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Column

Peterson: Slave to sunglasses necessity, not fashion

I find myself getting up well before the crack of dawn so I can drive directly into the sunrise.

And before anyone tells you otherwise, February was not a mostly overcast, cloudy month. The sun was out there. More often than not, it seems. And the sun breaking into dawn is blinding.

We all know if you stare directly into the sun, you will go blind. This is especially true during eclipses of the sun. Growing up, I lived through one partial eclipse, and I distinctly remember the warning from Mrs. Schloesser: “Don’t stare at the eclipse. You’ll go blind if you do.”

And that was enough for me to divert my eyes from anything bright in the sky. Apparently, eyes are drawn to eclipses in an attempt to watch the moon pass between the Earth and sun, and see the sun’s disk partially obstructed from view. Not that I’ve ever read over the years of anyone going blind by staring at an eclipse. Not even anecdotal proof. Maybe there are enough Mrs. Schloessers to keep our eyes safe.

Having driven into the sun a lot lately, I am here to tell you that attempting to stare at the sun hurts, and that’s enough to keep you from looking into it for long periods of time. Even looking to the edge of the road hurts when you are driving into the sun. It makes your eyes water. I would assume the same holds true during an eclipse.

For eclipse fans, mark your calendars for Aug. 21 and plan to head to Carbondale to witness a total eclipse of the sun at 1:20 p.m. if you’re in Giant City State Park in nearby Makanda. There you will fall under the spell of daytime darkness for 2 minutes, 40.2 seconds. The coming total eclipse of the sun is the first time one has been confined to the United States since 1776, according to the Incredible Internet. Imagine that.

Back to the topic at hand. The sun visor was no use in blocking the sun as it blazed though the bottom of the windshield. And the sun visor has saved me more times than I can count. Two multi-thousand-mile trips out West and back proved that. Not once did the visor fail me. Not once did the sun’s glare interfere with my driving. I can’t remember the last time it did until recently.

I even had sunglasses that fit over my glasses. Or so I thought. I was sorely disappointed to find out they were for a previous pair of glasses, and in no way did they begin to fit my most recent pair of glasses. I knew I would need them, sooner rather than later.

Actually, I don’t like sunglasses. I like to look at my environment unfiltered. And sunglasses on other people make me wary because I can’t see their eyes and what they’re really looking at. Or if they’re crossing their eyes at me in disdain.

I don’t get the popularity of sunglasses, but plenty of people wear them. Maybe their eyes are super-sensitive to the sun, and I happen to be blessed with a high sunlight tolerance.

But driving into the sun made sunglasses a necessity. I would crash without them.

I was pretty certain that I wouldn’t find clip-on sunglasses to match my frames, and these were off by a long shot. But I’d only be wearing them for about a half hour, so what was there to lose?

It’s not like I would be wearing them in public. So I picked the second pair I looked at. They covered my lenses and then some. The clip-on device was large and obtrusive. All in all, fairly ugly.

It’s not like I was trying to make a fashion statement. I needed something to protect me from driving off the edge of the road. A couple of dollars for a lifesaving investment, or at least one that would keep my insurance rates from going up after the first crash. Not a bad return on an investment.

• Dick Peterson, who lives in Woodstock, is a mental-health advocate. He is a freelance writer and a former Northwest Herald Opinion Page editor. He can be contacted at dickpeterson76@gmail.com.

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