My birthday falls on the usual date this year. It will, if I have my way, be roundly ignored since I long ago found personal health and activity level better and more reliable benchmarks than an arbitrary number on the calendar.
Besides, in our little seaside backwater, “an act of God” two days later will get more note in the month of August than my personal natal remembrance. On the 21st, our sky will go dark at about 10:17 in the morning. Birds and our local whale colony will become confused. Based on previous eclipse experience - and for reasons I’ll never understand - cameras will click and flash by the thousands in the blackness. Sun-worshipers will have nothing to worship. Local merchants will stand guard by their cash registers until the sun reappears two minutes later.
It’ll be that damned, once-in-a-lifetime, broad daylight total blackout that comes around only every century or so. Big deal! Better it should happen in Los Angeles or San Francisco or Seattle. That would give ‘em a real show.
When we moved into our little Pacific nest a few years back, we did so because the area is somewhat isolated. Aside from the summer months and spring break, people pretty much leave us alone. The sound of waves hitting the shoreline is about the most noise we hear. We’re surrounded by old growth forest. Highway 101 going North and South is the only way in and out of the area. Not truly an idyllic spot. But close.
Now, this is what we’re being told will happen in mid-August.
Starting several days before the 21st, traffic counts will go through the roof on the two state highways from inland to Newport and Lincoln City. The day of - and the day before - authorities are predicting locked bumpers from Salem, Corvallis and Eugene to the East. And where will all those that can get through wind up? Yep. Right here. On a two-lane U.S. Highway 101 that - remember now - is the only highway. And is likely to be gridlocked for the week.
Motels are already booked solid for days before and after. Rates that usually run $150-200 a night in tourist season sold out at up to $1,000 a night. Some motels have been requiring a five night stay. RV parks? Not a spot. Campgrounds, too. Some eating joints are publishing new menus with higher prices. And I can’t wait to see what a gallon of gas will sell for at the few local stations we have.
Every porta-potty in 400 miles has been rented. Extra sanitary trucks are being contracted. Emergency personnel - and all reserves - will be at full staffing and are already worried how they’ll get through all the jam-packed traffic when needed. And they will be needed.
Eye protection is another issue. We locals can get some free, heavily tinted temp glasses with cardboard earpieces. But what about the tourists? How many will come with their own proper equipment? Probably damned few. So, our two small hospitals are worried about how their emergency rooms will fare during all the hubbub. With eye burns and other injuries.
Grocery stores are already laying in extra merchandise. Locals have been advised to buy a week’s worth of food so they can hole up at home and stay off the roads and out of the expected mess. Also fill up their vehicles early since gas supplies may run out.
Every day seems to bring a new warning or caution from those in charge around here. Local “media” is full of tips and stories of expected problems. Emergency folk are already putting out news releases about this-and-that expected eclipse-related issues - most having to do with traffic and illegal parking blocking access to various locations for 40 miles either way. How does a driver pull over for a screaming siren when both sides of the only highway are blocked with empty cars illegally parked bumper to bumper?
At our house, right under the flight path, we’re trying to decide whether to get out of town for the week or stock up on supplies of everything and stay off the streets for seven days. Could go either way.
My birthday may go largely unnoticed this year. That’s fine. ‘Cause the really big deal will hit two days later. At 10:17am. That damned eclipse.