OPINION: For future reference, if you want to know what to wear to a dawn implosion, it's the bottom half of pyjamas, Ugg boots and the ubiquitous puffer jacket, that bulky Michelin coat worn by so many Cantabrians.
We had been encouraged to stay away from the implosion of the 14-storey, 6500-tonne Network ZB building, but if it's literally on your back doorstep, how could you resist?
Plenty did, telling me they'd heard a couple of boom-booms while slumbering in their cots, saying they'd look it up online or watch it on the TV news later. One can only presume that to them nothing is real unless it's validated in a technological frame, real life obviously being so last decade.
Perhaps that's a churlish thing to say. I imagine many are still living with and managing the trauma of recent seismic events and the last thing they want to see is another building falling down in front of them. And then there was the rugby final the night before; always a good excuse.
I was prepared for a certain amount of delay and hopping from foot to foot waiting for blastoff, imagined last-minute problems with detonations from the Acme Corporation. I've watched enough Road Runner cartoons to know how these things can run amok.
But without so much as a sigh or a "come on, hurry up", without even a hooter, a horn, or a howdy doody, right on the dot of 8am there was a boom. Through the decladded sides of the building you saw the lights from the detonation as the building stood there for a couple of seconds in undignified shock.
For seconds it looked like the implosion had been seriously underpowered, but wait, there was more. The building obliged by sagging like a bouncy castle that had just had the air taken out of it, lurched forward as if clutching its stomach, before falling straight down to the ground.
No doubt a few 9/11 conspiracy theorists were in the crowd attentively watching to see if Radio Network House had fallen the way of the Twin Towers, as great plumes of beige dust that reminded you of that first summer of dried windblown liquefaction blew out to the west towards the media contingent.
The weather forecast had been for drizzle and northeasterlies, and some prescient mothers of small fry attending the spectacle had been farsighted enough to muzzle their offspring in face masks. Literally as soon as the building bit the dust one ankle-biter sitting close by lifted up his mask and said: 'Now can we go to McDonald's?'
Once again real life without the benefit of special effects had been found wanting and visually unimpressive. I wondered if the event had even registered or would be remembered by a child growing up in the confusion and drama of the quakes.
I compared how this spectacle would have gone down in my own childhood where the re-enactment of "A-tishoo, a-tishoo we all fall down" from Ring a Ring a Rosie was about as exciting as it got.
Maybe the indifference to naked reality is so great that if Armageddon happened right now everyone would be too glued to their iPhones to tear themselves away to look.
But the reaction of the adults around me was quite different. We felt energised. Our eyes burnt with the manic glee of arsonists, dying for it to happen all over again. My offsider pointed out there were enough of us who'd turned up to witness the collapse for some bright spark, pun intended, to have whipped round with the hat asking for a buck or two's donation toward the rebuild.
The dust settled quickly enough, revealing the mandatory pile of twisted Cubist rubble, in the midst of which was a meat pack someone had won in a raffle way back on that fateful February day, and had been too afraid to go back and collect.
I went home and immediately slapped on some heavy-metal music. It seemed the right thing to do.
- © Fairfax NZ News