For those of you who don’t already know about it, we’re going to experience a total eclipse of the sun on August 21, 2017. My hometown of St. Joseph, Missouri is dead center in the path of totality, which means we’ll see (or not see, I suppose) the sun for a longer period than almost any other place in the country.
There is a very cool interactive map located on the Front Page Science website which allows you to zero in on any town and determine the length of time you won’t be able to see the sun. I found my house on the map and it says my “period of totality” will be two minutes and thirty-seven point one seconds. I need to write that down, but I won’t be able to read it because I don’t see well in the dark.
It is interesting to note that the city which holds the longest period of totality is Carbondale, Illinois. They will get two minutes and forty-one point six seconds.
Our city planners estimate that St. Joseph will be inundated by eclipse watchers. They believe the number of inundators to be anywhere between fifty thousand and a half million. I don’t know why, but my first thought was that we don’t own enough portable toilets for these people, let alone hotel rooms, food, water, transportation and other necessities. NASA says that August 21 will be the worst traffic day in history. I have seen traffic like this in New York. I don’t know about you, but I like to travel to see my traffic jams.
Now, I like my hometown. Normally it’s a nice, quiet place. The Pony Express began here. Jesse James was shot here. For a while, there were billboards all along Interstate 29 advertising St. Joseph as the place “Where The Pony Express Began And Jesse James Ended.” I thought it was clever, but apparently somebody got offended. They took them down.
We have a population of some seventy thousand people. If I use the lowest estimate of an additional fifty thousand people and do some simple math, it creates logistical nightmares that make me want to stop doing simple math. If I use the highest estimate of a half million people invading us on a single day, well, all we can do is figure out how to clean up when it’s over. And lock the doors.
It’s not as though they’ll be here for only two minutes and thirty-seven point one seconds. They’ll be arriving for a week prior and on August 21, it will turn into a full press assault. I suppose they’ll leave pretty quickly, but I’m betting they won’t tidy up before skipping town. And what will they do until the sun goes out? I guess they’ll look at the Pony Express Museum. Or drop by the Jesse James House where he was shot, and see the bullet hole in the wall (which I don’t believe is really a bullet hole, but that’s another story and I don’t have time to tell it to a half million people.) I wonder if the folks at Jesse’s house are ready for this.
I’ve never seen a total eclipse of the sun and according to the experts, I won’t have another chance. I’ve been invited to multiple “eclipse parties,” but I don’t want a bunch of people around me, playing music and spilling their drinks on me. I don’t want to take photographs of it. I just want to sit on my deck and experience it, because I’m getting older and there aren’t a lot of things I haven’t experienced yet. There are a half-million people out there, somewhere, determined to rob me of the experience. And we’ll have to clean up after them.
Maybe I’ll go to Carbondale, Illinois. Seems like a nice little town. And they’ll have an extra four point five seconds of not seeing the sun.