As you’ve probably heard, there’s going to be an total eclipse of the sun tomorrow. It’s scheduled for roughly 1:00 in my neighborhood, which also happens to be just on the northern-most boundary of the path that is supposed to provide optimal viewing. Living in an area where I get to see the eclipse seemed like good news to me, but it didn’t take long for me to learn that there was a darker side to this event (and I’m not just talking about what happens when the sun is blocked by the moon.) Apparently, thousands upon thousands of people are expected to head to my neck of the woods to view this rare phenomenon, and for the past couple of weeks the local news has been filled with dire predictions about all the havoc they are going to wreak.
Not a single hotel room will be available. Traffic will be a nightmare and all highway exit ramps will be blocked as people pull over, get out of their cars and stare into the sky. Gas stations may run out of gas and grocery stores may run out of food. If you are in need of an ambulance or other emergency vehicle, chances are high that they will not be able to get to you in time. And so on and so on. You’d think we were anticipating a natural disaster that would make Hurricane Katrina look like a mild inconvenience.
It’s not that I take official warnings lightly. I learned to pay attention the hard way back in 1982, when we had a blizzard that dropped about eighteen inches of snow on St. Louis. Bizarrely, it was accompanied by lightening, and my husband and I sat in our living room during the whole thing, playing cards and occasionally peering out the window at the snow storm. The next morning we woke up to a city that was completely shut down, and I realized that we were just about out of groceries. I pulled on my snow boots and trudged up the street to the neighborhood grocery. I have never seen so many empty shelves in my life. I think there was maybe two cans of beans and a jar of pickles left in the entire store.
These days, when even the tiniest bit of snow is forecast, I do exactly the same thing everybody else in St. Louis does: I rush to the grocery store and stock up on enough groceries to last me through Spring if necessary. Especially bread and milk. And I don’t even like milk.
But when the big day arrives tomorrow, I’m not going to stay at home, guarding my well-stocked pantry and full tank of gas. I’m going to go to the animal shelter to walk dogs the way I always do on Monday morning, and afterwards I’m going to my mother’s house because she has invited some friends and neighbors over for lunch and eclipse-viewing. I’ll avoid the highways, but just in case I do get stuck in traffic and don’t make it to Mom’s house, I’m keeping my approved viewing glasses in the car with me. One way or another, the odds are good that I’ll get to see the eclipse.
I believe in heeding warnings, and I definitely believe in being prepared. But what I believe in most is using a little bit of good old-fashioned common sense.