Archive for the ‘Loma Prieta earthquake’ Tag

A Lifetime of Drills, and Not the Tool Kind   4 comments

One of the many articles I read in  aftermath of last week’s tragedy in Colorado posed the question

“Are the days when we can just walk up to a movie complex,  buy a ticket, and go to our seats without passing through any security nearing an end.”

The author went on to say probably not if we consider the measures taken following Columbine serve as a gauge.  Some schools went so far as to install metal detectors but the passing of thirteen years dulled the vigilance and all that remains are lock-down drills which vary from school to school.

Just what is a  lock-down drill?

At a couple of school in the Denver area, when the alarm bell rings   students  close the doors of their classrooms, draw the blinds, and cover any glass door-panes with black construction paper, then proceed to the farthest corner to hunker down until the all-clear bell. Reading about it sent chills down my spine. But then I have a history with drills.

Air raid drills

The word drill, when partnered with Air Raid, is a nightmare of a memory. It  the mid -50’s , (OK, the early  50’s ). The Korean War occupied the nightly news. Film clips of planes and soldiers filled our 10” TV screen,

and President Eisenhower gave speeches about the evil Russians and bombs.

The Cold  War was just starting to brew (freeze?) And I was an impressionable six-year-old .Air raid drills were a regular part of the school year.  The bell in the hall would ring and Sister Anita would announce “Air Raid Drill. Get under your desks.” Now, from my advanced adult status, I ask you –

What good would getting under your tiny wooden first grade desk do?

Mark the spot where your tiny body would be found in the rubble of bricks?

But back then I’d think

Oh no, Daddy’s at work? What’s going to happen to him. And Mommy and my new baby brother, I’m never going to see them again.

if a plane just happened to be flying overhead…… well, I was a mess, then.

Fire drills

didn’t bother me back then. After all, you could see there was no smoke. However when I was on the other side of the desk (as we teacher types refer to our profession), fire drills, if not the bane of my existence, came very close

First off, I had no warning when one would occur but when it did you could bet it would be  one of those rare and precious moments when I had the rapt attention of every one of my Kindergarteners,  that glorious teachable moment I’d been striving  toward all year. The alarm would sound and those still  little forms would erupt in a frenzy, filled with cries of “Fire Drill!  Fire drill!”

I’d   designate my most dependable student to lead the line and follow the preceding class down the steps to the street. I’d bring up the rear, close the door behind me, start down the stairs and remember. Oh @#!%!!  the attendance book! This called for a rapid about-face to retrieve it from my desk.

You see, God forbid it’s the real thing, the teacher must take attendance when the class is in a safe place, for you  must account for each child, and  in the confusion and panic you would not want to go searching for a student who was absent that day. I’m not sure if it’s law but I’ve taught in New York and California and the practice was mandatory in both states.

Speaking of California, there we had  …..

 Earthquake Drills .

Also called Duck and Cover, these drills were identical to the dreaded air raid drills of my own early days. While living in California in 1989 I experienced the famous Loma Prieta earthquake. Baseball fans remember it  interrupted the World Series. The 7.1 quake resulted in the collapse of a freeway, toppled chimneys, and houses  destroyed when they slid off their foundations. Tragically, a couple of people lost their lives.

The quake also changed the drill procedure, and even its name. Luckily enough it occurred at 5:04 PM, after most schools were closed. But college and Adult Ed classes were in session so the students ducked under their desks and covered their heads with their arms to wait out the shaking which seemed like it was never going to end. But when it was finally over and the all clear call was made, they were no longer under their desks.  The temblor’s vibrations had set the desks skittering away.

And so Duck and  Cover Drills became part of history. The alarm still sounds and students still duck but they don’t cover. They hold on to the desk legs to keep their desk from “walking  away. The edited drill is now called….

Duck, Cover, and Hold

So there you have it – so many drills, and not  a single hole!

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Truckito Rolls into My Past   13 comments

I said Adios to my beloved Truckito, today. For ten years I never had to worry about getting anything home – lawn mowers, power washers, furniture,  peat moss, he could handle it. He faced wintry weather with sure-footed confidence.  No matter how much snow awaited on the driveway from hell, his sturdy four wheels cut through it like a knife through butter. But he’d developed very expensive ills and no matter how much my heart tried to finagle my head, I just couldn’t see spending $4,000 on repairs.

I find comfort in imagining his soul going on to that great driveway in the sky where he’ll be initiated into the Fraternal Order of Beloved Cars Virginia Used to Drive. And since it is my fantasy, I’ll go with him to make the introductions.

