At Front and Lombard, a woman with a British accent approached me and said “Did you feel the earth shake?” or “Did you feel an earthquake?” There was passion in her voice. I wondered if she’d mistaken me for someone else, or if it was love at first sight.
A block away at Front and South, Downey’s restaurant had just emptied out and customers were milling on the sidewalk, jabbering at each other and into cellphones. It was the same all over Queen Village — people spilling outdoors and talking on their phones. Those I asked said yes, a tremor had shaken the buildings they were in and chased them outdoors.
There was more. Entire highrises in Center City had emptied out. Homes in Port Richmond were rattled. There were no injuries or power outages. The 5.9-magnitude quake struck near Washington, D.C., and was felt not only in Philly but all the way up to Cape Cod.
I’d been on the street and hadn’t felt even the hint of a tremor. This seemed like further frightening proof that I live completely inside my head. How can one not notice an earthquake? I asked a few people on bicycles if they’d felt the earth shake. To my relief, both said they’d been pedaling and hadn’t felt a thing.
But others seemed excited, even gratified, by this near-event. An old gent on Passyunk Avenue said to his friends, “If Iceland goes underwater, that’s it for me. Just hand me my fishing pole and I’m outta here.”
People are waiting for something to happen. Not a disaster, necessarily, but something.
Meanwhile, how about those Phillies?
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I think people in general are so disillusioned and detached that anything, even an earthquake, seems like a good thing — shaking things up (in this case, literally) and getting people out and about and actually talking to one another. Like when the red car or fire truck screeched to a halt in front of a house on the street at 3AM back in the day, back in the ‘hood. That’s why we buy so easily into marketing that starts pushing Christmas before the Halloween candy gets stale. We’re always looking for something to break the spell of apathy that the cold, hard, modern world has cast. I used to fantasize that I would wake up one day, go outside and find a huge red, gold and black Chinese dragon hovering in the sky above, undulating wildly and breathing fire. That’s it. just hanging out, inexplicably. It would sure give us all something to talk about, at least.
The Daily News stole your headline! http://pdn.philly.com/dn_covers/index.html (the cover image will change after 8/24/11)