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Mob Hysteria at Sunset



At first we didn’t take much notice. Just an older couple dawdling along toward the direction of the beach. Then another couple. But as we strolled along, scoping out this unfamiliar neighborhood of tiny houses just a half a block from the beach, the street quickly and strangely filled with more and more people. So much so that it was un-nerving! There was something that wasn’t quite right… it took me a minute to figure out what it was. Then--got it! They were all walking in the same direction! Scary. Like one of those mass hysteria scenes that you see on movies when news comes over the TV that an impending asteroid is about to hit the earth, and everyone comes streaming out of their homes into the streets with blank bewildered looks in their eyes, resigned to face their own death within the next half hour!

Well, ok. Maybe it wasn’t quite that much mass hysteria. But it was strangely similar. Merlajean and I both wondered, “What’s going on? What’s wrong? Maybe a plane just went down in the ocean.”

So we joined the panic-stricken mob and scurried down to the beach to see.

We made our way through a little park of palm trees. Over the grass. Around flowering bushes. And out into an opening. And there they all were. Dozens of people. Just standing around. Many were looking in the same direction. We quickly glanced in that direction and saw—the setting sun. It was a big, bright fiery-orange ball, just hanging on the horizon. Hmmm. We quickly looked out to sea for signs of a tall black plumage of smoke. We scanned the horizon for rescue choppers. For cop cars. For panic-stricken dads and moms. Nothing. Hungh.

So I struck up a conversation with the elderly couple six feet in front of us and asked them what was going on. “Just watchin’ the sun set,” they said. They could tell we were from out of town, so they let us in on their secret. “When you get to be our age, this is the most exciting thing that happens each day! Everyone comes out for it.”

We looked around. Sure enough, most of the crowd was 60 years-old-plus folks. Walter, the husband, told us that tonight wouldn’t be too spectacular since the sky was so clear. But last night—wow! It was something else! We struck up a warm conversation, and kidded and joked about coming down to Florida from the Snowy North.

The sun had now set. Like clock-work. Everyone all turned and began streaming off the beach, out of the park, back toward their homes. One more day had yet again slipped away from the people in the Sunshine State. They had come to pay their daily homage to this god. In another 24 hours it would begin all over again. God willing.

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