Truckito, 2002 Nissan Frontier

Years of Service” – December 30, 2002 – May 1, 2012

FOOBCVUTD is very exclusive. It has but three members. Ziegfried is the grand poobah.  After graduation, my dad gave me the $330 left over from the money he’d saved for my college education. I promptly handed it over to Avoxe Volkswagen of the Bronx as a down-payment.

Ziegfried, 1969 Volkswagen Bug

Years of service: September 1968 – May 1977.

Zig: “Hello Truckito, I taught V all she knows about driving”

That’s not true. I’d been driving my dad’s cars since I was seventeen.

Zig:  “Automatic, not stick.”

I took a lesson before I picked you up.

Z: “One lesson and it didn’t include driving on hills. Truckito, the only way home was up E.236th Street. Ever been to San Francisco? Seen those hills? That’s what E.236 Street is like.

“When we got to the first light, just my luck, it turned red, and when it turned green, she was so slow getting her foot to my gas pedal I had to roll back. Then she stomped on my brake and when she tried to go forward again, I had to stall. Of course I rolled back some more. Well, to make a long ugly story short but not pretty, she soon had a whole line of cars rolling back behind me. “

That was one day. We went on to have good times; summers at the Jersey Shore,  Skiing in Vermont. We even mastered driving in the snow.

Zig: “Mastered!? Mastered?! Define mastered. How many times did you crash me in Vermont?”

I had two accidents.

Zig:” And which one caused me to develop tremors in my left wheel? Tremors you ignored until my wheel fell off?”

That was the first one. The second one wasn’t in Vermont, it was in upstate NY. And it only did a  bit of cosmetic damage.

Zig: “Speaking of cosmetics, all my friends had flower decals and peace signs, you had to cover me with snowflakes.”

Ah,  the days of flower power. Everyone had flowers. Snowflakes were different. And you did have a  peace symbol – in the back window.

Zig: Now that I look back, those days were fun. But after you moved into your own apartment , all your money went for rent. I only went to work and to the city on Friday nights. Bo-r-r-ring

That speeding caper you pulled on the Throg’s Neck Bridge, was that to relieve your boredom?

Zig: “What speeding caper?”

I was coming back from Queens and the next thing I knew you were going 80 miles an hour. Luckily it was a Sunday night with light traffic. I almost had to stand up on the brake to stop at the toll booth. And then you shot out of there like a cannonball. I pulled off at the first exit and called  AAA . But of course when they got there, you purred like a kitten.

Truckito, I never quite trusted Ziggy after that. And when he refused to start anytime I parked him on a hill, I took him to my mechanic. Pat  found gas in his oil, oil in his gas, and no compression. He shut Zig down to two cylinders and wouldn’t take any money for his time, as long as I  promised never bring him back.

And now I’d like you to meet

Screaming Yellow Zonker, 1977 Datsun B210 Hatchback

Years of Service, May 1977 – October, 1989

Zonk: “ Hi Truckito, I didn’t have any problems with her driving skills but she tended to abandon  me from time to time.”

I never abandoned you.

Zonk: “You left me out to be stolen on Bronx River Rd

I’d been parking Ziggy out there and never had a problem.

Zonk: “Ziggy wasn’t my sunny shade of yellow.”

I still get mad when I think of that night, Truckito. The police were there, hiding in the bushes, waiting for thieves to come along and this was their lucky night. They watched the two guys pry the passenger side lock out of the door, leaving a jagged  hole in  three-week old Zonker. Then they waited until they’d popped the ignition out of the steering column. They didn’t swoop in until the car moved because if they’d stopped them after punching the hole  they’d only have a breaking and entering case but  when they moved the car, they had a genuine auto theft collar. One of the cops had to teach me to hotwire the car so I could get it to a body shop.

Zonk: “I guess you wanted to make it up to me  because after that you got me my very own parking space behind the building

Yeah, that added $15 a month to my rent.

“But then the following winter you abandoned me ….in Queens…in a blizzard.”

Why do I feel like I’m on trial here? Okay, no contest. I plead youth and romanticism.

Zonk, “No, plead stupidity. Truckito, she let some guy she was dating, talk her into driving to his place in Queens, this on a day every weather man in the Tri-State area  was ecstatic about the coming  blizzard of the decade.”

I admitted it was a dumb move. The whole city was paralyzed.  I waited a day but Queens being Queens, I figured it would  days before the street was plowed. I had work and the cats were home in Yonkers so  I took a gazillion subways  home , and the following weekend I took a gazillion subways back to get you.

