Friday, May 15, 2015

Hotcakes! Fire At The IHOP!

from "You Know You're From Bourne..." Facebook  page
Traffic was snarled at the Bourne Bridge as a fire of unknown origin did a number on the building.

As of 8 PM, the fire department was still at the scene in force, and had a ladder up against the hole in the second floor window you see the fire shooting out of from the picture above.

It is an odd scene, as the word around town is that Dunkin' Donuts closed on the property today. They won't get a drive-thru, and may put a conference room in the restaurant somehow.

This reporter can neither confirm nor deny the rumors that a Honey Dew Donuts guy, or even one of the more shiftier Marylou's girls, was seen fleeing from the scene.

Now, I realize that I just wrote a rather angry article about this potential Dunkin's and the effect it would have on the rotary.... but I wasn't really shooting for Inspiration of Arson. I just wanted a Cracker Barrel, to be honest.

I drove through the rotary rather easily at 8 PM, but there is a lot of rubbernecking going on. Expect minor delays through the rest of the evening.

I'm not sure if the building is a total loss, but it doesn't look good. I have no idea how the fire started, but I'm well-located and will try to keep an ear to the ground.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Someone Has To Stop The Bourne Rotary Dunkin' Donuts!

It's not often that I write an article with zero (0) certainty that what I'm actually writing about is true, but today is one of those days.

Bourne locals were saddened to see the iconic IHOP restaurant closing at the rotary on the Cape side of the Bourne Bridge. You have to drive to Plymouth to get a Rooty Tooty Big And Fruity now. You lose an easy place for tourists to find, eliminating the "Park at the IHOP, and I'll meet you there" directions-giving option.

But the smarter locals also looked at the closing of IHOP and wondered what sort of Traffic Nightmare would be going in place of the IHOP. These concerns spiked recently, as it appears that some work is being performed on the property.

Once you think on it a bit, only a few businesses would even WANT that spot. I'm sure that "everyone coming or going to Cape Cod drives by this spot" makes for an expensive rent, and "hope that potential customers can negotiate the death-weave they would need to perform to get out of the rotary and into your business" makes for a poor business model when combined with the price of that high visibility.

Only the heavy hitters can afford to laugh off those concerns, with "heavy hitters" meaning "businesses that never fail, no matter what."

In Canada, that equals "hockey gear manufacturer." In Texas, that means "gun dealer." In somewhere like Yemen, it might be where you put the Qu'a'a'ran store or something. In Massachusetts, it means either "package store" or "Dunkin' Donuts."

Massachusetts people, Massholes that we are, go sort of crazy for Dunkin' Donuts coffee. Some people will drink no other coffee. A popular internet meme during our blizzardy winter showed someone walking through a Jack London-style whiteout, with the caption saying "Wonder if Dunkin' is open?" Opening a franchise in California put lines of transplanted Easterners around the corner.

It is one of the few businesses in this rotten economy where demand exceeds supply. Allow me a moment to illustrate. It's about 5 miles as the crow flies from the Sagamore to the middle of the Cranberry Highway in East Wareham. This stretch runs through the edges of Sagamore Beach (population 2977), desolate Bournedale (I don't know B-dale's population, but it is much less than 3500), Bourne village (pop. 1800), a tiny edge of Wareham ( use Onset's 1500 population figure for part of Onset/part of East Wareham) and Buzzards Bay (nearly 4000). I'm including southern Cedarville, and excluding Cape-side Sandwich and Pocasset-area Bourne.

It is a useful way to go from the 25 East area to the 3 North area, but it stopped being a major route to Cape Cod with certain highway alterations in recent decades. The population doubles in the summer, or it gets cut in half in the winter, depending on how you view the glass of water. Aside from commuting and canal-walking, there is no reason at all from anyone who isn't from Bournedale or Buzzards Bay to go to Bournedale or Buzzards Bay. We're a backwater, sharing a "we're a nowhere that the roads to everywhere go through" status with places like Afghanistan and Gettysburg.

