As a believer by nature and an obsessive disasterbater by default, I bought into it hook, line and sinker. I packed a bag and called up my favorite desert hot springs hideaway, hoping it was far enough away from either the Big One’s epicenter or Disneyland to spare me.
Unfortunately, my boyfriend judged the e-mail a hoax, said I was being paranoid, and refused to leave town since a last-minute jaunt to the desert would interfere with his own last-minute arrangements to jet off for a two-month vacation in India — assuming, of course, that LAX was neither a burnt-out pile of rubble surrounded by police tape and National Guardsmen or a new surf break by the time of his departure.
And so devotion (co-dependence) kept me in Los Angeles while the rest of Cassandra’s e-mail list was on orange-alert in Montecito, sucking down Hama Hama oysters and beefing up on renter’s insurance.
My boyfriend compromised slightly and went with me to buy extra water.
The next 72 hours were harrowing. As a native with many an earthquake under my customized Nic Norman belt, I could relate to the Big One. Having never been held hostage, bombed or had acid tossed in my face, an act of terrorism, while unspeakably horrifying, remains a frightening bit of oogie-boogie folklore that I’d rather not conjure in the creepy corners of my imagination. So, I took Cassandra’s warning to mean that most likely a quake was indeed coming. The key to a quake is being in the right place at the right time. And that’s where karma comes in. I have a habit of grazing the bulk bin (stealing) at Whole Foods, and I recently cashed an accidentally issued check; so I wasn’t feeling too confident in the karmic department. I took to prayer and worrying.
I tried to lay low, but living in 500 square feet of squalor with my messy boyfriend and his extensive collection of twigs, rocks and thrift-store tchotchkes left little room for proper pre-apocalyptic pacing. I was forced out into the city, into the irregular racing heartbeat of impending doom.
Driving became a drawn-out game of musical chairs, only less fun and far more anxiety riddled. Every freeway underpass and every tunnel felt like an extended cross-country trek between giant folding chairs. On several occasions, I idled beneath an overpass, begging the gods of traffic and the devas of seismic activity to please, please, please let me advance to a stretch of open sky.
I donned comfortable shoes with thick tread. I took to wearing a bra whenever I left the house (imagining necessary bouts of jogging, whether away from a falling tree or an extremist with a hand grenade). I slept with sneakers, jeans and a sweatshirt at the foot of the bed.
Thursday morning came without incident, and it seemed that Cassandra’s doomsday prophecy was not to be. I drove my boyfriend to LAX — no police tape, no burning embers.
On the way home, I took La Brea, which was unusually congested even for rush hour. A police blockade was set up at Beverly, rerouting single-passenger SUVs east. I peered left as I was detoured right and saw dozens of police cars, flares, orange cones and, yes, yellow police tape. I asked a uniformed officer what was going on. He said they found a “suspicious device” in an alley.
A bomb — an earthquake in a box! It was coming true.
I raced home as fast as bumper-to-bumper traffic would allow, determined to be in the right place at the right time. Ten minutes and 10 feet later, I realized I was going nowhere. I was in the middle of it. I was doomed.
I did what my instincts told me to do; I parked and bought chocolate. I turned on the news and nibbled raspberry-laced truffles as I inched my way along the detour. No mention of La Brea under siege. No high-pitched Emergency Broadcast System beep followed by instructions on where to loot. By the time I hit Highland, traffic was flowing again, and, as I would find out later, I had chocolate smeared all over my chin.
The apocalypse was delicious.