Thursday, December 17, 2009

Let Me Introduce: The Future!

I've been waiting for almost a year and a half for a postcard. Last month that postcard arrived. It announced that today I'd be among a chosen number of people (not unlike Charlie Bucket) who are allowed to buy a bousai radio, a disaster-prevention radio. Or for those who don't like that translation, a disaster-preparedness radio.

Basically, its job is to warn me when an earthquake is about to occur. Yes, only mere seconds before the devastation, but theoretically enough time to dive under the kitchen table and save my life.

Here is my absurdly simple understanding of how the thing works: before any large earthquake, primary waves shoot from deep within the earth; those waves are picked up by a bunch of scientists sitting and gazing raptly at their computers; one guy makes a phone call or two; another guy presses a large red button and voila' all the bousai radios in the area to be affected take notice and at full volume announce, "THERE'S GOING TO BE AN EARTHQUAKE. TAKE COVER!"

And this is what the puppy looks like.

This morning I took my postcard and my 1,200 yen (exact change, thank you) to the community center arriving fifteen minutes before it opened. That's okay there were already twenty elderly men and women outside, a postcard in one hand, money in the other. They looked just as excited as I'm sure I did. This was an event! (Despite there not being a single Gobstoppers to be seen.)

We were taken in and made to watch a video about things like lengthening the antennae, changing batteries, and making sure we placed it in a room where we're most likely to be.

I learned some interesting things. Not only do I get the pre-earthquake warning, but every day at 7:30 and 16:30 it will play music letting me know that it is indeed 7:30 and 16:30. Note: they do this anyway from speakers around town, but those are relatively far away and I barely hear them. So sometimes I'm not exactly sure when it's 7:30AM.

My device will also click on and promptly inform me of other important notices any time of the day or night. Again this is something that goes out via those speakers which I hardly ever hear. Now these news flashes are 99.9% of the time announcements from a family who has noticed that dear grandma or grandpa has wandered off and they don't have a clue where he/she is. I'll get a description of how tall the missing person is, what he/she is wearing, and any other vital information deemed important in their capture--"Last seen with beloved pooch, Koro."

If, the fireman explained to us, these broadcasts are too loud, we can put a cushion over the speaker. Remember, volume control goes to FULL when these bulletins come on. We cannot, however, turn the machine off. That would defeat the purpose, right?

Look, here it is again.

What I really like is how deceptively analog it is. Just get a load of those dial-y things.

Ha ha, you laugh now. But when the Japan-breaking Tokai Earthquake goes down, I'll be snug under my kitchen table most likely praying very enthusiastically that no fires break out nearby, oh, and also no tsunamis. Please no fires or tsunamis.

And also, that nuclear power plant they built down the road. The one they built ON the fault line, yeah, if that would just remain in tact, I'll be good.