the older men asked if there would also be someone coming around to get him out from under his desk. Ha Ha, oh wait… I think that was a serious question.

This morning everyone was abuzz about the 10:15 drill, “What if I’m on the phone?!” “Do I really want the computer over my head?” I actually started thinking through the whole thing and taking a good look under my desk. There are two power strips under there, and a lot of power cords for the computer and the phone. Is a dark hole of potential sparking, fizzing, smoke and high voltage really where I want to be in an emergency? I found a corner back behind me (my cubicle/desk wraps around like the letter C), where there’s an open spot free from cords and other dangers, and made mental note to dive in that direction. What a relief.

We have a coworker here who spends at least half of his day wandering around the floor visiting everyone, opening up closed doors and sticking his head in, asking where everyone is, and yapping away with anyone who will pretend to listen. I think he thinks that he’s taking care of business, but really he’s just a busy-body. A few minutes before the drill, I was walking down the hall and saw him in someone’s office talking, and wondered just whose office he would be in when the alarm sounded, and will that person be willing to share cover under his or her desk? The two of them wrapped up in fetal positions, nose to nose… I kind of doubt it. Cheryl gave me a definite no when I asked her.

10:15, appointed drill time, came and we were ready. We heard something like a bell, and then a voice over the PA telling us that this was a drill, and would everyone please drop and take cover. We did. Cheryl’s desk is right next to mine, we share a cubicle wall. We were scrunched down with our faces in the same corners and I heard her say, “Are we allowed to talk?” Everything went dead quiet. I said, “It’s so quiet in here!” “It really is.” I kept picturing Cheryl on the other side of the wall, all curled up. We were like two prisoners in damp cells quietly sending signals to each other, letting each other know that we weren’t alone. Also, we were like two grown women in skirts scrunched up under our desks trying not to choke to death on the dust, which is a less romanticized, more accurate picture.

After about a minute we got the all clear to come back out into the light of day. Just as I was straightening up, there’s our busy-body with a camera! “Oh, you were too fast. I didn’t get your picture.” What? Why? The only picture he would have gotten would have been of my derriere. Why on earth? This guy just gets weirder every day. It’s a good thing he didn’t take that picture or he would have lost his camera, and maybe an eye.

I asked if we should go down to the second floor where some of our good senior is to see if got out from under his desk, but no one did. Maybe he’s still there? And now I have a pain in my back, just under my right shoulder blade, which has to be the result of being in a fake earthquake. I’ll go talk to my HR rep and start the paperwork.

I actually do think that the drill was a good idea, all ridiculousness aside.  We're on a fault line, and an earthquake will hit someday.  We have to know how to act when it does.  And I've got my corner, away from the power cords.