How Tech Ruined my Thanksgiving

I was away for Thanksgiving and when in Florida, you do like the locals and go to the beach. While there, I glanced down at my phone and saw an interesting news alert from a service I subscribe to called BNO News – Earthquake Hits Coast of Guatemala/El Salvador.

A little known fact about me – one I have never shared with anyone other than my wife who was sitting next to me staring at the ocean watching me turn white, is that I have a morbid fear of being in a tsunami. Sure, I can swim and all but floating out to sea – miles from shore was not how I chose to burn off the calories I planned on consuming by eating turkey later that vacation.

So when I put two and two together (thankfully I had consumed only one pina colada at the time) I realized the earthquake took place:

  1. In the ocean
  2. About 500 miles away

Weren’t these the prime ingredients (coupled with rotten luck) in building the perfect tsunami I thought?

Now my brain started racing – that Discovery Channel special I saw on tsunamis… How fast do they travel? Then I remembered the last tsunami which took place in the Indian Ocean – I recalled all the animals heading for higher ground before it hit. I scanned the landscape for iguanas, dogs, cats, anything. I couldn’t see any animals. Then again – I was in southern Florida – exactly where is the high ground? I had this crazy vision of 1,000 iguanas and alligators huddling together in the penthouse but the vision was shattered as I heard a larger than normal wave crashing onshore.

As I waited with one eye on my cell phone and another on the ocean – hoping to not see a 40-foot wave approaching, I decided to scan Google News. Nothing. Then again I thought – this is a fine time for Rupert Murdoch to be pulling his content off the search engine. Next I decided to check Twitter – many people call it the real-time web. A search on earthquakes showed a few tweets saying they hope there aren’t any tsunamis. Sure it was real-time but a crappy source of useful info.

Finally there were some news reports I found online stating there were no casualties. But still I wondered, in what direction do tsunamis actually travel? I logged onto a mapping program to plot the tsunami’s trajectory – assuming it like me had an affinity for Florida, and then realized this whole situation was stressing me out way too much.

The best thing to do was to go to the hotel room which was up about 12 stories and wait. So I sat there with an eye on my computer screen and another on the cruise ship miles off shore. I was just waiting for it to rise way up in the air. Not that I really had an action plan if it did.

While in the room I realized I had some relatives on a cruise ship in the Florida area. Maybe I should call I thought. The next thing you know they picked up and I realized I had a potentially awkward situation on my hands.

I said to my mother-in-law cautiously… Hi, I was wondering how the cruise is going… I didn’t want to hit her with a question like. “Is the ship a lot higher than it was a few minutes ago?” I figured the shock of getting a call from a son-in-law was enough for one vacation. After a short while I was able to ascertain her ship was fine (then again she was at least one pina colada head of me so I couldn’t be certain.)

Eventually and thanks to Wikipedia I found that tsunamis can travel up to 500 MPH and it had been about an hour from the time of the alert – and the earthquake was about 500 miles away. I figured it was safe to stop looking out my 12-story window and moreover it was time to change as the life preserver was beginning to chafe.

Technology can be a really great thing – but every once in a while it can ruin a Thanksgiving.

  • kevin moore
    December 3, 2009 at 12:36 pm

    Good story, you really had me on the edge of my seat! I could picture the scene as it went on, but yet I am not sure if the cruise ship would have felt the pressure wave go past. Unlike a rogue wave that can swamp a big ship. A tsunami doesn’t move on top of the water until the shock wave gets compressed in shallow waters, like a bay, harbor, shoreline or a cove. If the ship was in a port, the water would likely rise quickly for a short time, then the harbor would drain out, this is the time to run screaming! because shortly there after the tsunami would show its ugly face!
    thank you for sharing your story!

  • Rich Tehrani
    December 3, 2009 at 5:30 pm

    Thanks Kevin! I appreciate the useful info which I hope to never put to use — except when watching the Discovery Channel. 🙂

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