The Earthquake bag …
This a brief chapter that I feel strangely compelled to write, if only to just sort of get it out of the way.
Many of my friends, who do not live here in Italy, have asked me many times ‘What’s in your earthquake bag, I mean, like … really?‘ No-one who lives here would even think to ask the question because we all have pretty much the same stuff inside this vital part of current lives
In one sense, this is perhaps a bit of a frivolous chapter but equally these objects are both an important element of all our lives as well as a rather serious reflection of the times we are living in now.
Here goes. First off, it’s a ruck-sack and not a bag/suitcase. I learned from the October earthquakes (God, I still haven’t told you about those – I am avoiding it I suspect) that you cannot run, and run effectively, if your hands are not free. I was was thrown left and right inside my house that night of October 26th, and I could never have escaped whilst trying to carry stuff anywhere other than on my back. You need your hands and arms free to balance yourself and to grab on to anything to keep you upright. Dragging a smart little wheelie- suitcase is perfect for airport lounges and a complete waste of time over piles of rubble.
I was actually quite nervous when I took this picture this morning. It meant that my bag was open and everything I need if (when?) the next quake comes was lying there, exposed, out in the open and not ready at all to ‘grab and run’.
Practically everything is a bright colour. So it can be found quickly. Beiges and black are crap in the dark.
The only things not in the picture are my camera – I was using it – and my phone which was in my jeans’ pocket
So, here is the portrait picture of my Earthquake Bag and its haphazard looking contents
- A black notebook. I never go anywhere, ever, without a notebook. Old habit from my days in TV journalism
- The green checked tea-towel is not because I expect to be drying dishes in a post-apocalyptic world, but is to protect my camera. A camera case would mean a separate thing to carry. We’re talking minimalism here
- The red pot is hand cream and the white tube is foot cream. I really can’t explain this. (possibly some residual childhood thing, as my Dad was a US serviceman and drummed it into me that without good, healthy feet you, quote, ‘ain’t going nowhere…‘)
- Four packets of spare cigarettes. I am an addict, and OK with that
- The red spotted things holds tatty bits of make-up. I might have to do a post-earthquake interview on RAI TV and would hate to let fellow victims down by looking any rougher that is strictly necessary
- The hideous glittery gold pouch thing contains spare cards and batteries for my camera, hard drives with all my stuff on it and cloths for the camera lens
- The hideous glittery silver one has passport, certificato di residenza spare money, driver’s license and birth certificate. In the modern world you are no-one without your personal documents
- Chewing gum and lip balm – back to that potential ‘survivor interview’ I might have to do on telly – bad breath is a no-no even if you have just crawled out from under a building
- The bright green thing is a charged up something-or-other that Steve bought me which means that if my phone were to go dead, I could charge it from this
- Car keys
- Electric toothbrush and charger. Yes, bonkers. Can’t help myself. Hate dirty teeth
- A packet of tissues. I am bound to cry and/or need the loo before help ever came
- Box of Xanax – never know when you might need them – after a huge earthquake, rather a lot I can tell you
The EB lives by the french windows here, next to a huge bright yellow torch (earthquakes don’t necessarily come-a-calling during daylight hours).
…… Two readers of this blog wrote to me and they, too, described the contents of their earthquake bags. One woman was writing now, contemporaneously, but interestingly and very poignantly, the other woman still kept her bag ready even though she was involved in earthquakes more than ten years ago.
I cannot envisage a time – ever – when I will not have such a bag at the ready. I have been altered by what’s happened. A bag that is packed and complete at all times. I use the toothbrush? As soon as I am done, I put it back in the bag. I take a photograph, I put the camera, straight from hand, back in the bag. I would not leave it on the table, for instance. My phone is on my person all day but at night I have to zip it into the bag. In the desperate scramble to get out when the house is shaking there is only mental space to think about ONE bag, ONE object – everything simply must be in the bag. Panic occasionally seizes me, if, for instance I have answered a call on the phone when I was in the middle of using something that was in the bag … and as I’m on the phone I can see I’ve not put whatever it was away again.
A life in a bag.