Hello Card  -  Volume 10  -  Suzanne Card Number 0  -  Sun, Nov 12, 1989 12:10 PM

I know I said I wasn't going to talk about my job again this time, except that that's where I was when the earthquake hit. Up on the 17th floor when the floor started rolling.

I headed for the doorway of my office, but it was like somebody had me by the shoulders, shaking me back and forth, and I couldn't keep standing. So I was kneeling in the doorway, holding on, watching drawers pop open and notebooks flying off shelves, listening to this horrible rumbling and creaking as the building continued to roll. That's when I saw the ceiling starting to buckle, the metal frames twisting and huge white tiles falling in a rain of plaster. And I don't know why exactly, but I was thinking please, God, please don't let me die in Foster City.

If you're going to die, I don't know why it should matter where it happens, but at the time it seemed very important at least to get back to San Francisco first, and it was a long three hours home, with the freeways swollen and traffic lights out on El Camino, the alternate route, with aftershocks jolting the car and no real news on the radio yet, just people who could still use their phones calling in. So I had no idea if San Francisco still existed or not, but I remember feeling very lucky just to be alive and unharmed and headed somewhere in a car with a full tank of gas.

My apartment was powerless but still standing, the floor a collage of broken glass, books, leaves, wet dirt. Luckily, my computer hadn't fallen. I unplugged it, put it on the floor and wrapped it up in a blanket, where it stayed until just a couple of days ago.

I don't keep much alcohol at home, but I found the cooking sherry and a bottle of Gallo Port I'd been meaning to throw away and took them outside to share with the ordinarily distant neighbors. Everyone said it was great stuff as we sat there in the dark, listening to the radio.

It's still a little Twilight Zone-ish to see the Bay Bridge closed and the Marina all torn up. I'm trying to forget about the earthquake but the aftershocks continue and it's hard to tell when each one has ended because I can't tell the difference anymore between the earth shaking and my own heart pounding. There are deep cracks in the stucco along the base of the house I live in, so I see them every time I go inside.

A friend of mine was saying tonight that the good thing about an event like this is that it makes you stop and examine your life. Which is hell for a person like me because that's what I do too much of anyway. I don't think there's any part of it left to examine anymore.

But anyway, it's Sunday night and I have to work on a performance review for my secretary that's due tomorrow morning. She's only worked for me for a month, and so far her work has been consistently slow and sloppy. I guess the review would be relatively easy to write if this were all there was to consider.

But I feel sorry for her because she also has to work for my boss, who is one of the most neurotic, driven and hysterical people I've ever known, and who for some reason hates secretaries, and who can't find a full-time secretary of her own because no sane secretary would ever want to work for her.

So it's clear to me that my poor secretary is stressed out all the time because she has to do work for this woman who refuses to be pleased, but meanwhile my boss is pressuring me to write a very negative review so that we can arrange to get the secretary fired if her performance doesn't improve within a couple of months, which of course it won't if she gets a very negative review.

The secretary is a very private person, but nice, and I suspect her work would be fine if she were treated like a human being in a consistent way. So I'm going to try to think of some positive things to say about her work which will sound convincing to my boss, which so far has been very hard to do. It's a very small dilemma, I guess, but I wish it were someone else's. Anyway, I'll let you know what happens.