All it took was seven.

This is the September Blog Chain:The topic is Seven!


orion_mk3 – (link to this month’s post)
Ralph Pines – (link to this month’s post)
bmadsen – (link to this month’s post)
writingismypassion – (link to this month’s post)
areteus – (link to this month’s post)
randi.lee – (link to this month’s post)
BBBurke – (link to this month’s post)
BigWords – (link to this month’s post)
pyrosama – (link to this month’s post)
SuzanneSeese – (link to this month’s post)
AFord – (link to this month’s post)


All it took was seven.

I leaned back, away from the monitor just for a second, and exhaled; being stuck in a small cubicle and breathing recycled air was not my thing. I’d rather be observing surgeries, fixing a rogue brain-pressure monitor or even cleaning the hoses of a blood irrigation system. But it wouldn’t happen today. A slight rumble on the corner of the cubicle then echoed through the walls and climbed up to the ceiling—the seven-fifteen bus to downtown.

The videoconference continued slowly; the instructor spoke in an electronic voice, occasionally the lag caused bleeps and shrieks, piercing my eardrums and, worst of all, I had already gone through this material once, perhaps twice, or even three times. I was only there to keep an eye on the new guy—he likes to challenge everybody and thinks he’s always right—, whilst I did so, I refreshed my memory on some topics. But time was slow.

Oh! How I wished to be in an O.R.!

Another rumble, this time just a bit louder, came in from a corner, which one? I couldn’t tell, probably the far left. And again the rumble rippled through the office’s old walls and into the metal ceiling, only to fade into a low murmur. I looked at my watch: the seven-thirty leaving downtown. Miraculously it was on time. The high-pitched roar of its diesel engine reached my ears and didn’t leave for too long. Then, the once muted robotic voice returned. Great.

The instructor spoke calmly, stressfully calm, and, soothing it could have been for some—I could see my coworker slowly shut his eyes, then jolt back to life—but for me it was pure anxiety. I looked at the watch and the dial refused to please me. It was still seven forty-five.

“Hey, hey, the instructor is wrong!” in an almost childish gesture, my coworker raised his right hand and tapped the table, “it’s forty seconds for the leak test, not a minute.”

“What?” I murmured stupidly and quickly regained my line of thought. As an unforeseen event, I managed to snap out of my surgical daydreams and piece together everything he had told me (Just how I remember? I don’t know). I exhaled disappointedly—perhaps the feeling was too evident—then looked at the video. “No, it’s forty seconds, because he is going through the vibration test not the leakage.”

“Oh,” he muttered and I could see it in his hesitation, in his eyes opening wide—looking for something, anything—and wishing he could prove me wrong. I loved being proved wrong if there is valid theory behind. He found nothing. “Ok.”

I looked at the watch again—I guess you can call it mental masturbation—and exhaled, this time in relief. It was eight forty-two. My, how time flies when it wants to! But where was that spark? I wanted to jump into action, to DO something. Anything!

Another rumble: this time coming from both corners, and I frowned (probably, I didn’t have a mirror): that was odd. I paused for a second. Then he looked up at me, I looked at him and we didn’t speak. The rumble again trickled its way through the columns. But it didn’t fade away. As if we were looking at it, it inched its way down the opposite columns and into the ground. The instant the invisible vibrations touched floor, it jolted us to the right.

“Why don’t we…?” I said as I got up. “Let’s just leave.”

We opened the door but the rumble didn’t let us leave. A book tumbled to the ground, the windows wrestled to stay intact, moaning in pain. A low murmur turned into a heavy twisted growl and the earth shifted to the left, challenging us to stay up, and then abruptly shifted to the right. By this time both he and I were out, someone was crying, and it wasn’t over. Again the earth moved, this time bobbing massively up and down and the traffic stopped, busses jammed their doors shut to prevent passengers from fleeing into the streets and cars honked confusedly, wishing the jam would free up so they could escape, but no one could leave this. We were all stuck in the same moment, the same fear, the same confusion, and hopefully the same outcome.

Another jolt, this time followed by a set of tiny vibrations, sent us quickly to the right then slowly, ever so gently, to the left. Then we paused. Someone sobbed. Another one gasped. It was over.

No it was not. The earth moved again and I thought to myself: “damn you, idiot.” And I saw the Geriatric Hospital and how it swung slowly, ever so peacefully, all seven stories, knowing that inside, the cracks of the concrete, the twisting of the metal, the crashing of the windows were accompanied by confused and withered screams.

And then the rumble vanished, heading back the center of the earth, and left behind a sob, a gasp, a tear and nothing else. I immediately turned on the radio:

Ladies and Gentleman, we have just received the incoming report from the International Seismological Institute and the magnitude of the earthquake that has just hit Costa Rica is 7.2 in the Richter scale. The phone lines are down and traffic is paralyzed in several parts of the capital. We will continue to post information.


            And so, seven is all I needed to realize that asking for excitement might be the wrong thing. Seven is all I needed to realize that we are puny and useless against nature. Seven is all I needed to know that we are alive.

Here’s a video of a bus station during the quake.

NOTE: on September 5th, 2012, a 7.2 earthquake hit Costa Rica, killing only one person (for the moment). Many experts believe the country’s seismic code along with a protective layer of rock at 8 km underneath the surface saved us from certain death. In the recent earthquakes of this magnitude, the following have been the results:

–       Pakistan: 7.6 on the Richter scale: 86 000 deaths.

–       India: 7.6 on the Richter scale: 20 000 deaths.

–       Iran: 6.6 on the Richter scale: 31 000 deaths.