Tuesday 19 June 2012

an open letter to Melbourne regarding your earthquake of 19 June 2012

Dear Melbourne

Did you have an earthquake tonight?  If so, I have three questions for you.

First, are you sure?  Seeing as I was there, let me take you back to around 8:53 pm on this cold Tuesday night in June.  I was in the kitchen, stealing Nutella from my flatmate's jar.  With a teaspoon in my hand, I was attempting to follow a pre-existing track left in the spread by past cutlery, so that my theft of hazelnut and sugar would go unnoticed.  I was doing a damn fine job of it.  All of a sudden, my flatmate shouts: "can you feel that!?"

I couldn't feel a thing.  Granted, the building was rattling slightly as if buffeted by a heavy breeze, but my teaspoon's path through the Nutella remained flawless in its direction.  My balance remained sturdy.  I sat down on the floor—still nothing.  I looked over at my record player.  Englebert Humperdinck's This Is Englebert was continuing with nary a fault.

I'm just kidding, of course.  I believe you—there was definitely an earthquake.  I know this because, as I sat down on the couch to plate up a discussion on tectonics with my flatmate, I looked over at my laptop and noticed that my twitter feed was going insane with earthquake talk.  I typed "melbourne earthquake" into the search box, and no less than three hundred and sixty fresh results popped up.  This was about twelve seconds after the shaking had subsided.

So, my second question: how in the world did you get the word out so quickly?  By my calculations, you were tweeting and posting about the earthquake during its happening!  I don't see how this is possible.  As a start, I doubt any auto-correct is of a magnitude powerful enough to enable operation of a keyboard during seismic activity, especially one of those weenie keyboards that comes with yer' smartphones these days.  The only other possibility is that you prepared your tweets in advance—but this makes little to no sense unless you are a dog, goat, or farm-dwelling animal with the ability to sense earthquakes before they occur.  If this is the case, I suggest you get off Twitter, and scope out a book deal as soon as animally possible.

My third (and most important) question is this: why can't you just enjoy a good earthquake like you used to?  

My sources tell me that this particular tremor measured 5.2 on the Richter scale—smack-bang in the confines of the earthquake "novelty zone"!  For the uninformed, the "novelty zone" extends from 3.0 to about 5.5 on the Richter scale, and consists of 'quakes that thrill and delight the first-world population without fear of any real harm.  Especially considering that Melbourne only gets a novelty quake every two or three years, this was the perfect earthquake to sit back and enjoy!

Ideally (had I not been stealing Nutella) I would've been seated in a chair, preferably a hard one with no springs or soft cushions to absorb the shaking.  I would've had a glass of scotch in one hand, replete with ice cubes that would clink together as the Earth shook.

During the quake, I would've first allowed myself a brief moment of raw terror (because we all need to feel alive!) and then I would've closed my eyes and reflected on (a) general facts surrounding geological processes; (b) the sheer absurdity of hurtling through space on a large ball of molten rock whilst several flatter, more solid rocks shift and bustle about upon the molten rock; and (c) whether or not the bin I just placed outside might need to be placed upright again.

Following this, within two shakes of a lamb's tail (shakes which hopefully did not foreshadow the coming of another earthquake, given the aforementioned psychic abilities of barnyard animals), I would've immediately organised a gathering of people for a discussion group to examine the effect of earthquakes on latte foam across Melbourne.

But you didn't do any of this though, did you?  Oh no.  You had to grab your smartphone or run to your laptop within microseconds of the first tremor.  You had to tell everyone that there was an earthquake afoot, lest (by some geological marvel!) the tremors were confined entirely to your living room.  You couldn't even enjoy yourself.

Hey, at least you got the word out though.  In fact, you are pretty damn selfless, Melbourne.  Here I am, waffling on about how I'd simply sit back and marvel at nature's fury—but there you are, like a teenager with an iPhone at a nationally televised event, foregoing any sort of reflection or enjoyment to rush to your computers and selflessly inform other people also rushing to their computers that—yes!—there is in fact an earthquake afoot!

Confound the universities!  Confound the scientific installations!  Confound the government bureaus!  I no longer want my earthquake information from them.  Watch as their time subsides—and the new thrust of seismic reportage begins.  The future of earthquake journalism has arrived.

It is you, Melbourne.


  1. I blame the fricken lambs.

  2. Ha, brilliant link! On the plus side, some of those waves of tweets are beamed into space via satellite uplink -- meaning that prospective alien invaders might consider our planet far too geologically unstable to enslave.