If it happens in the wee small hours, it’ll be online

(This is the Online column, written for The Southland Times)

They reckon times of adversity bring out both the best and the worst in people, and the Canterbury earthquake shows that “they” are, once again, correct.

There were the early reports of looters (rotten sods deserve to be put in stocks in the Square once everything’s repaired) and someone had their house robbed after they went off to one of the welfare centres.

Then, just to show that for every nasty there’s an equal and opposite salt-of-the-earth Kiwi, there was the dairy owner who went to his store very early on Saturday morning and did his part to help out, giving away milk and selling batteries at half the normal price.

And let’s not forget the students who set up a Facebook page to organise helpers to pitch in with the cleaning up.

And once again, the social networking did its part in breaking the story, and in giving those early indications that this was going to be a biggie.

I was still up when it hit, sitting in front of my computer in my home office on the second floor of our house. I had been about to turn in for the night but as the quake built in intensity I chucked a comment on my Facebook page about how long the thing seemed to be lasting then headed for Twitter and the Trade Me message board.

Now if you haven’t figured it out by now, Trade Me is the place to go if you want to know what’s happening right at this very minute. Especially if it’s during the wee small hours.
And there they were, a dozen or more threads with the word earthquake in the title and numerous exclamation marks.

A quick check showed that even at 4.35 on a Saturday morning, there were Kiwis awake all across the land, with comments on the severity of the rattler from Invercargill, Dunedin, Timaru, Nelson, Wellington and more.
To begin with, there were no comments from Christchurch or the immediate surrounds and, after seeing where the quake was centred on the United States Geological Survey (usgs.gov) site, I started to wonder whether Christchurch had fallen off.
Of course, as the hours ticked by it became apparent that Christchurch and other parts of Canterbury had suffered immense damage.

I can’t even begin to imagine how it is for those living in the midst of it all but can only hope some of the more insensitive souls using Trade Me’s message board never have to cope with the upheaval and trauma that goes with a major disaster.

There have been a couple complaining about the number of threads on the message board about the earthquake, one asking “haven’t you got anything else to talk about”.  Another says “no one died, get over it”.

One of those complaining about the quake being the number one topic of conversation on the board also had a wee whinge about it taking over the TV news, too.

Fortunately, those spectacularly uncaring types are outnumbered by real Kiwis who know only too well that it could have been any of us looking at the prospect of a slow and painful rebuilding exercise. And they took to the Trade Me message board en masse to tell the whingers what they thought of them.

However, even I was taken aback by the trader who started a thread with “is it too soon” in the title, who was hoping to score some bargains in the way of conservatories or kitchen cabinets being sold from quake-damaged homes.

Here’s a heads up: if you have to ask if it’s too soon to be asking, then it probably is.

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