While local officials were telling everyone to stay home my fellow techs and I were being paged to let us know that the next day we would start twelve hour shifts. When computers run emergency services and hospitals those that repair them are considered emergency responders. The boxes that this company built had a well deserved reputation for reliability and it turned out to be the dullest duty that I ever pulled. There were however a few interesting memories.
We had an office in San Francisco’s financial district. San Francisco would not allow the buildings to be occupied until checked out by the building department. A few of our people were in the building before that announcement and loaded two vans with parts, rented a hotel room in South San Francisco and used that for an office. They did not have near as much as they needed so we became San Francisco’s stockroom.
The Bay Bridge was missing a section so parts were being hauled all the way down to the San Mateo Bridge and up the peninsula to customer sites in San Francisco. It took half a day to get done. When asked me to run four cases of parts to San Francisco, I grabbed my pal Henry and said “this is dumb Bart is still running you grab two cases I will grab two and we can do it in an hour. Henry was not warm to the idea but after a few digs about his lack of courage he agreed.
Our Alameda office was a few miles from the Coliseum Bart Station and the customer site was on top of the Market Street station. About half way under the bay the train just stopped and the lights went out leaving us in pitch black and under water, oops. Henry had a tiny keychain flashlight and when he turned it on the look on his face was far from pleased. In fact if looks could kill I would have been listed as a casualty of the quake. There were about ten of us on that car and everyone was scared. In fact the lady sitting in front of me went into a complete and frenzied panic she flailed about so wildly that a couple of people held her down to keep her from hurting herself. After a few minutes the lights came back on and after a few more the train began moving. It happened a few times on that trip but for such a short duration that we had no time to be frightened over it. Needless to say there would be no more talk of moving parts via mass transit after that.
IA fed days later was paged to service a software company down the street in Alameda. The customer had a normal problem unrelated to the quake but did need a mundane repair. They had interesting landscaping coming up to the door. It was a strip of grass about thirty feet long and four feet wide surrounded by brick trimmed concrete walkways. The grass was all torn up at the end nearest the building. The repair was an easy fix and I chatted with the system manager while the system came back up. He said that he had started out the door to his motorcycle and realized that he forgot something when he turned toward the building the shaking started. He noticed a lump about the size of a small dog at the end of the grass furthest from the building. After a few seconds it ran the thirty feet length looking like an animal under a blanket. When it got to the far end water and sand explode and a piece of brick work broke off. It was quite a lesson in liquefaction. He handed me the piece of brick and with his permission I took it back to our office. I gave it to my boss as a paperweight and memento of her first earthquake. No matter where you went or who you talked to there was a story.