A little over two years ago I went to South Carolina to view the total eclipse of the sun. First I flew up to Raleigh-Durham, NC and hooked up with my old college chum Chris, and the next day we drove his car south to Columbia, SC where Chris had reserved a hotel room months ahead of time. Everything went very smoothly on the way down, but on the way back to NC we ran into problems.
The interstates and major highways leading north were bumper to bumper with heavy traffic, and we were soon forced onto back roads, not all of them accurately charted on his GPS, and even they were crowded with eclipse traffic. To make things worse, both of us have prostate issues, and we had to make frequent stops along the way to relieve ourselves–but that’s another story…
About half way home, I don’t even recall which state we were in, we made a pit stop at a roadside gas station/convenience store that had so many cars parked there that we had to leave our own vehicle several hundred yards away. After taking care of business, we stood in line (the place was jam-packed with travelers) to get some drinks and snacks for the road.
One feature of this place was that there was a large room in the building with a couple of dozen pay phones–more than I have seen gathered in one place for years, and each phone was busy and had several people waiting in line to use it. We speculated that the store had once been a truck stop (there were no big rigs there that day) and drivers had used these phones to call home or the office. But that’s only a guess. Seeing that many pay phones that busy in one place in this cell phone age was really an anachronism. We were in a hurry to get going before our next bladder attack, so we made no effort to find an explanation for this phenomenon. We were in a remote location, and perhaps there was no cell service there, but that still doesn’t explain why there were so many pay phones there. We got the impression that the large crowd of customers was a one-shot deal, due to the eclipse traffic. Maybe the folks living there were very poor and couldn’t afford cell phones, so the store kept the land lines there as a convenience for the locals, but that didn’t explain why there were so many…it seemed pretty obvious to us that the crowd there that day was mostly travelers going north after the eclipse.
Its funny, that incident was over two years ago, and I haven’t thought of it once since, until today.