There are probably far worse situations than sitting stark naked on the toilet just at the moment the earth decides to move, but if so I have yet to encounter them. Some may say that, given the likely bodily reaction to being suddenly shaken out of one’s wits by an earthquake, it’s probably the best place to be, but being a man not given to nervous colonic convulsions, I would have to disagree.
The earthquake that hit Illinois in the early hours of Friday morning (4.37am, to be precise) was not actually the one responsible for me leaping off the loo and into my trousers faster than an Aussie with a Great Red-Back Spider lunging at his privates. It was a more minor after-shock that caused that pandemonium.
The real quake occurred long before, while everyone – including the Adam’s household – was still abed.
J C Penney has a lot to answer, not least of all, for importing their bedroom furniture from China. When my wife and I considered it was time for a new bed we decided to go big, but not too expensive, so ordered the J C Penney Chinese mammoth king-size. It wasn’t until I was laboriously fastening the darned thing together that I realized it really wasn’t all that well made. The bolts were undersized, the headboard attachments flimsy, and however tight the screws and bolts were ratcheted, it squeaked and rattled at every bodily movement.
Jacking the top end up by six inches, as per my reflux-specialist’s advice, just made matters infinitely worse.
It took a year or so, but we eventually adjusted to the odd squeal and groan, never quite managed to incorporate the earplug insertions into sexual foreplay, but accepted our bed’s occasional, gentle, vociferations as part and parcel of normal domestic life.
Until, that is, around 4.37am this Friday morning.
To be awoken from deep slumber by a cacophonous rattling, banging, and squealing, coupled with the vibratory effect of a hundred jack hammers simultaneously concussing concrete inside one’s bedroom in the early hours, is hardly conducive to greeting the dawn with a gratified smile and cheery, “Good morning, you wonderful world.”
Miracles occur in the unlikeliest circumstances, however, and our Chinese bed did survive intact, which is less than can be said for our tattered nerves. In twenty seconds it was all over. The bed reverted to relative silence, until prodded into an occasional groan or squeak by the shifting of its occupying bodies. Peace reigned once more in the Adam’s household.
The last time I encountered such a geological shuffle was back in the early eighties, on the edge of a small lake near Wolverhampton, a town situated in the English Midlands. I was fishing one early morning with a mate, who occupied a peg some fifty or so yards further up the bank. We had both tackled up, cast our lines, and settled back into our folding chairs to await the first bite of the morning, when I shot upright as something grasped my chair and shook it violently. Assuming my friend had sneaked up and played a prank I spun around, only to find no-one there and my pal still sitting in his chair, though staring at me in a similarly perplexed manner.
Had we not been so engrossed in mutual accusation, we would have noticed the water’s agitation, like a garden butt when suddenly impacted by a heavy wheelbarrow.
On that occasion, there were no after-shocks. Earthquakes are not a feature of English rural life and this one was the subject of public house conversations for years to come.
Consequently, after experiencing Friday’s nocturnal tremblings, it never occurred that more might follow, so after returning to slumber for a few hours, I rose and retired to the bathroom for early morning ablutions.
Bill Bryson is one of my all-time favorite writers, and a well-thumbed copy of his “Short History of Nearly Everything” sits atop the bathroom cabinet shelf for those times of dalliance while nature takes its daily course. I was plumb in the middle of the chapter dealing with super-volcanoes and the likelihood of Yellowstone Park erupting with the force of a trillion billion megatons, when history decided to repeat itself. Only this time, it wasn’t my fold-up fishing chair that shook violently, but the bathroom toilet bowl on which my buttocks casually rested.
Imagination can be a wonderful thing. Without it writers, painters, and other artists would have a hard time making a living. But sadly, it has its negative side. This Friday morning it was the thought of rushing, stark naked, out of a collapsing building and into a street already occupied by neighbors, all fully dressed and well amused by my lack of attire, that burned its fanciful image steadfastly onto my mind’s eye.
It was only a mere 5.2 on the Richter scale, and it occurred some three miles under the earth’s surface, but that’s quite sufficient for this English Illinoian.
According to Bill Bryson, the San Francisco “Big-One” is now well overdue. If our little Illinois 5.2 is anything to go by, Californians might well consider the expediency of fitting seat belts to their toilet bowls.
Filed under: Shake, rattle, and roll