On Monday, August 21, the moon will pass almost surgically between the earth and the sun, completely obscuring the solar body and presenting a unique cosmic phenomenon to viewers along a thin strip of the continental United States: the opportunity to be completely obnoxious about witnessing it.
But while eclipse-chasers, the media, and the pinhole-camera industry all agree that totality is worth the hype they helped manufacture, you may have better things to do than schlep down to Andrews, North Carolina—like saving up your few remaining vacation days for Burning Man.
Fear not. It’s possible to be intolerable without driving 600 miles, investing in protective eyewear, and craning your neck uncomfortably for several minutes. Here are some concrete steps you can take—without ever leaving your home—to make sure everyone knows that you witnessed the spiritual event of the century.
There will come a time after Monday when you meet someone at a party—let’s call him Paul—who has not seen the eclipse, and asks you a few too many pointed questions about it. Stay strong: Paul is not suggesting that you’re lying about seeing the eclipse (that’d be wild). He’s simply jealous and wants to soak up every bit of your experience, to live vicariously through you.
Use this as an opportunity to build an audience. Look Paul calmly in the eye and speak just loudly enough that a small crowd of admiring onlookers gathers around you. There is nothing to worry about, as long as you prepare. Here are some questions that you can expect to be asked, as well as suggested responses:
When did you see the eclipse?
Monday. You definitely saw it Monday, though the exact time is a bit hazy to you. For a few moments the earth stood still and day was night. Or maybe night was day. Time is but a delusion of the unenlightened.
Where did you go?
Raise your right pointer finger above your shoulder and let it linger until your audience is transfixed on it. Good, you have their attention. Now slowly and deliberately move your hand down towards your left hip, drawing a diagonal path through the air. It’s important here that you indicate that the line curves a bit, but the direction and angle of the curve are irrelevant.
“This was the path of totality,” you should say, as they hang on your every word. “And this“—here you point to an arbitrary and indiscernible point in the middle of the path—”this is where my life changed forever.”
Make eye contact here, as if to say “this is where your life could have changed forever,” but don’t actually say it. If you execute the above choreography properly, they’ll feel it.
Shy away from specifics. Under no circumstances should you name a city that you were in. The last thing you want is for someone to say, “Oh my friend was in Falls City, Oregon!” Or, “That’s strange, I heard the sun took a detour around Dycusburg, Kentucky, and all they saw was a few dimly lit clouds.”
Instead, talk vaguely about how you drove for a dozen hours. About seeing some cows along the way. About being stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic and taking a detour as if pulled by some great invisible force (the force of less traffic, sure, but also something greater). About how good it is that you did so: Your final viewing place was stunning, and you had it all to yourself. Alone with the sky and your thoughts.
If you find yourself starting to sweat, turn the tables and start asking them questions: “Do you know which state has the highest ratio of cows to people?”
Gee, I’ve never thought about that. Wisconsin, maybe? Hey Sheila! Which state do you think has the most cows —
Excuse yourself for a refill while they think it through. By the time they figure it out (South Dakota), you’ll already be air-tracing the path of totality for someone on the bathroom line.
What was it like?
The hard part is over.
Your goal here is to make people bend over backwards trying to relate to you. While you, of course, can relate to no one. In fact, the single most important thing to remember while speaking to people who haven’t seen the total eclipse is that they are mere mortals and you are transcendent, a god. Never say this outright, of course; communicate your absolute superiority by communicating absolutely nothing. Channel the worst spoken-word poetry event you’ve ever been forced to attend. You are Werner Herzog on psychedelics; you’re a George R. R. Martinian Three-Eyed Raven. You have seen past, present, and future before your eyes. You know how America’s Got Talent ends and how the universe began but you sure as hell can’t be expected to explain it all in coherent English.
Tell them the eclipse was like your first kiss. Nay, your last kiss. Nay, it was like your first and last kiss simultaneously. Have they ever been in love? It’s nothing like that. It was very bright, that’s for sure. Well really it was dark. But like a really bright dark, you know? You heard it more than you saw it, really. Tasted it even. Touched it. You felt like you were on the surface of the sun. You felt the interconnectedness of all living things. For a moment you, still an atheist, were certain of the existence of a higher power. You heard a chorus of crying, which is strange because you were alone with the sky.
Pepper into your musings some choice ecliptic vocabulary: corona, penumbra, chromosphere, obscuration. If you see someone nodding along, you’ve done it all wrong. Words are insufficient, and utter bewilderment your guiding light.
There will come a time in your ramblings when someone interjects: Although they did not make the trek you made, they were able to spot a glorious partial eclipse. Do not fall for this; it is simply another attempt to relate to you. As are stories of seeing a lunar eclipse or (eyeroll) the Northern Lights. If this happens, throw your hands up and say, “I just can’t explain, but it’s different.” They will bow their heads, frustrated but appeased. They have not seen a total solar eclipse; they do not know.
Of course, you don’t know either. But by this point reality is nebulous. By this point, there is no difference between seeing and not seeing the eclipse. Or is it the blurring between seeing and not seeing that begets the eclipse? Really makes you think.
Sharing a photo of the eclipse is a delicate business.
On the one hand, the photo is the crux of the entire ordeal. If you didn’t snag a fake picture, were you even not there? On the other hand, this is a terrific opportunity to maintain your luddite superiority even among the ranks of the eclipse-chasers, by insisting that you did not take a photo because you were too busy “living in the moment.”
What is a liar to do?
The answer, of course, is to concoct a scenario in which your phone went off without your intervention. Maybe you set up an automatic camera timer, or more likely, a desert squirrel, as if possessed under the soft glow of the eclipse, wandered over to your face-down phone and managed to tap out the precise combination of keys that set it off. Any story will do, as long as you were far enough from the screen to affirm the purity of your viewing experience.
And once you’ve cooked up a good story, go ahead and cook yourself some eggs. You heard that right—you don’t have a blotted-out sun at your disposal, but you sure as hell have half a dozen eggs in your fridge. Throw one into a well-oiled pan and you have your accidental-photography subject.
We’ve seen many methods, but maintain that a dead-simple sunny-side-up will yield a better total solar eclipse than poached (which leans a little lunar) or uncooked (a little light on the corona).
Open the photograph in your favorite image-editing software, invert and desaturate the colors, add an outer glow to your yolk, and voila! You’re one Instagram filter away from an eclipse shot just amateurish enough to fool your most discerning followers.
Wait about a week until the hype has died down, then upload your masterpiece, captioned with an enigmatic quote from a book you haven’t read. Or perhaps a proverb you don’t understand, written in a language you don’t speak. Or better yet, a proverb that doesn’t exist, written in a language that doesn’t exist. The moon doesn’t come with a translation and neither should you.
You may think at this point that your work is done. But in order to truly convince people that you have seen the greatest spectacle of the millennium, you must never let anyone forget. Every time the moon is out is an opportunity to talk about the time it masked the sun. Every time someone sends you a cover of a song is an opportunity to ask: “Are you familiar with the cover of the sun?”
If you think creatively enough, there’s really no moment too inappropriate to remind people of the grave error they made in simply going to work on the 21st of August, 2017 AE (After Eclipse).
And remind you must, else your plan will be spoiled. In pretending to have seen the eclipse, you have entered into a lifelong contract. You chose to lie, and now you must take it to your grave. Your prewritten obituary, replete with a poor scan of an egg sun, will read:
Don’t know if you know this but saw the sun be eclipsed—now it’s my turn.