I met three Bobs at an eclipse party on Monday afternoon.
And I don’t just mean three Bobs total.
I met one Bob, then right away another Bob, then right away again a third Bob.
It produced a sound that usually prompts me to note the time on my phone in case my ears have just witnessed a murder in the distance.
“It is 9:14 p.m. You are welcome, possible detectives who will possibly be assigned to this possible homicide and will possibly need this information. Oh no no no. Thank YOU for YOUR service. I am merely a concerned couch sitter who hears important crime things.”
The Bobs were among the first wave of guests at Linda and Al Vingelen’s Singleton Beach home, where they had been invited to eat Moon Pies, drink Corona and/or Sunkist (not at the same time) and play games like Name That Tune with songs that have “sun” or “moon” in the lyrics.
And to watch the eclipse, obviously.
What eclipse? you ask.
Good point, but around 2 p.m., just before the rain fell, there was still some hope that maybe the clouds would part. Maybe we would get to see the same thing that Oregon saw, that Colorado saw, that Jefferson City, Mo., was about to see.
And as such, around 2 p.m., just before the rain fell, a small group of laughing and excited friends and family gathered in the Vingelens’ Hilton Head driveway to take a picture in their official eclipse-watching glasses.
It would be a message to their future selves: We had fun that day anyway.
“What happens if we don’t have glasses?” one guest asked as the group sorted themselves into rows.
“We’re going to Photoshop you out,” Linda joked.
“Let’s take another one in this spot in 2099. Next eclipse?” someone said from the back row.
After the photos, one of the Bobs’ wives shared a story with me about a bus trip to Miami that she went on years ago with her Palmetto Dunes neighbors to see former NFL player Ken Anderson coach.
The bus they had taken was apparently filled to the brim with Bobs. It was a Bob-laden Bob-mobile. It was a gas-powered Bob-sled!
“You could say ‘Bob’ and just about every man would turn around,” Evie Richardson said. “‘There’s a Bob. There’s a Bob. There’s a Bob. There’s a Bob.’”
I know what you’re thinking, because I had the same thought, which I politely kept to myself at the time but I have to say it now: That’s a lot of Bobs to share a tiny bus bathroom with.
God bless the Mrs. Bobs. They don’t get enough credit.
Just as Evie concluded her Bob-tale, the rain started to fall and most of the group moved inside to wait it out.
“I think we’re going to be watching this on the TV,” Linda said.
Part of the group sat on couches and watched the NASA station. A few people sat on the back patio and occasionally tried to locate the sun under the thick cloud cover.
We still had 15 minutes before totality.
Everyone comes to terms with bad news in their own good time, and I had not yet.
If we can’t see this total eclipse today then the next chance is really 2099?
I ran the numbers and already sent in the RSVP. I will be decidedly unavailable for that party.
So this is it. My once-in-a-lifetime experience today is about to be “meeting three Bobs at once.”
Earlier, Jan Powell of Hilton Head, had told me about an eclipse she witnessed in Ohio during World War II.
She is still amazed by it. That’s how great it was.
“I was in grade school,” she said. “Probably third grade. I can remember all of it.”
Her class had watched the eclipse through pinhole-boxes they had made.
“It was so cool,” she said.
Around 2:40 p.m., the sky seemed darker so everyone moved outside again.
Still hopeful. Still wanting to see something different.
Which we kind of did.
It wasn’t “afternoon thunderstorm” dark out, but rather an Instagram-filter dark.
What’s the name for that color that denotes disappointment?
Terry Herron, the Vingelens’ friend and next door neighbor, wasn’t discouraged though. He went over to the Folly with his camera to see what, if anything, the birds were up to.
Meanwhile his wife, Mary Jo, wondered if she could sell her eclipse glasses Tuesday.
“Barely used!” she said.
Linda passed around a tray of sandwiches.
People stood in groups and talked about the eclipse or lack thereof.
Then Ted and Nancy Wallhaus had to head back to Florida, Ted with his unused Svedka pinhole-box in hand.
“Did you make that?” someone asked him.
“Yes I made that!” he said.
“You made that in kindergarten?”
And right then it happened. A pinhole of sun poked through the clouds.
A mere suggestion of eclipse presented itself.
It was as if the sun and moon had made their own vodka box view-finder to watch Hilton Head.
“I was just about to give up science forever,” joked Russell Pietz, who had driven down from Wisconsin for this.
A golf cart of neighbors drove by.
“Can you see anything?” they asked earnestly.
“We got it!” Mary Jo Herron laughed. “This is big! We don’t have to take these (glasses) back!”
We all looked upward.
“We got a little glimpse, and now everyone is going to lose their retinas,” someone laughed.
I stood next to a Bob.
“Which Bob are you?” I asked.
“Bob Wallhaus,” he said before telling me that, in addition to being one of the three Bobs I met in a row, he is one of the four Bobs in an all-Bob golf foursome.
“We’re of that age when people were named Bob,” he said. “No one names anyone Bob anymore.”
Terry Herron finished the thought for him.
“They’re all named Jason now.”