September 6, 2017

Princeton’s 72 Percent Version of the Eclipse Leaves Riverside Drive Resident Underwhelmed

To the Editor:

When the announcement came over the loudspeaker that the library had given out its last protective glasses for the afternoon’s solar eclipse, due to arrive in just a few hours, I thought no big deal. We were only going to get the 72 percent version; you can be partially pregnant after all.

So I was completely unprepared for the line of cars streaming into town as I was leaving to go home for lunch. I was suddenly in the closing shot of Field of Dreams only it wasn’t dusk and this wasn’t Iowa but New Jersey. Turns out that they were all headed to Palmer Square as if this were the only spot for observing this near-beer of an event.

Sometimes I just don’t get it.

A few weeks earlier my friend, a well-known astro-physicist, tried to convey the excitement of a total eclipse.

“The screams are like nothing you’ve ever heard.” Really? Clearly, my friend had never been to a Michigan/Ohio State football game. So he tried another tack. “You have to imagine the experience of the light and then suddenly it’s dark.” Again, no luck. Did he not recall November 8?

The fact is that I love my fellow man but sometimes we are completely out of sync. A substantial number of them, for example, believe that we are either headed for the rapture, going to return after death for a potential star turn in a Nature documentary, or need to cover one-half of humanity in some very scary clothing.

Anyway, I got home and was looking forward to watching the decidedly anti-eclipse High Noon, a notion prompted by a recent book describing its making. Plans changed when my wife came home and turned on CNN, which I must say did a very creditable job of giving the whole event a little panache.

We also went out at the appointed time to watch our 72 percent version of the event. My pulse, slow to begin with, almost stalled.

Still, I did enjoy one aspect of the thing. It turns out that a total eclipse is really caused by the moon’s being so close to earth that it can blot out the sun that’s a gillizion times its size just like, so the CNN astronomer explained, you can blot out the person right in front of you simply by holding your thumb up to your eyes. Wow, what a revelation. I tried it and it works. It turns out that you can make almost anything disappear if you just hold your thumb up close enough to your face. How elegant. How cool. How useful. The day was not a total waste after all.

Walter Frank

Riverside Drive