TORONTO, ONTARIO: Wednesday, June 23, a 5.0 magnitude earthquake rumbled the ground. The centre of the earthquake was sixty kilometers north of Ottawa and felt in Ontario, Quebec and a few American states. I meant to discuss the earthquake in last week’s entry but that other rumble in Toronto took precedence. I wondered about the strengths of our buildings and infrastructure. One assumes that construction in California takes into account that earthquakes are a part of the living conditions and certain precautionary measures are built in. But in a city such as Toronto, what cause would there be to insure that the buildings are earthquake-ready? More specifically, how sturdy was my house?
According to Earthquakes Canada, there are about 5000 ground shifting events reported every year, although most of them are minor. Apparently, there are guidelines that protect the innocent. Earthquakes Canada:
“The seismic hazard maps and earthquake guidelines included in the National Building Code are used to design and construct buildings to be as earthquake proof as possible. The provisions of the building code are intended as a minimum standard. They are meant to prevent structural collapse during major earthquakes and thereby to protect human life. The provisions may not, however, prevent serious damage to individual structures.”
It is curious to see how people react in these situations. True colours tend to surface. The talk of the next day or two revolved around, “Where were you during the earthquake?” T-shirts were printed – “I survived the Toronto earthquake” – that people in Ottawa took exception to, believing that Torontonians were using this natural disaster to further the Toronto-is-the-centre-of-the-world agenda. It is. Some people ran screaming from buildings and others paused, understanding that something was happening but unable to discern exactly what and continued on doing whatever it was they were doing.
I was on the toilet. Number 2. I live on the third floor of a house and could hear, then feel the rumble in the pipes. The toilet vibrated, I jumped off and slammed down the toilet seat. The bookshelf beside me shook and threatened to launch books to the floor.
I should put this in context.
The day before the big quake, I listened to a program on NPR that debunked or proved urban myths. The program started with the myth that rats in New York City entered into the pipes, crawled all the way up into people’s toilets and accessed apartments. Sounded ludicrous to me and to the NPR reporters. However, they found an individual that told a story about how he opened the toilet lid and there was a rat, his head sticking out of the toilet bowl, his beady black eyes tractor beamed on the storyteller.
I thought a rat had crawled through the pipes. It was not so. I found out about the earthquake when a friend forwarded an article about what had actually happened. And than I thought: What a way to die. Where was I during the big quake of 2010? Standing with my pants down around my ankles, listening for a rat scratching through the pipes. Thankfully, after I finally rallied the courage to lift the lid, it was empty.