Hunting for Eclipse Glasses on a Time Crunch

Five hours left at NBC4. Ten pairs of solar eclipse glasses. Ready? Go.

Editor's Note: NBC Washington intern Allison Pecorin is heading back to the University of Missouri, where she will be a senior. Thursday, she took on one last challenge.

"You see that black hole in the sky and then the corona bursts out and it's like it just hits you straight to your soul."

That's how eclipse chaser and amateur astronomer Jackie Beucher described seeing a total solar eclipse.

Who wouldn't want to see that?

There's a total eclipse coming Aug. 21, and as the celestial fates would have it, I will be right in its path. I'll be back at Mizzou, where the looming eclipse is already a Very Big Deal.

So when Storm Team4 Meteorologist Amelia Draper walked by my desk wearing a pair of blacked out 3-D movie theater-type glasses a few days ago, I decided I really ought to get my own pair.

It seemed easy enough. Dozens of places claim to sell and distribute the glasses, and they're free or at most $2. 

But it turns out these things are nearly impossible to find.

So, I went on a hunt, looking for the glasses on behalf of me, all of my summer coworkers who suddenly wanted a pair and on behalf of eclipse-interested people everywhere who really should have gone shopping earlier.

Here's how it went.

Frantic Phone Calls

I don't have a car, and I wasn't ready to spend hundreds Ubering around the greater D.C. area to pop into stores. So I started my morning making calls.

I called the major stores in the area and asked the same question over and over: Do you have eclipse glasses available for purchase?

Target doesn't sell them, Lowe's is clean out of stock. I struck out with Sam's Club; Walgreens returned nothing. I called several Walmart locations that were not helpful.

Then, I did a quick Amazon Prime search. Pairs are available online, but they generally come in packs or are much more expensive than the $1 I was hoping to spend.

I called a few of the area's libraries that were supposed to be giving away the glasses for free. All of the libraries that I contacted said they had run out of the glasses, and weren't sure when they'd be getting more.

I tried the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, but I didn't hear back from them, and with time ticking down I had to move on to other options.

Getting the Expert Involved

By this point in my morning, I was starting to feel the pressure. So I asked on our in-house eclipse expert, Amelia Draper, if she could give me a little bit of guidance.

Amelia's pair is straight from NASA (she's kind of a big deal.) Her pair of cardboard glasses are pitch black, and when you put them on you can't see a thing out of them.

Amelia also showed me the print on the inside of her glasses.

She told me that it's really important to buy a pair of glasses that are official. That means they have language printed somewhere on them that says they "conform to the transmission requirements of ISO 12312-2" and "Filter for Direct Observation of the Sun."

Normal sunglasses aren't going to cut it. You can do serious damage to your eyes if you don't have the right filter. Amelia emphasized this: Do not stare at the eclipse without glasses.

I told Amelia that I was starting to get nervous that I wouldn’t have a pair for the big day, and she told me in a worst case scenario I could buy welders' glass and look at the eclipse through that.

But after a few more phone calls, I found one Walmart that had just what I needed. Unfortunately this Walmart was half-an-hour away, near Alexandria, Virginia.


It was a lengthy Uber ride from Tenleytown to Richmond Highway Walmart.

When I arrived, I took off -- speed walking around the Walmart, eyeballing each aisle of merchandise looking for the glasses. No luck. I asked a sales associate and she told me she didn't think they had any. My heart sunk.

I made a beeline for the customer service desk. I was on my way to the front of the store when there, sitting in a large display in front of self-checkout, I found them.

This Walmart had tons of pairs of glasses for $1 each. I ran to the checkout with 10 pairs. Each pair is paper and has the American flag printed on it. The lenses are so dark they blind you when you put them on.

I opened a pair to make sure it was an official pair like Amelia had told me about. It was.

In that moment, those glasses were the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I'm officially ready for the 2017 eclipse.

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