Up Front by Emma Hart


Lessons from Nature

Two weeks on now, and the fact I don't have to tell you 'on from what' is pretty telling. Still, this appears to be about when our brains start working again. There's still only one topic of conversation in town. The up side of this is that I took two taxi trips on Saturday and was subjected to nobody's political views on anything. 2 a.m. driver told a quite freaky story of being out driving when one of the big aftershocks hit, and seeing the road actually undulate in front of him. Though he didn't use the word "undulate" and followed this up with his Theory of Ghosts.

Time, now, to start contemplating the lessons we've learned from this whole earthquake thing. For those of you who've never run across me before, I mean this in a 'gained knowledge' sense, not a 'moral punishment' one.

Luck. A lot of things are not as random as they seem – like the pattern of destruction. The timing, though, is certainly one of the reasons people didn't die. Also, we've had pretty good weather since, which has helped with both morale and the controlled removal of chimneys. Then a massive storm hit the country, and the only area it missed was the one hit by the earthquake. It would almost be enough to make you believe in a divine power, were it not for...

Churches. So it turns out that when it comes to surviving Acts of God, the steeple is not the ideal architectural approach. It's kind of like having a really big chimney on top of your tall, narrow house. Only pointed. The one thing we still haven't put back up in our house is the big candle-stick with the pointed spike on the end. I was of the opinion that the disproportionate destruction visited on Christchurch churches was an indication of the lack of an involved deity, but my partner has a much more devious theory. He thinks perhaps God is just sick of old churches. He wants some shiny new ones, people. Something that looks more like the Art Gallery. He's been as clear as He can. Snap to it.

Water. Turns out that stored water goes manky after a while and becomes undrinkable. Alcohol is a natural preservative. Sayin'.

Too Much Information. Heh, so it turns out that even if people ask if anyone's been having sex when an aftershock's hit, they don't actually want to know the answer. Or have it likened to that time when you were a teenager having it off in the back of a ute and it went over a cattle stop.

Mayors. Not to imply anything unsavoury, but I'd really like to be around when whoever Bob Parker sold his soul to pops in to collect. Now, not only does he get to stay mayor of Christchurch, but also, if he wants, he could be Super-Mayor of Auckland. Speaking solely for myself, it's a sacrifice I'm prepared to make. In fact, it seems oddly like a win for everyone.

Think about it, Bob. What do you like? Property developers and television cameras. You were made for Auckland. And let's face it, this is pretty much the end of television cameras in Christchurch for the foreseeable. Become Super-Mayor and they'll be with you forever. We'll forgive you moving on, just like the people of Banks Peninsula did when you were finished being their mayor. Or if you really feel you have to stay, you could just give other mayors tips on how to spend an entire week with your sleeves rolled up without ever once picking up a shovel.

On the other hand, there's this rumour that you're going to stand for national office. I'm behind that as well. You'll need a safe National seat to sink your rump into, of course. A safe National seat in Christchurch, where would we find one of those... Dictators for Life don't need electorate seats, right Gerry?

The Internet. When Bill Ralston opined in the last Listener that the earthquake was a sterling lesson in just what a luxury technology is, I knew he hadn't been here. Yes, there were people who didn't have power and water and sewerage. Showers and flushing toilets are under-appreciated. But they walk in the door, charge their phones, and open their laptops. Communication is not a luxury, it's a necessity and like it or not, Bill, this is how we do it now. It's sort of like a telephone, right, but I can talk to a whole bunch of people at once. Information and emotional support are still important when... You know what? Never mind. Get back to me when that power cable into the Auckland CBD goes again. I might know about it before you do.

Emma Hart is the author of the book 'Not Safe For Work'.

(Click here to find out more)

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