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Since our area is in the path of totality for next week’s solar eclipse, the North Carolina Highway Patrol issued a press statement listing several safety reminders. Many of them are quite reasonable:
- Be patient
- Expect traffic delays
- Arrive early
But further down the list come items that you would hope a licensed driver doesn’t need reminding:
- Do not stop on the roadway
- Activate headlights.
My favorite one, though, is dumbfounding:
“Do not wear eclipse glasses while driving.”
I will excuse many people who have never worn eclipse glasses from not realizing that they filter out so much light that you will literally see just black unless you are looking directly at the sun. That is, after all, the entire point—to block out the eye-damaging sun light and allow you to look directly at our giant star. As a highly technical demonstration, if you put on the glasses and look at anything other than the sun—such as, say, the road—you will see this:
I am guessing the average driver would instantly realize that attempting to drive when you can see absolutely nothing is probably not a great idea. If, however, you are that small percentage who doesn’t understand that driving blind might be slightly hazardous, I seriously doubt that a warning memo from the Highway Patrol would suddenly convince you to see the light—so to speak.
“Hey, Wanda, I can’t see a damn thing.”
“That don’t affect your driving, does it, Earl?”
“Nah, why would it? What possible problem could come from not being able to see?”
“Well, Earl, I just happen to have a memo from the North Carolina Highway Patrol and it says don’t drive while wearing them things.”
“Well, damn, Wanda, why didn’t you tell me that earlier? If someone had only told me before we drove off that mountain.”
In fairness to the North Carolina Highway Patrol (and in the hope that they don’t suddenly start finding me and issuing certificates of appreciation), I would point to an actual sign in front of water fountains in Charleston, SC.
This is real; I took the photograph myself. Now I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember the last water fountain that had a lifeguard.
“Hey, Wanda, let’s go wading.”
“I don’t know, Earl, that seems awfully risky.”
“Don’t worry, Wanda, the lifeguard will save us if it gets too bad.”
“No, Earl, the sign right there says there ain’t no lifeguard. We have to wade at our own risk.”
“Well, damn, Wanda, wish I had seen that earlier. I can’t see a damn thing with these solar eclipse glasses on. I thought it was only a problem to wear them in North Carolina. Those South Carolina troopers didn’t warn us, so I thought it was safe.”
“No, Earl, they warned us, too. They even made a cute little graphic. See?”
I would love to claim it’s just our government that is overly cautious in issuing these warnings, but we all know it hits the corporate world, too. In a recent Subaru commercial, a woman is daydreaming about riding the rails while sitting in an empty boxcar. As the camera pans back to show her sitting in the open door, a warning appears on the bottom of the screen—”Do not attempt to ride a freight train.”
Now, don’t get me wrong—I agree with the advice. It’s dangerous for lots of reasons.
But who exactly is the message aimed at? The person would have to (a) be tempted by a car commercial to do something they have never tried and (b) accept a warning in small print not to do something that they thought of just a second earlier. No one fits that category.
Except, maybe, Earl.
“Hey, Wanda, I got me an idea.”
“Well them troopers are telling us we can’t drive with our solar eclipse glasses, but they don’t say nothing about riding the train while wearing them.”
“Yeah, but, Earl, there ain’t no passenger trains around here.”
“No, Wanda, I’m talking freight trains. I thought of it just this second while watching this Subaru commercial. Don’t know why I never thought about it before.”
“Well, that’s a great idea, but don’t you see that small print at the bottom.”
“What small print?”
“Right there. Bottom of the screen. ‘Do not attempt to ride a freight train.’”
“Well, damn, Wanda, I guess we can’t go riding no freight train now that they gone and said that. Bummer. How are we going to see the eclipse now?”
“Guess we will just have to walk outside and look up, huh?”
My lawyers have advised me to remind you not to look at the eclipse unless you are wearing certified solar eclipse glasses. Don’t drive with those glasses. Don’t ride freight trains. Don’t make fun of the North Carolina Highway Patrol. Nor the South Carolina Highway Patrol. Don’t spit into the wind. Do, however, subscribe to be the first to know about future stories!
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