Zachary is getting some educational testing done for various reasons I don’t want to go into. Since he is so young, the psychologist has suggested I remain in her waiting area for the three hours so that I am there on his breaks. This is fine with me; I can work as well there as anywhere. I sit and edit while he gets to play games in her office, which, like many doctor’s offices, is separated from the waiting area by a receptionist’s area behind a locked door.
That’s where I was yesterday a little before noon when the room began to rumble. I looked up at the receptionist through her little window, wondering whether she gets a lot of that kind of annoyance from the upstairs neighbors. She looked up, too, perhaps also wondering who was moving furniture so aggressively. But, then it didn’t stop. And I think it dawned on us at the same time, because she got out of her seat and I got out of my seat.
I ran to the door to get my son, but it was locked. I banged on it for what felt like 20 seconds, although I am sure it was much shorter than that. It opened. “Here he is,” the psychologist told me, handing over my little man. “I don’t think he noticed.” He didn’t notice? We were four stories up.
We figured we should evacuate, so I grabbed my computer and purse. It only took 3 or 4 seconds, so don’t think I am a lunatic. The manuscript is on that computer. And then we were out the door.
At the stairs, though, I was stuck. “Can someone please carry him?” I asked. We’d never get down if he had to walk on his own, and if I tried to carry him four flights, I’d go into labor.
Outside, I tried to call my nanny who was home with Benjamin, but the call kept getting dropped.
“We can call it a day,” the psychologist said. “We only have about 15 minutes left for today.”
“Let’s finish,” I decided. “I don’t even think he knows what happened.” I turned to my son. “Do you know why we left, honey?”
Looking back at the psychologist, I said, “let’s just finish up.”
“Why did we leave the building, Mommy?”
“Well, honey, in an emergency you are supposed to leave the building and use the stairs instead of the elevator. We were practicing for an emergency. Does that make sense?”
As he nodded, I heard our psychologist say to her office staff, “Good answer.” I guess you know you’re doing something right when a child psychologist likes your answers.
Back inside, I still could not reach my nanny. I tried the office landline. I tried calling my home. Lines were busy or calls were dropped. I got an incoming email from my husband on my iphone, but my outgoing emails just sat in my outbox, unable to find a free line.
It was the feeling of September 11 all over again. I didn’t really know what had happened; I knew I was OK but had no idea if others were; and I could not get a phone call through to find out.
The difference is, seven years ago I was a newlywed with no children. I was worried about friends, but that was it. Yesterday, I had no idea if my house had fallen down on my two-year-old’s head.
Fifteen minutes later, I reached my nanny. “He didn’t even notice,” she told me. What the hell is wrong with my kids? They notice a dog four blocks away, they can sniff out a cupcake from across a football field, and they comment every time I get new flip flops, but they don’t notice a 5.4 earthquake? The fucking ground was moving, boys. Were you really completely unaware?
Finished with his testing, Zachary came out, pleased with his treasure from her treasure box, but hungry and wanting lunch. “Those games took too long,” he told me. “And she didn’t let me take the pictures I drew.” Maybe THAT’S what he was so focused on.
When we got home, I realized it was time to get my ass in gear and order an emergency kit for the house and another for the car. I also sat back and wondered: how much does it typically affect a four-year-old’s IQ score to get evacuated for an earthquake somewhere near the end of the test?