The eclipse: Doom is racing toward our very eyes

What bunkum, what balderdash.

In days of yore, street-corner prophets would carry signs warning that the Day of Judgment was at hand, that the end was nigh, that postponing repentance was no longer a sensible policy.

These sentinels of doom have taken new career paths, but modern society is still packed with those who feel it is their urgent mission to spread fear, that others of their species are so bereft of common sense that they must be lectured to.

My lawn mower manual advises against stuffing random extremities into the blade while it is in motion. If you need such a notice, return to bed at once. In hyper-vigilant California, some sunglasses carry warnings the product contains chemicals that could cause birth defects. This may explain why you never see pregnant women snacking on their sunglasses at Disneyland.

This month’s solar eclipse provides a rich opportunity for both amateurs and professionals to state the obvious, and they are at it with vigor.

Already highway signs around Charlotte warn that traffic conditions during the eclipse may become treacherous. Think of the rubes among us popping out of their cars to look skyward for the vanished sun. This could cause a traffic jam on I-77.

South Carolina officials are in gear, too. There the Palmetto Highway Patrol has issued a series of directives to survive the eclipse, including this one:

“Don’t look at the sun while driving.”

Telling people not to look at the sun is all the rage right now. Though nature provides us with a reliable ocular reflex that snaps the eyelids shut during such folly, it does not protect the at-risk population who have pre-existing conditions that have already rendered them:

▪ Blind.

▪ Dead.

So we must keep spreading the word.

No one is more concerned about the dangers of the eclipse than the Norfolk Southern Railway. Officers of the company have emerged from a meeting to encourage eclipse-goers to stay off their railroad tracks.

Their reasoning is anchored in the bedrock belief that people might be drawn, like rock fans to Woodstock, between the ribbons of steel for a good view. If a great rumbling, horn-blaring locomotive should happen along at the same time, inconvenience could result.

So consider yourself warned. Perhaps it’s best to skip this once-in-a-lifetime dance of the spheres and shelter inside under the blankets (mind the choking hazard) until the danger has passed.

There you can listen to the modern prophets of ruin describe the unfolding mayhem, mile by mile. They’ve dumped their placards and become television forecasters, warning breathlessly of the real menace of the spectacle:


Mark Washburn: