What Now? A Tsunami?

Like most people these days, I've been trying to put on a happy face for the holiday season despite the war dragging on, the failing economy, the bailouts, the scandals, the non-bailouts, and my not being invited to the Inauguration. We all know that smiling helps us feel better, and it even helps people who see us smile feel better. Besides, we know that there are so many people who have it far worse than we do. Things aren't really that bad, right? That's what I was telling myself until I recently learned that I live less than a mile from a "Tsunami Hazard Zone." There's always something.

A few weeks ago, my son asked if I had noticed that there are new blue signs up that tell us that we're entering a "Tsunami Hazard Zone" as we drive towards the ocean, and other signs that tell us we're leaving the "Zone" as we drive away from it. I hadn't noticed them, but the next day I saw them, and I've seen them every day since then. I know the signs aren't actually very large, but because of what they say, they seem to be among the biggest signs I've ever seen. It's like they are dripping with danger and flashing with warning. Because of their implications, they would dwarf a Las Vegas billboard advertising Cher.

Some 90 signs have been placed in the area, and there are more signs throughout the state, dotting the 101 and the coast area. It's all part of the recommendations of California's Seismic Safety Commission. The Commission determined in 2005, that earthquakes can cause tsunamis, and they don't give much warning time. I wonder how much it cost the taxpayers to come up with that startling conclusion.

Somehow, these signs are supposed to make us safer. I'm not sure about that. If I'm driving along the ocean, and then a tsunami starts up, how is reading a sign that tells me I'm in a tsunami zone going to make me safer?

I guess they'd reply that one should follow the signs that say, "Leaving Tsunami Hazard Zone" and go to higher ground. No kidding.

I tried to find out what we are supposed to do now that we officially live in a tsunami evacuation area, not far from a tsunami danger zone. However, none of the officials returned my calls. Maybe they were busy getting ready for The Big Wet One.

I moved into this neighborhood about 11 years ago, and I've loved living here. I used to think it was a good thing that we lived only a mile from the beach. So now am I supposed to worry every day, knowing that I'm uncomfortably close to the tsunami zone? And what is this going to do to property values in my neighborhood? Did the value of my house really need another reason to go down? Wouldn't you have second thoughts about buying a house a big wave away from the tsunami danger zone?

Since we're not in the "danger zone," but are around the "evacuation route," are we going to have special responsibilities if there is a tsunami? Are we supposed to open up our home to those who had to evacuate? Does that mean I need to get the house painted and clean up my home office? And what do you serve people who have evacuated a tsunami? I don't think seafood would be appropriate.

I assume that very soon, I'll employ the same psychological tactic I've used for years regarding earthquakes -- denial. Obviously, you can't live in this area and worry about earthquakes every minute. The same goes for tsunamis. So why did they have to put up signs to remind us of the danger?

I just didn't need something else to worry about. What are they going to do next, put up signs that say things like, "You Might Have Left Your House Unlocked," "They Know About That Book You Never Returned," or "You Should Have A Dermatologist Look At That Thing On Your Back?"

But I decided not to express all these feelings to the officials in charge. If I did, the next day they'd probably put up a sign in my neighborhood saying something like, "Entering A Neurotic Writer's Zone."