“Get yer T-shirts. Get your Eclipse T-shirts here.” If you ventured anywhere within about 50 miles either side of the Totality Band on Monday, you may well have heard a vendor hawking his wares up and down the road or rest stop or grassy field where you gathered with thousands of your newest closest friends to watch the celestial phenomenon.
Something like 100 million Americans live within a day’s drive of a place where day became night for a couple of cool minutes. And many made the trip. Traffic jams were often the rule rather than the exception as countless smaller towns joined bigger cities in hosting bunches of tourists for the day.
Who would ever have thought the moon and sun would unite the country far more than any manmade event – cataclysmic or commercial – in at least the last decade? And speaking of commercial, leave it to entrepreneurs to find yet another way to separate normally sane people from their money.
In souvenir shops, on websites, and in person, Eclipse commemorative items were readily available. It probably started with those hard-to-find viewing glasses. The purveyors of special spectacles did an excellent job of making sure everyone knew that if you so much as glanced at the darkened sun unprotected there was a good chance harm would befall you. Supply and demand was handled well by the paper viewing glasses industry. True to our capitalist system, as the appointed time of darkness approached, the price increased. Two-dollar cardboard frames with the requisite proper lens protection quickly became ten- and twenty-dollar cardboard frames.
But that just scratched the surface. Glasses, mugs, and posters joined the ubiquitous T-shirts. Some cities worked diligently to personalize their versions. One report said Madras, Oregon, where the Total journey began, had printed its longitude and latitude on the front so you’d know exactly where you looked skyward years from now. Another design listed various points along the darkness swath and mimicked a rock band by dubbing it “The Path of Totality” tour.
Soaps, jewelry, and even S’mores kits with marijuana-infused chocolate apparently were also popular along with “Moonshine” joints. At least in certain states. I wonder how many of those S’mores you would have had to eat before sheer panic took over your senses when it turned dark at noon. And did those who indulged suddenly have an overwhelming craving for Moon Pies?
Reports are there were even some hostelries, watering holes, and other places of business that just might have tacked on a wee bit of a surcharge for their services. Case in point was a popular bar in Nashville that saw fit to seek a mere $500 per person just for the privilege of sitting on its rooftop. (Libations were, of course, extra.)
Eclipsed-themed wines provided opportunities for celebrants to raise a glass to science. A place called Frey Vineyards in Redwood, California, created Umbra Organic Zinfandel, Umbra Organic Chardonnay, and a sparkling wine named Totality. (Umbra is the moon’s dark inner shadow.)
Corporate America was not to be denied. Krispy Kreme had previously announced plans to offer its signature glazed donut in a dunked chocolate version for the day. Amazon offered themed tote bags, ceramic pieces (plates, basically, featuring the moon and a small sliver of the sun, suitable for holiday gatherings and other festive occasions), coasters, watches, moon calendars, ceiling fan pull chains, and, what else – Eclipse gum. Restaurants in the small town of Hopkinsville, Kentucky, (or “Eclipseville” as it dubbed itself) purportedly featured eclipse-themed pizza, burgers, and desserts. “I Got Mooned” tumblers were popular too. (Which reminds me of a kid I knew in high school with a proclivity to . . . but that’s another story.)
Amidst the hoopla, We the People ate it up. Traffic stopped, commerce ground to a halt, practical science came alive in schools, neighbor joined neighbor in cul-de-sacs – even the pundits’ reactions on CNN and Fox News were virtually equal.
Do ya think maybe God was telling us, “You see how possible it is to get along and agree with each other?” Of course, a total eclipse available all across the U.S.A. only happens once every 100 years or so, but still, it was pretty ease for all of us to put aside our agendas for a good 15 or 20 minutes there. Perhaps we can use that as a base. A little bit of progress at a time. Labor Day is coming up. Maybe we can use the usual Mattress Sale extravaganza that accompanies it and other holidays as a building block. We could all sleep in our Eclipse T-shirts on our new memory foams. Anybody got a better idea?
©MMXVII. William J. Lewis, III