Oh man, I was a 19 year old retail clerk in the Mervyn’s break room when the earthquake happened. It was just me and two other clerks, both African American women. (That old Mervyn’s no longer exists: it was in the El Portal Shopping Center in San Pablo.)
The quake hit and I was too embarrassed to actually hide under the table but when the tiles in the false ceiling started getting dislodged, I went under the table. I was also thinking how fucked it up was that I was 19 and if I died, I would die a retail store clerk and not even a clerk at a real store like the Gap.
Everyone in the store lined up to use the pay phones, but the lines were super busy and you could only get through by yelling really loudly into the phone, which of course meant you had to hear what everybody else’s conversations were like with their family.
I was living in Hercules then and going to the nearby community colleges (both DVC and Contra Costa) to get enough credits to transfer to Cal. If I didn’t have Cal to graduate from, I don’t know what would have happened to me.
One thing I really liked though was that BART was like a booze party for weeks afterwards since it was running all night. I’d go clubbing (which in the Bay Area means closing out the club at 2 AM like a boss) and hop on BART which was full of people from the clubs.
There would be guys on the BART vomiting from too much partying and they would STILL try to hit on someone, smelly barf breath and all. I was in shock when one of them actually managed to get a number. Halloween was great that year for East Bay people since we no longer needed to drive our asses back home. BART was our designated driver.