Slow News Week

The last few days have been kind of dull. We had a small earthquake, a SWAT team deployed nearby to deal with a heavily armed drunk barricaded in his house, and a genially sadistic HVAC maintenance man made me wash my outside compressor, which stands in a large (but not large enough) open space behind the holly that shades my east windows and was becoming encrusted with botanical gunk. The compressor was what really held my attention. It’s all a matter of perspective.

I swear, as I am sitting here, that I did not feel the damn earthquake. I’m not usually awake at five a.m. and the epicenter was on the other side of the city. My household staff, alert to small rodents and other things that scurry, are blissfully unfazed by tectonic activity. We have had tremors around here before — sometime in the fifteen years since I moved into this house I remember all my storm windows juddering at once, as if they were about to flounce off in a huff — and doubtless will again, but most days, construction equipment is more disruptive.

The barricade situation was interesting enough for me to check out, at least when I got up and found it had still not resolved overnight. It sounds as if someone with a skinful elected to introduce a rifle into an argument he was having with a neighbor, and the next thing you know, he’s holed up in his house, the cops have the streets blocked off and a command post has gone up. Promptly, as soon as the situation was well under way, the sky opened and disgorged merciless rain and lightning, like piss pouring out of a boot attached to an arc welder.

According to local list serves the whole thing was still going on in the morning. It just happens that I do a Saturday hill run through those parts, and sure enough, two blocks away from my route, there were the cruisers with their blue lights pulsing, orange cones and cans, yellow tape, and a genuine Jiffy John perched on the near corner. I ambled a little closer to see if I could get a shot and just about then came the first of five loud crumps. It really seemed like a place not to be.

Turned out we had three police departments on this one: ours, City of Alexandria right next door, and Fairfax County. I don’t know who decided to fire tear gas canisters into the house but that apparently was the sound I heard. Drunk Guy — history so far does not record whether he was still drunk — gave himself up at that point. No one got hurt, unless you count his exposure to even more than the usual Washington area air pollution. At least the tear gas will distract him from the hangover.

Maybe the heat got to him.

Drama, but it barely affects my life. The goddam holly leaves that I am still picking out of my hair from soaping down that outside compressor, now, those will annoy me for a while. But as long as no one barricades himself in the gym, I figure we’re good.

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19 thoughts on “Slow News Week

  1. People in San Francisco and San Diego are still laughing themselves to death, saying “3.6? You call that an earthquake???” and “Oh please.” But it is all relative, and when all your storm windows sound like they are ready to flounce off in a huff (I just love that imagery, by the way!), it can be quite disturbing if you aren’t accustomed to it.

    The police standoff, now that would have disturbed me.

    And air conditioners. They are pretty much a necessity with our life styles the way they are, but they can be So Costly to repair and such a pain to maintain. Sorry about the holly leaves.

  2. Here A/C in homes is useful about 1 week per year, save in large windowless buildings.
    We recently had a 6.7 quake about 150 Km from here. At the epicenter, the church belfrey crashed and a bit of wall. At the grocery store the shelves emptied but the costumers had nothing to do with it.
    Here we thought a large truck was going by.

    • DC’s swampy climate guarantees a use for AC from May to about October, even when it is cool (70 F or so sometimes; 100% humidity is still 100% humidity). Add the pollution from way too many cars (and not enough decent transit) and the air becomes a vile stew. Now if we can only figure out an AC technology that doesn’t make that worse.

  3. We had an earthquake out in the Shennandoah Valley some years ago. My wife and I were sitting in our upstairs office and at first we thought it was a truck going by on the road below. Interesting, but not much more than a few seconds of furniture shaking a bit.

  4. There have been earthquakes recently where we live too, which is kinda surprising because we never really get earthquakes… mainly just tornadoes and bitter ass cold weather. I sleep so soundly too that you could have an earthquake and an airplane fly through the room and I still wouldn’t open an eye!

  5. The only earthquake I experienced was many years ago in Toronto, when I was living on the 26th floor of a 30-storey building. As such buildings are built to sway some (on very windy days the water in the toilet would slosh back and forth) the room vibrated rather than juddered. I vibrated too and was convinced I was having an acid flashback.

    Meanwhile, I refuse to be sympathetic to the complaints of people WHO HAVE AIR CONDITIONERS. ūüėČ

    • Fair enough, though I did work my ass off to pay for this monster… I never want to have to replace it so I got the most efficient thing I could afford. It looks like a frigging submarine.

      I’d be scared to death if I saw my toilet sloshing spontaneously.

      • Yeah, it kind of freaked me out until I was told this was normal and better than the alternative, ie. the top part of the building snapping off. Had an amazing view of downtown TO and the lake.

  6. Some intemperate misunderstanding that results in the police besieging my house is one of my recurring waking nightmares. I’m not sure what I think I am capable of that leads to this. Maybe everyone has the same fear … ?

  7. You had an earthquake? Cool! Well, if you’d felt it. I shouldn’t think earthquakes are cool. But when you never really have them, they do seem rather rare and interesting.

  8. “the sky opened and disgorged merciless rain and lightning, like piss pouring out of a boot attached to an arc welder.”

    LOVE it!

    And as for your uneventful few days, ye gods, woman, if anything that exciting happened round here the place would be crawling with news crews for weeks. Sydney’s pretty quiet ūüôā

    • We still can’t get squat out of the Arlington PIO (Police Information Officer). ACPD is notoriously cagey. I did telephone my Cute Engineer from the corner where I heard the tear gas projectiles, since he is in a group house which usually shelters two activist guerilla journalist types, and one of them got as far as the police lines where he was told that the original dispute had something to do with copper pipe (a resource which, mined from older houses, can be cashed in big time).

      I should be able to get more particulars in time, since I lunch every couple weeks with a 70-year-old bad girl who works as a volunteer with the Alexandria Police just next door (they backed up Arlington on the command station for this one).

      Quiz question: does anyone know why piss would be in a boot to begin with? I know because I read Spike Milligan’s war memoirs.

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