Everything else has happened, why not an earthquake? Although 2020 had a nice ring to it when the corks were flying, this could be a cleansing year. An opportunity to give up and look forward to 2021. In basketball and baseball, they call this tanking, and sometimes it works.

I was sitting at my desk Wednesday when the air conditioner kicked on downstairs. Moments later, the windows started shaking and the wooden duck Leland Chow had carved started shimmying as if it were readying itself for flight.

It was one of two things: The air conditioner had thrown a rod or thrown whatever they throw before they quit and cost you $5,000 or it was an earthquake. In 2020, both are possible.

I slipped into earthquake mode, channeling calm and reminding myself that this 100-year-old-plus house had survived several earthquakes including the 1952 earthquake that had made plaster and brick mincemeat out of much of downtown.

“Channeling” is not the same as wholeheartedly believing because who knows whether this one will be “The Big One." The big one, the last one and the one that plants the cherry on top for 2020.

Earthquakes are good for several things. They remind you that the universe cannot be counted on and if it gets a hankering to smote you, it will smote you and not feel bad about smiting you.

Earthquakes are also adept at delivering you to the present moment. Bills, appliances quitting, nutgrass growing taller than bamboo, who cares? You just want the shaking to stop before the upstairs is downstairs and you are downstairs with it.

You make deals with the devil in order to stop the shaking, but you tried that last time. Praying is an option for some but when you are a situational prayer, prayer can lead to geographically accurate lightning strikes.

I looked at Charlie, the brown terrier/dachshund mix who was sleeping under my desk. He hadn’t moved at all during the earthquake and had barely lifted his head.

Aren’t dogs supposed to bark prior to an earthquake? Give you notice? Isn’t that one way of earning their kibble?

There wasn’t one dog in the neighborhood that was barking. Dogs that normally bark for no apparent reason other than existential dog angst were quieter than the Terracotta Army.

Charlie was no help. He might be earning his keep but it wasn’t by being an earthquake dog. It would take a 9.4 and Chile's Valdivia earthquake to wake him up.

I Googled “earthquake today” and got “Deadly earthquake rattles Southern Mexico.” Could an earthquake travel that far? I could ask Charlie but he was asleep.

Another headline read: “Magnitude 5.8 earthquake, 12 miles from Lone Pine.” We had driven through Lone Pine a few days earlier. After the earthquake is a great time to visit, and if you do, go to the Alabama Hills, which is like visiting the moon but with better pizza (“We toss ’em, they’re awesome”) and with the Dow Villa Motel nearby.

The shaking stopped. We survived. Surviving was something to feel good about. Maybe we’d turned the corner, something we could rally around except for one thing: fire season!

Remember fire season? That’s when on any given day, half of California is burning and the other half is waiting its turn. During fire season, we aren’t a state, we’re fuel and the world’s biggest woodpile.

Let’s choose optimism. We’re in a cooling trend — today is supposed to be 102 — one degree cooler than yesterday and baseball and basketball are starting soon.

How about we make a deal? If you won’t tank, I won’t either. We have six months. Maybe we can turn this around.

Herb Benham is a columnist for the Bakersfield Californian and can be reached at hbenham@bakersfield.com or (661) 395-7279.

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