Wednesday, August 24, 2011

East Coast Earthquake Shakes Up West Coast

What's shakin' bacon? That was some earthquake, huh?

As the West Coast rolls its collective eye and mumbles something about "Loma Prieta," we here on the East Coast can't stop talking about yesterday's 5.8-magnitude tremblor that sent everyone running out of office buildings and into the middle of the street, which is like the worst place everyone could possibly go.

Obviously, we have some things to learn about earthquake safety here on the East Coast. So let's learn together! Here's a short list of great resources:

FEMA Earthquake Safety At Work Page
California's Office Of Emergency Services

Oh, and the U.S. Geological Survey has a page where you can learn all about the other earthquakes that have occurred on any given day in history, even on your birthday. Happy 40th! Kinda cool, if you're a nerd.

Now that we've gotten safety tips out of the way, I will say that I find the sudden East Coast-West Coast verbal mano-a-mano truly fascinating. But as most arguments go, I don't think it's really about the earthquake. No, yesterday's earthquake has shaken long-simmering resentments to the surface and cracked open the pretty facade of bi-coastal, blue state congeniality. As a West Coast native living on the East Coast, I suspect what really bothers people on the West Coast is the wall-to-wall coverage the earthquake has received, which ties into an inborn sense of injustice among West Coasters that the East Coast always ends up acting like a self-absorbed jerk who says, "yeah, whatever" to the West Coast's pain but yells, "oh my God, you won't believe what just happened to me!" as soon as the same thing happens to it.

Growing up on the West Coast, there was always a feeling that we knew far more about the East Coast than the East Coast ever seemed to know about us. Don't get me started on how East Coast people will talk about their dream of renting a car and driving from Boulder to San Francisco and back all in one day; how East Coast people forget that when it's 8 a.m. Eastern it's a bleary-eyed 5 a.m. Pacific; how sportscasters favor East Coast teams and won't switch to coverage of the kick-ass Oregon-Stanford football game even if the halftime score of the Boston College-UNC game is 62-7; and how everyone on the East Coast insists on referring to the entire West Coast as "California." Trust me, the people of Oregon and Washington (a.k.a. "Washington State") really hate that last one. Oh, and it's "OR-eh-gun" and not "Or-eee-GONE" and "Nev-AA-da" not "Ne-VOH-da." Please get it right, East Coast. The West Coast thanks you.

By the way, I really did have someone from Connecticut tell me years ago about her "Boulder to San Francisco and back in one day" dream trip. I started laughing and told her I hoped she had a very fast car or a supersonic jet pack. Or better yet, an airline ticket. She just looked serious and confused, or seriously confused -- take your pick.

What can feel most annoying to people on the West Coast, however, is that the East Coast maintains ownership of the bullhorn (e.g., cable news headquarters), and therefore essentially controls the national conversation. So the East Coast gets to navel gaze and whine about whatever it feels like whining about until it gets tired of whining, which as we know can take days and days given the 24/7 New York-to-Washington D.C.-centric news cycle. So to my marginalized homies on the West Coast, let me just say that I get it; I feel your tape-delayed pain. Now let us self-obsess over the towels and church spires that fell to the ground yesterday because we had a freaking earthquake, the biggest earthquake in 100 years! That's worth talking about, isn't it? Did you feel it? Where were you when it happened? What's a Loma Prieta?

And CNN and MSNBC: The one-hour East Coast earthquake special you're surely pondering in this morning's news meeting really isn't necessary. Besides, there's a hurricane coming.

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