Pappas: Life after the big one

By By Nicholas Pappas

By Nicholas Pappas

I live in Sugar House, lovingly called “Sugar Hood” by the eclectic mix of people who’ve moved into the rundown brick houses and worked on building them up again. I am fortunate to be in walking distance from Mazza and a takeout order of Baba Ganooj. There is a bike path with a constant flood of skinny guys wearing too tight shorts. The landlords are an old couple who must have forgotten about me — the rent hasn’t gone up since Nixon was in office. They’re the kind of people who don’t really pay attention to the price of oil.

It will all come crumbling down. It’s not if, but when.

A recent report showing the effect of a 6.0 earthquake on the Salt Lake Valley is devastating, but nothing new. It chronicles the major collapse of unreinforced masonry buildings exactly like the one in which I’m typing this column.

The report states that a 6.0 earthquake would destroy 1,004 homes, cause extensive damage to 11,074 and cause at least moderate damage to another 73,979.

Of the 1,004 homes that would effectively be swallowed by the earth, all but five would be brick or masonry. A graph showing the concentration of the damage isn’t promising. There are many menacing red dots right in my vicinity.

The local ward came over to say hello and offer me their emergency evacuation plan. God bless them — I might not agree with their doctrine, but no man can question their ability to prepare for Armageddon. The plan is now hanging on my fridge, buried under an article about Kurt Vonnegut, some glow-in-the-dark magnet poetry and wedding announcements that seem to arrive on a daily basis lately.

My emergency plan is a little weak. I don’t have water, but I have a palette of Red Bull from Costco. There are no sacks of grain, but a nice collection of assorted Ramen flavors. I am a bit concerned that the bottles of wine are not going to survive the shifting, tilting masonry building.

Let’s cut to the chase. I’m going to die.

I look around at this little brick bungalow and wonder what I’ll take with me. A cigar box I keep my doodling pencils in? A left-handed guitar I never learned to play? Maybe the ribbon I have hanging from my corkboard that simply says “Participant?”

It’s true. I’m not good at buying stuff. I’ve never placed much sentiment in objects, though I have a strong affinity for my 8-bit Nintendo. A few blows, and the sucker will still work to this day.

In only a matter of weeks, many of you will be graduating. We are starting to pack it in. My last class had competing snorers. I was only told this afterward, because I was one of them. Life is a constant state of waiting, and sometimes you just get tired of it.

The earthquake report states there is a 20 percent chance the valley will be engulfed within 50 years. Where will I be? Where will you be when the big one hits? It’s just another reminder that tomorrow brings no promises. Enjoy these last few weeks of college. Don’t sleep through them.

Realize that more important than what you own is what you have. Your college degree might give you a great job, but more important are the relationships you’ve made during school. Your Xbox might give you hours of enjoyment, but it doesn’t compare to having a drummer around with whom to play Rock Band.

An earthquake isn’t a catastrophe. Being alone in one is. If the big one hits and you’re fortunate enough to get out alive, leave your stuff behind, jump in your car and start looking for someone to help.

While you’re out, make sure to give that kid a ride walking around with a cigar box and a left-handed guitar. He’s got extra Red Bull, and life is worth staying awake for.

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