Zonk: “Then you abandoned me again, the very next week.

Was it my fault the super  plowed the parking lot, and  piled all the snow in  your space while you were in Queens

Zonk: “Yes!

Well maybe, but where else was I to park you when I couldn’t find a spot on the street? It was  a Friday night and very late. The supermarket lot was  my only choice.

Zonker, “Didn’t you see the sign “Cars left overnight will be towed” ?

I thought it was just a warning. But don’t forget, I paid a lot to get you back – The ticket, the towing fee, the  storage charge, the cab fare to the impound lot!

Zonker: “Then I got towed again. But that was OK that time was fun.”

Truckito, When I got married  and moved to California, my husband’s company paid to have Zonker shipped on a  transport truck.

Zonk: “When I got  there, I was her  guinea pig.”

I’d have thought you’d have been grateful to get tender loving care.

You see, Truckito, my husband was talented at restoring cars and rebuilding engines. So I learned to change oil, lube, flush radiators, rotate tires. But I couldn’t fix everything.

Zonk: “No, she  abandoned me when I had a nervous breakdown.”

Why do you keep saying I abandoned you. We were together for 12 years and five months. And you started it, revving your engine to frightening proportions when I stopped at lights.

 Zonk. “I only did it a few times.”

But not for the mechanic or my husband.

Then there was your windshield wiper stunt. I had to drive all the way home from work,  across  San Jose in a downpour, trying to make out the  road  through cascading sheets of rain because your windshield wipers wouldn’t work

Zonk – But you did good, we got home safe

I did good! Was that why you started flashing your lights when we finally reached our street. Not the flashers, the head lights! And  when I pulled into the driveway and  you started honking your horn on and off, on and  off. Were you clapping for me?

Zonk, “I never did it again.”

No, Truckito he didn’t but I couldn’t trust him anymore.”

Next we have

My Red Car, 1990 Nissan 240SX

Years of service October 1989 – August 2004,

This car was too beautiful and sophisticated to have a nick name. I had just gotten divorced and his sun-roof, and sleek lines were just what a Bay Area single needed. We had five fantastic care-free years until family matters called me home. I drove my red car home to look for an apartment for me and Fremont.   (Regular readers of this blog have already met My Red Car in a previous post.

Red car: ”Unlike my lodge brothers I have nothing ill to say of Virginia, or her driving. ”

See, Truckito , I told you My Red Car had class.

My Red Car: “Our life together did have a rough start, though. Ha-ha. No pun intended.”

Oh my! I’d forgotten that. I picked you up from the dealer on a Saturday, October 1, and on Tuesday, the Loma Prieta earthquake struck. All I could think as the house rattled and creaked was oh no, my three-day old car is outside. But luckily, no damage.

My Red Car:  “I  wasn’t quite so lucky at the end of my life, though.”

Grr! Nearly fifteen years of trouble-free loyalty and you got rear-ended   – in a  parking lot- by an old lady. And although I could have lived with your caved- in bumper and slightly dented trunk, the insurance adjuster couldn’t see past your age and the  176,000  miles on your odometer. His verdict? Totaled.  I was going to protest it  but he made me an offer I couldn’t refuse,  $4,000. I was greedy, I’m sorry.

Zonk: “That’s even worse than abandonment! She sold you down the river!”

Zig: “And you hadn’t done anything.”

My Red Car:“Yes, it was sad. But this isn’t about the three of us, Z & Z it’s about welcoming my old friend, Truckito. “

You and Truckito were driveway mates!  That totally  slipped my mind.

Ziggy: “They were?”

Zonker. “Red, how come you never told us?”

My Red Car: “I was a rear wheel drive sports car, not the best  car for NY snowstorms And  although  I  survived  two blizzards,  there came  that evening rush- hour I negotiated  that  long sloping curve on the Taconic Parkway at a forty-five degree angle .

In perfect control, Ziggy! ……Go on, My Red Car, sorry  for interrupting.

My Red Car: ” It was time for me to semi-retire. Truckito was my relief  and for the next two add a half years, we shared driving and hung out at  the top of the driveway  from hell.”

It’s time for me to go, Truckito. I feel a bit better knowing you have a friend.

Ziggy: “She probably has a date with a new car!”

Ziggy!  You too, Zonker, be nice to Truckito. Unlike some members of  FOOBCVUTD he never gave me an ounce of trouble.”