It is a strip where a Burger King failed, and which hasn't been able to support a supermarket for 20-30 pre-Market Basket years. We're a college town that can't support a nightclub. IHOP just died there. Main Street in Buzzards Bay is really not that far away from being a ghost town.

This is amazing, because the area suffers from Los Angeles-style gridlock.

This stretch I mentioned still supports 6 and as many as 7 Dunkin' Donuts, depending on how you score MacArthur, Sandwich, Cedarville and East Wareham. The lines of traffic pouring in and out of these places snarl the roads around them, and even kills someone in Wareham now and then. This area also supports a Starbuck's, a Honey Dew, and 2-3 Marylou's. Whatever fault you may ascribe to Yankees, Swamp Yankees, Massholes, Hoodsies or Cape Coddas, even a hater would have to admit that we are a hard-working lot who essentially need to swim in coffee.

There is a huge Dunkin void in the Cape-side Bourne Bridge area. Whoever fills it will become a millionaire, pretty much with a snap of the fingers. This hypothetical franchisee will also create a few baker's dozens of low-wage, go-nowhere jobs. You'll be able to get coffee more quickly... maybe. The town will get some guaranteed tax income.

Those are all the good points.

The bad point, and it's a big point, is that a Dunkin's would snarl up traffic. Not only would it jam up a road, it would jam up an already busy road. What's worse, Dunkin's prime business hours would fall during the prime traffic hours at the rotary.

Here are a few scenarios I envision:

- People turning out of the rotary and heading up the bridge will be slamming into people exiting the Dunkin'.

- Many people, including (to some extent) Randy Hunt and Wendy Northcross, feel that the big problem with the Sagamore traffic is that god-awful on-ramp just before the Christmas Tree Shop. It kills any chance of traffic fluidity on Route 6, Route 6A, Route 130, and any/all side roads during peak traffic periods. A Dunkin, sited closer to the Bourne Bridge and with not one but two curb-cutting exits, would be worse.

- Given the right ratio of big car/little car and sited properly, you could have a big diesel semi truck knock one of those little smart cars into the Canal, maybe rolling it through a house first. You can put some nuns and/or orphans into the smaller car if you need more gravitas with your worst-case scenarios.

- I spy superhero state troopers and EMT types being T-boned as they respond to emergency situations by some guy who is shoving a Gronk Sandwich into his face as he blindly force-merges into bridge traffic.

- Wampanoag babies suddenly experience an uptick in gridlock-related names, and schools start signing up kids named "Waits In Traffic" and "Curses At Fords."

- I'm recycling some old material here, but Bourne residents have a different perception of ETA than other residents of the same basic part of the state have. If you ask someone from Carver and someone from Bourne to go to some equidistant point between the two towns, the Carver man can immediately give an ETA, while the Bourne guy will have to pause, factor in traffic, and then give his answer. This DD scenario would make that worse.

- Some old woman at this time next year will die and go to her eternal reward just after her kids blow her off on Mother's Day from 9 miles away because of rotary traffic.

- Depending on who you believe, a flyover will eventually go in here. Some people say that's why the IHOP declined on renewing their lease. A massive construction project with a bustling coffee shop jammed in there wouldn't get complicated or anything.

- Along the lines of the myth that Eskimoes have over 200 words for snow, Bourne residents would have to learn yet another traffic term... "Winter-morning coffee run rotary traffic" is what I am working with now. I don't think anyone else in the USA would have that particular problem.

- Bourne town officials have suggested that the state buy the site and tear it down.

- Wicked Local Bourne alleges that at least one "well-known coffee franchise" has put out feelers on the site.

- While I think they lost in the end, the Sorrenti Brothers (or something like that) lost out on a settlement when a flyover cut their gas station off from the former Sagamore rotary. However, they were very close to getting a multi-million dollar payout. Would a decade of Dunkin be worth that financial risk?

- If you are going to wedge a business in there, does it really have to be a high-volume, quick-hitter? At least each customer at the IHOP sat there for 45 minutes. People are in and out of Dunkin Donuts, and thus in and out of bridge and rotary traffic, every 30 seconds or so.

