Keeping your cool in an earthquake, or not

So I was sitting on the toilet a few days ago contemplating the complexities of the universe when suddenly the whole world moved and not in a good way.

The loud banging and shaking turned out to be the largest magnitude earthquake to strike Italy in over 35 years and it just had to happen during my morning constitutional. Swell.

You never know where you might be or what you might be doing when a potentially life changing event happens but sitting on the throne stark naked first thing in the morning is not the ideal setting for facing a fight or flight situation. James Bond or Jason Bourne never had to put up with that kind of crap ... so to speak.

I read later that the earth shook for about 45 seconds but it seemed much longer to me at the time. I had time figure out that there was no logical reason for the shower doors to be slamming back and forth or for the towels to be swaying. I had time to remember that I was sitting on the fifth and top floor of a 700 year old building and therefore I would almost certainly be found by rescue workers near the top of the rubble heap…sitting on my throne ... naked. I remember feeling bad for the rescue worker.

I worked the deck of aircraft carriers most of my adult life, I’ve survived a war, two marriages, cancer and the all-you-can-eat special at the Golden Corral so it’s safe to say that I’ve given some thought to meeting my maker. I’m not a particularly religious or spiritual man but I can honestly say that I was comfortable with the idea of facing the Almighty right up to the moment I realized I could be showing up in my birthday suit with bed-head and morning breath.

I’m not a bad guy but I’ve broken a few commandments and probably cracked a few more in my time so making a good first impression at the Pearly Gates really couldn’t hurt in my case and this isn’t exactly dressing for success.

They say that when you face certain death your life passes before your eyes ... mine didn’t but the toilet paper did as it fell and rolled across the room out of my reach. So now I had that going for me too. The shaking continued but I heard something new and alarming …my wife’s voice coming from the bedroom. Now I was really scared.

Over the three decades we’ve been married I’ve witnessed Sandra sleep through alarm clocks, fire alarms, screaming children and barking dogs. I once “spilled” my water on her to see if it would wake her and it didn’t, but this earthquake did so you can imagine it was rattling pretty good.

She later admitted that she had reached back and smacked my pillow several times thinking it was me shaking the bed before realizing I wasn’t there. Before you youngsters call the PC police about me “spilling” water or her reaching back to smack me you need to understand that expert’s believe that may be how people who have been married for 30 years show intimacy…but no one knows for sure.

She was asking if I was feeling an earthquake too…I swear that’s what she asked. The entire building was rattling like a space shuttle during re-entry and she asked if I noticed it. As a profession smart aleck I wish I could tell you that I answered with a wisecrack like “No Honey, that was me. The linguini from last night is really talking to me.” I wish I could tell you I said that or something manly and reassuring like, “It’s alright Sweetheart, I’m holding the load bearing wall up in here and we’re going to be fine!” But, instead, I think I shrieked something like, “We’re going to die and I can’t find my pants!!”

That’s about the time that the shaking stopped and the pitiful echoes of my girlish screams were mercifully masked by the rattling shower doors. She asked again if that had been an earthquake and I calmly reassured her that it had been but everything was OK and thanked my lucky stars that I wouldn’t be sharing my embarrassment with anyone ... well, except you now I guess.

Many good people were hurt and some lost their homes in that earthquake so I’m grateful that all I lost were a few cool points ... OK, maybe a lot of cool points.

Rick Seley is an award-winning humor columnist. He may be reached at


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