I felt my first real earthquake today. I mean one where I knew an earthquake was about to hit and then it did. I sat through lots of earthquakes when I lived in Palm Springs as a kid, but I don’t really remember them. We lived above the laundry facility at a hotel, so we often thought it was the machines rumbling when it was actually a quake.
One happened when Dan first moved here to LA, but I was drying my hair at the time and thought Ray was doing some dumb-ass shit underneath the apartment. By the time I realized the world was shaking, the earthquake had finished.
We had one over the weekend I didn’t feel. Poor Sara feels them like a psychic, waking up and thinking, “Here it comes,” and then she’s the one who tells us all we missed an earthquake.
But this time my brain went, “I think the floor is moving.” Then I looked up to see that we were all shaking, swinging back and forth in one quick lurch and rumble. Half of us stood to move to a doorway, while one person gasped and another asked, “Is this an…”
And then it stopped. I sat, bracing the table, holding onto my rolling office chair with my other hand, like someone had just tried to flip me back in my seat.
“There might be another one in an hour, to remind you,” warned the person sitting across from me.
“Good to know.”
Then everyone shares their most horrible earthquake stories. The girl next to me says, “You know, we were on a tsunami alert the other day.” Apparently there was an earthquake in the Pacific, and for a few hours the west coast was on alert.
“Why didn’t we all know that?” I asked. “Why wasn’t there an alarm, or a signal?”
“I think they quickly determined a wave wasn’t going to hit, and called it off.”
The weirdest thing was feeling that anticipation, like Sara talks about. I knew it was about to hit, and then it did. I don’t know how to explain it, other than my feet felt itchy, like something was pulling them down. It’d be great if that could happen like, a day or two before the earthquake, so I could prepare. What good is .003 seconds of preparation? It’s just enough to psych myself out so I can be really freaked out once the earthquake hits.
It’s like that second before someone surprises you with a kiss. “Oh, I think he’s going to –” and BAM. Then you’re kissing, but all you can do is frantically wonder, “What the hell was the last thing I ate? Garlic? Onions? Coffee? Why didn’t I get some kind of warning!?”
Sitting around the writer’s table, someone wondered the logistics of a character’s background. “Do you think anybody would question that?” she asked.
The guy next to me rolled his eyes. “The only people who care about that kind of stuff are on that website…” He turns to me here, because I’m the resident dot com expert, and asks, “Do you know that website? What’s it called?”
I played dumb for a few seconds. “Jump the Shark?”
“No, the one where they do recaps of shows, and the forums…They do Desperate Housewives, these long recaps.”
Can’t… stop… wonder killing! “Television Without Pity.”
“Yes. That site.”
And then, before anybody could say anything else: “I’m pamie.”
“You write for that site?”
I shrugged, hands in the air, trying to sound innocent. “Not anymore! Yay! Go, television!”
“Did you do Desperate Housewives?”
“I hope they’re nice to our show.”
“We don’t do sitcoms.”
“Yeah, but they’ll debate it to hell on the forum.”
I’m very lucky to be working in a room with sitcom writers, and nobody who ever worked on Popstars. Or Tarzan. Or Wonderfalls.
I remembered this story today at work. It still makes me shake my head.
Some of you may remember I used to write a weekly column for the Austin newspaper. One week I made a very stupid decision to post my picture on the then-new website AmIHotOrNot.com. I thought it’d be funny to use my byline photo, the one that stee described as my “Victorian Murderess Photo.”
When I first posted the picture, I sent an email to only two people. One was Eric, my boyfriend at the time, telling him to vote for me. The other was to stee, who lived fifteen hundred miles away from me, but knew I was planning on doing this ridiculous experiment.
About five minutes later, I had my first two votes. I was averaging a nine. Not too shabby. I called Eric to boast. “That’s great, baby,” he said. “Nine’s pretty hot.”
“Did you vote for me?”
“So it’s only one other stranger voting, but so far the two of you combined say I’m not that bad.”
Then I get an email from stee. It says, simply: “I gave you a ten.”
The door opens. Eric’s standing there. I look up from my laptop and say to him, “Did you give me an eight?”
He looks totally caught. “What eight?” he asks, like I’ve started speaking some foreign language to him. “Eight what?”
“Did you rate me an eight? Am I only an eight?”
The door’s still open and he’s still standing in the doorway. “It’s on a scale of ten. Eight’s pretty good.”
“I’m your GIRLFRIEND.”
“Ten’s a really high number.”
“THE LOVE OF YOUR LIFE.”
“I mean, not that many people really get tens, if you think about all the people in the world. What would you give me?”
“I’d give you a ten because you’re writing an article for the paper and this is just a stupid website. It’s not an election. Your vote doesn’t change the Bill of Rights.”
“Ten is really high. Eight is a nice, solid number. It means you’re doing pretty good.”
I just remember staring at stee’s email, thinking, “What the hell am I doing?”
If only I had a way to see myself five years from that moment, which I think is just about this time of year, sitting with the boy who thinks I’m a ten, even on the days when I couldn’t possibly clear a six.
If only there was a way to go back and stop me from posting to that website in the first place. That was not one of my finer weeks.
[Myth of Pam addendum: I found the article. I guess it happened in November of 2000, which means I had just moved here. It was at a very strained point in my relationship with Eric, just a few weeks before we broke up for good, so I shouldn’t be so surprised he didn’t give me a ten.]