- How many people would make money off this? The town makes some tax money, maybe gets another teacher or a firefighter. The franchisee will make money hand over fist. The coffee jockeys will make a starvation wage, and may have to be imported from New Bedford. Does that scratch cancel out the lost revenue we'd get from a major uptick in traffic gridlock at one of the only two ways off of the Cape?

- Road rage incidents before people get their coffee are worse than their opposite numbers. Road rage incidents where someone actually got their coffee, but had it spill into their lap after an accident before they could drink any of it... those, my friend, always turn bloody, even if the two people in the accident are Jesus and Martin Luther King.

- Would a needless DD in the Bourne Rotary be the end of the DD in the struggling Buzzards Bay rotary? Will some millionaire getting an extra million be worth landing yet another deathblow on the Buzz?

- Would the State Police be forced to close the rotary Dunkin Donuts during evacuation situations like hurricanes or Pilgrim nuclear incidents?

- Just imagine the average driver exiting that DD at the foot of the bridge. Think of the delays, the nudging-the-nose-outs, the skidding stops, the oblivious or aggressive driver interaction. Disregard the good drivers for a moment, and focus on the average driver. Then, as George Carlin said, remember that half of the drivers are even stupider than he or she is.

- Remember... right now, the Bourne Bridge is the faster bridge, although's Sagamore's problem is more volume (Sagamore does a 67/33 share of the traffic with the Bourne Bridge) than design.

- At least one person on my Facebook has intimated that calling it "IHOP" instead of "Big Boy's" is sort of like wearing a YOUNGBLOOD t-shirt. Older folks still call it "Howard Johnson's" now and then.

- I plan to get a good viewing spot and wait for someone to do a sudden, high-speed, blind cross over two rotary lanes where they then cut off the two IHOP exits as a sort of Fool's Coda. Just offhand, sitting at my desk, I get the sense that either a near-miss or a fatality may strengthen my faith in God, Evolution, Either, Neither, or Both.

- As we have said before, people who study Higher Math speak of a strange phenomena called the Bourne Paradox. It essentially, if you'll forgive my difficulty with the details, means that a point occurred in history where the amount of travel-time lost in Bourne traffic surpassed the amount of time Man has existed as a species. It pretty much disproves Math, and maybe God. The math works when you consider that multiple people commute in many cars, but the working math also dispels Math. It's what Einstein killed himself over.

Now, whoever owns this property has the right to rent it to whoever the heck they want to rent it to, even the Taliban or the KKK. Who are we to tell him otherwise?

It's tough to fault a guy who will give us a patrolman-sized tax payoff every year, who will employ a few dozen low-skill workers in a fairly secure job with 24/7/365 shifts, who will feed our hungry commuters, and who will hand us our morning coffee every day.

I suppose that my own political philosophy forces me to be willing to suffer a bit rather than have the government telling businesses who they can rent to. However, you can almost paint it as a public safety issue. I'm torn on it, to an extent.

If I can sneak in and out of there during off hours and get one of those little croissants with the bacon and cheese... at that exact moment, this reporter would be For this project.

However, the rest of the time, it will be a traffic nightmare of the highest order, imposed upon an area that was pretty close to already being a traffic nightmare of the highest order. Bourne has been begging for help with traffic for decades, and we instead get nothing but Mo Traffic.

We're about to take a traffic gut-punch, there's nothing we can do about it, and it will hit us all day, every day, as long as it stands. I think maybe 30 people benefit from it.

I suppose the area needs a high end business that maybe one person goes to now and then and spends a bunch of money. Maybe something with a high-end window-shopping appeal, like a Ferrari dealership. Everything else is a bad idea... and that also goes for you, Ronald McDonald.

Mainland Bourne should strongly consider that they may have to secede, name themselves "Gridlock," start suing somebody over the traffic, and blow those bridges down like the Big Bad Bourne Wolf. You know in your red, white and blue heart that George Washington wouldn't have taken this sh*t.