I’m not sure if you were aware of the total solar eclipse that moved through part of the U.S. yesterday, but wow, if you were in Oregon, it’s likely you’ve heard of little else for months.
That’s because Oregon is in the path of totality — we actually started the party on the coast — and everyone from gas station attendants to emergency service personnel have taken this opportunity to completely freak out.
And we’ve added to the drama at our own newspaper. Well, it’s all anyone wants to talk about: How many people are expected statewide (a million), and how that will affect traffic and food and gas supplies. We were advised to gas up our cars and go grocery shopping no later than four days prior, pack our own toilets if we were venturing into the path of totality (no joke), and to treat the whole event like an emergency situation.
Then there was the drama of eyewear — did you get ISO approved glasses to view the event? Some places gave them out for free; others charged a few bucks per pair. And not all were approved.
I lived through this “once in a lifetime event” back in 1979. Although I was 6, so I don’t remember much, just that they had us so scared to look outside that my brothers and I wouldn’t even let Mom open the curtains. We ended up watching it on TV. But I don’t remember it being this big of a deal, this commercialized. I was sick of the eclipse and all of our coverage long before the thing actually happened.
Our little town is about an hour or so out of the path of totality, so we were at a mere 98 percent. I figured that would be close enough, although I did hear a scientist astronomer guy on NPR talking about how that equates to going 98 percent of the way to, like, Disneyland, and to just make the trip to totality.
Uh, no, scientist astronomer guy. There were PEOPLE expected at the point of totality.
Since it passed over us about 10:21 a.m., Eric and I were at work. I wasn’t sure what I’d be doing, exactly, if I’d get to watch the eclipse or if I’d have to be out on the town covering reactions. Luckily, two staffers volunteered for that particular duty, and our publisher told us to lock up the office and “go enjoy the eclipse.” Hooray! So I called Eric to tell him that we were headed to the roof (this is when working next door to your husband pays off) and he came to meet me.
A few observations:
- The sun looked like the crescent moon … only it was the sun.
- We heard it was going to get cooler, but I didn’t believe it. It did. I was wishing I’d remembered to grab my sweater.
- It never got completely dark where we were, but it was really weird seeing street lights come on and watching the light get dimmer and dimmer.
- Shadows looked awesome. Feathery. Shadows of leaves were particularly cool.
- The best part was when the moon was dead center and we could see the solar flares on the sun.
- I’d been making fun of all the eye warnings — I mean, who’s gonna purposely look at the sun? — but then my solar glasses slipped off my head at one point and there I was, remembering why I shouldn’t make judgements. (OUCH.) (Luckily, your first reaction is to close your eyes against the blinding light, so I’m hoping that’s enough to save me.) Karma. Anyway, I held on TIGHT the rest of the time and was a perfect solar glasses wearer from then on out.
- It was over before we’d thought it even began. I looked at Eric and was like, huh, I guess that really was like going 98 percent of the way to Disneyland. Lesson learned.
So that was my thrilling adventure into the land of eclipses. Eric and I thought maybe now we’d become eclipse chasers and spend the rest of our days going from spot to spot, but then we remembered we’re homebodies and we also don’t care that much.