Columbus, Eclipse, and Used Car Negotiations

“Now there’s a girl who gives the word ‘hippy’ a whole new meaning.  Move over, Mama Cass!  Move out of the way, sweetie.  You’re blocking my light.  Is it an eclipse?  No, Edwina’s in the room.” – Absolutely FabulousDSC04293

This is the dolphin that Bonnie Raitt Tyler will ride when she sings “Total Eclipse of the Heart.”

On March 1, 1504, Christopher Columbus was in the middle of really difficult negotiations.  Columbus was looking for the native inhabitants of the island we now call Jamaica (I believe they called it “home”) to provide him free food, and work for him in repairing his wormy old boats day and night.  In return, he was offering nothing.

Not a great negotiating position.

Columbus did have one advantage: he carried an almanac with him, and knew that there was going to be a lunar eclipse.  A lunar eclipse is really valuable if you have no idea where you’re going (or even how big the world is) like Columbus.


During a lunar eclipse, as long as you’re on the night side of the Earth, you see the Earth’s shadow start to block the light from the Sun shining on the full Moon.  And that happens for everyone at the same time – even if you’re in London, or in Spain, or in . . . Jamaica.

And that’s valuable, since, clocks in 1504 are really crappy.

It’s really easy to tell how far north or south you are on the Earth.  You can measure with just a quick sighting on a star.  But telling how far east or west?  Not happening, unless you know what time it is.  And since you know EXACTLY when the lunar eclipse starts, you know, at that point, exactly what time it is.

Knowing that, you if you measure the time from the eclipse to dawn, you know exactly how far east or west you are.

But Columbus had a different plan.  He told the natives he was going to take away the Moon, or, rather God was.  He made a big deal of praying.  When the Moon was in shadow, Columbus knew exactly how long the eclipse was going to last – and it was a really tense 45 or so minutes that Columbus timed out with an hourglass.  Tense for the natives.

Columbus said he’d prayed, and then told the natives that, hey, God was gonna put the Moon back in the sky.  But you’d better help us out.

Don’t make God angry.

The native Jamaicans complied, since if you’re negotiating with really no bargaining power, it’s nice to have a full range of supernatural powers at your disposal . . .

But that was a lunar eclipse.  And the eclipse that’s going to hit Monday is a solar eclipse – the Moon will totally block out the Sun only for a thin, moving swath of the United States.


But, this is a Friday post, and it’s really supposed to be about health.  So, how do you combine health and the eclipse?

Don’t stare at the Sun.  See, that was simple.  But on Sunday every news story will mention that.  And Bonnie Raitt Tyler.  Who will be droning about wanting Bright Eyes to turn around in some boat somewhere.

I swear, this is the creepiest video every made.  Altar boys with glowing eyes flying through the air?  Check.  Conan looking dudes with furry loincloths?  Check.  Bonnie Raitt Tyler.  Check.  Yeah, creepier than Ozzy singing “Bark at the Moon” in Illinois during the eclipse.

So, don’t stare at the Sun.  It’s not that hard.

Well, kinda?  Isaac Newton, the scientist who formulated the laws of motion, of optics, and who invented calculus just to disprove a baseball trivia question about the infield fly rule, once stared at the Sun with one eye until he could only see reds and blues.  His eye recovered, but he experienced after images for months.

But even though the Smartest Man Who Ever Lived got better, I wouldn’t bet on you getting better.  There was even story about a guy who, since 1960-whatever, was still blind in one eye from staring at that eclipse back when Kennedy was still chasing starlets.

And there’s no reason for it nowadays since large numbers of eclipse glasses were/are available for free, or for a buck or two if the library is somehow toxic to you.  Unless you buy fake ones, which the news also seems to be upset about, or maybe the journalists are just reaching for something.  Nah.

Hint – if they spelled ‘eclipse’ wrong on your eclipse glasses and you can see your living room at night through them, those are bad signs.

I think that China has been preparing eclipse glasses for us since February 26, 1979, so they really are/were everywhere.

February 26, 1979 is the last time that a total eclipse passed over even part of the US.  Where I was at the time was only 83% covered, but, for some reason, I got sent to the office (which required me to go outside, since the art building was kept at a reasonable and safe distance from the main building) during the eclipse.  Since school administrators didn’t want to have to explain the whole “entire school is blind” phenomenon that might accompany a middle school during an eclipse, all of the classes were kept in session.  It was weird being out there, alone, even when I wasn’t under the path of totality.  The light was . . . different.  And, yes, I snuck a peak at the Sun.  Quickly.

If you’re under the path of totality (and only during totality) you’re okay to look straight up.  Pull off the glasses and enjoy the cool day as the Moon completely obscures the Sun’s healthful yet deadly rays and the stars peak through the day.

But that’s not the only health challenge on the day of the eclipse.  At least one group is claiming that a rogue planet, obscured only by the Sun’s healthful but yet deadly rays, will smack straight into the Earth during the eclipse.  What a coincidence!  What are the odds!  I’ve heard of being late, but it’s over four years since the world ended the last time in 2012.

I know, it seems unlikely, but you have to admit that one planet smacking into another at fifty miles per second would probably be a day where there might be some larger, “being crushed by a rogue planet” health problems showing up.  I imagine school bus routes would even be delayed the next day.

But, there might be a small chance that you can take advantage of the eclipse.  Let’s say you’re negotiating with the most poorly informed car salesman in the United States on Monday in Salem, Oregon who has NO idea that there’s going to be a total solar eclipse.

At 10:18AM Pacific Daylight Time, that’s when you should start with the hardball negotiation on that used Hyundai®.  Tell him you’ll bring back the Sun’s healthful yet deadly rays if he gives you a free fill-up.

Worked for Columbus.

Note:  John Wilder is not even a TV Doctor. DON’T STARE AT THE SUN!


Author: John

Nobel-Prize Winning, MacArthur Genius Grant Near Recipient writing to you regularly about Fitness, Wealth, and Wisdom - How to be happy and how to be healthy. Oh, and rich.