Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

So there was an earthquake centered in Virginia this afternoon. The epicentre was less than 400 miles from Boston, and CNN reports that tremors were felt even across international boundaries in Toronto. I felt nothing. I had gone out for a short walk by the waterfront, as I do on most afternoons that aren't rainy, overly windy, snowy, or overly cold (and there are not a whole lot of those in Boston). When I was walking back to the office, I saw people gathered on the streets. At first I thought they were gathered around the Children's Museum, and that there was probably some special event going on over there. Then I noticed that not a lot of them were accompanied by children. And then I saw that there were people in the streets all the way to the office. Hmm... maybe they have decided to gather around and protest in order to impeach Obama. That's the first thought that came to my mind. A fairly reasonable one for someone who has been following both American and Indian news and reading bumper stickers. But then I noticed that most of these people were just checking their phones or talking on the phones and did not really look predisposed for a protest.

I ran into one of my colleagues as I turned around the corner towards my office, and he asked me, "Were you scared?"
"Huh? What just happened in here?"
And then he told me that there had been an earthquake a few minutes ago, and the security staff had evacuated the building and we were not allowed to go back in until they were finished "checking the architecture of the building."
"Huh?"
This particular colleague hadn't felt anything either, since he had been on the ground as well. But those up on the fourth floor where I usually spend my weekdays had felt quite a shake and had had quite a scare.

Now I take only my phone and my office key card with me on my walks. I leave my wallet behind to avoid giving myself an opportunity to give in to the lure of the aromas of bakeries and ice cream stands. (On a side note, there is a pretty well known bakery one block away from my office which sometimes smells like a cinnamon explosion when I walk past it.) I saw some of my colleagues, who usually leave the office around four, standing outside the office with their bags packed up and ready to take home in case the building inspection took too long. I was a little concerned about how I would kill time if it actually did take that long. I could not go home without my train pass or any money, and I could not read my book. Oh well, we'll see.

Much productivity was lost as many buildings were evacuated throughout the political and financial capitals of the country this afternoon, but I was rather surprised later, when I realized that all of the office buildings in downtown Boston had been evacuated at the same time as each other, and yet the sidewalk was not so crowded that you had to jostle through the crowd to walk across it. There was not an overwhelming amount of noise, no pushing other people around, no panic. I can't help thinking about what it would have been like if this had happened in Delhi (or even if I had been in New York this afternoon). What if all the buildings in Connaught Place were evacuated at the same time? Would I be able to walk around without getting squashed or hurt or maybe having the straps on my handbag torn off?

This is one of the things I like about Boston. It is a city, but not a huge or overly populated city like New York or Delhi where there are people and more people everywhere you look. Just enough people to make if feel like a city and set it apart from the quieter suburbs. I was surprised an confused by the fact that all the buildings were evacuated, but there was not enough surprise and confusion on the streets to impede pedestrian or vehicular traffic. And everything was back to normal in less than half an hour, much to my relief.

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