If you were in America today, you’re well aware of the Great and Powerful Solar Eclipse Experience of 2017, a very special occasion in which our nation stood united about anything for the first time this year. For an hour or two, businesses and conversations ground to a halt while everyone tried to find a great view of the moon blocking the sun. Many hoped it would look cool. Some merely liked the idea of catching a rare astronomic event. A few held their breath and waited for monsters or demons to be summoned and raise a ruckus.
Here in Indianapolis, we weren’t in the official path that would see the coveted “totality” phase, in which sun and moon would become perfectly concentric and theoretically create the best possible photo opportunity. We knew we had options — when we were at this year’s Superman Celebration last June, local businesses were inviting visitors to return August 21st to Metropolis, which was right within that sacred path. Neither of us really wanted to take the day off, though. I recall seeing an eclipse as a child and thinking how weird it was. As the sky dimmed around me, I peeked skyward at the large circle intruding on the sun’s profile, then looked away before I could suffer any consequences. So “see an eclipse” was checked off my bucket list decades before the word “bucket list” was coined.
I hadn’t planned to go out of my way for it, but everyone else was, even while they were on the clock, so I figured why not. I walked over to a windowsill where other folks were lined up to take turns gazing out the window with a pair of Solar Eclipse Safety Glasses™, an advanced science fiction gadget that looked like 3-D glasses for the blind. I never got a turn with the glasses because I was in the mood for spoilers and looked outside without them. From our downtown location, all I could see in the southern sky were obtrusive skyscrapers and plenty of cloud cover. After several straight days without rain, of course today was a fantastic time for Mother Nature to remember how to make clouds. In her enthusiasm she gifted Indianapolis with pretty but unwanted white fluff from horizon to horizon, just in time to ruin ECLIPSE MANIA for lots of Hoosiers. Later in the day came the rains, as if to mock us for daring to indulge in this natural rarity.
Meanwhile up on the northwest side of town, Anne fared a bit better than I did. Shortly after 2 p.m. EDT, she and dozens of other coworkers went on break, went outside, and engaged in competitive eclipse-selfie snapping. Out of Anne’s several tries, our lead photo features the largest eclipse reflection she caught in her camera lens. Thankfully the image wasn’t burned into the glass, didn’t blind her, and didn’t catch her phone or optic nerve on fire. It looks like a tumor but that’s only in the photo, not in reality, unless she’s unwittingly stepped into that one old Twilight Zone episode about a loudmouth jerk who finds a camera that only takes photos of events that haven’t happened yet. If so, that’s terrible and I’m not looking forward to the medical bills or dying alone in my 70s, but it gives me renewed hope that maybe someday I’ll find that Twilight Zone stopwatch that could freeze time. I always thought that was brilliant and useful.
While she enjoyed herself and her free time, my downtown obstacles, including other employees, stole the fun and reduced my enthusiasm back down to its starting “eh” level. I managed a single usable picture, shot through the white panes of an overhead atrium window. Again, this took more than one try because wind kept blowing clouds to and fro, ruining my shot and covering that tiny semicircle target.
…so. The Amazing Colossal Solar Eclipse of 2017, then. Now we can all say we’ve seen one, even though I could already say that when I woke up this morning. At least this time I had the benefit of a space phone with a camera.
I understand this eclipse proved such a ratings bonanza that they’re planning a reboot in 2024 that will be viewable in totality here in Indianapolis, even if they meddle with what worked and decide to cast a completely different sun in the lead role. Maybe this time someone can talk to the clouds’ agent and get them to cooperate, by which I mean go away.