Earth-Shaking Weird

This Tuesday’s Virginia earthquake brought with it a number of strange happenings. Perhaps the earthquake opened up a vortex of weirdness from which I have yet to recover.  Perhaps it is an overture leading us into the notorious and prophetic 2012. Or perhaps it’s nothing at all.In any case, here are the strange things that the earthquake seems to have brought to my life:
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Planning
Perhaps the strangest thing that happened on Tuesday was the time given to us teachers to actually plan for the upcoming year. I knew something strange was happening: after lunch we were given a few hours’ reprieve from the countless meetings and other activities that had taken up the four previous teacher workdays. It was amazing, actually, to have a block of time all to myself to sit down with my syllabi and prepare lessons for the first few weeks of school. Those of you who teach can probably appreciate how unique this “down time” is in the presence of so many meetings and mandatory software training sessions and the like. I was thinking to myself: unimpeded planning time? Maybe the world is coming to an end! As if in response, my classroom started shaking… and there went the planning.
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Antique Clock
We have a clock
that’s over 100 years old. My father-in-law, a horologist (a clockmaker), restored it for us. It’s the kind you have to wind for both the ticking mechanism and the chime, and you have to swing the pendulum to get it to keep time. While away for vacation at the end of July, my husband and I let the clock run down; when we returned, we forgot to wind it back up. So you can imagine our surprise when, sitting and eating dinner, the clock started striking the hour. We both looked up.
 
“Did you wind the clock?” I asked. 
 
“No, I thought you did!”
 
The clock was accurate to the minute, and only off by an hour. Strange. I guess the earthquake’s undulations were enough to get the pendulum moving again… still, the thing ran for 12 hours without being wound!
 
HP TouchPad
Earlier this week, Leia (one of my dogs, known as the “evil” one), started going berserk early in the morning. Sometimes she barks now or then if a car drives by, but this time nothing would quiet her. I got up to let her out, and in the wee hours
of the morning decided to check my email. On my screen, the BestBuy.com window was still opened: the day before, I had been searching for an HP TouchPad. After the company announced it was bowing out of the computer biz, it decided to sell off its tablets for $99. You can’t beat that price for an e-reader! But of course it was sold out everywhere. I hit the refresh button to find the tablet in stock. Without hesitation, I ordered one, thinking it was just a glitch. After I put my order through, I hit the refresh button once more out of curiosity, and the tablet was once again listed as sold out. I assumed my order would be cancelled. So imagine my surprise when the tablet arrived today! My dog woke me up for the four-minute sweet spot when Best Buy had the tablets on sale. Very strange indeed!
 
Sea Monkeys
In addition to the antique clock, my father-in-law also gave us a sea monkey kit. Until now I thought sea monkeys were fictional. Apparently not. A few weeks ago, we followed the directions, “growing” maybe eight or nine tiny little critters in the tank from a packet of powder into a plastic tank of purified water. We watched with dismay as the tiny critters disappeared one by one until a single behemoth (well, okay, maybe half an inch long?) sea monkey was left. After checking on the dogs and the house, I checked to see how the sea monkeys fared during their first earthquake experience. To my surprise, I found the tank had re-spawned, with eight new specks swimming around. Now if only the behemoth one doesn’t eat them!
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The whole experience of the day by necessity has to have a quality of weirdness to it. It rings of the ancient days of seers and augurs who would find significance in such events. For me, as I dashed to the door frame of my second-floor classroom, the day holds its own kind of significance. Like the morning of 9/11, I will always remember “where I was when the earthquake came.” I will remember looking up to see my projector swinging from side to side and wondering whether the old school building was going to hold up. I have never felt such an intense feeling of powerlessness, even with something as “mild” as a 5.8 earthquake. It made me think of all those victims of more powerful earthquakes, of tsunamis and hurricanes and all sorts of natural disasters. And it made me think, too: if the earth decided to upheave itself, we humans would have no chance.
 
Here’s to hoping that never happens.