Being the Welcome Mat

So every weekend for the past few weeks we’ve had something to bring the news trucks down.  First it was Hurricane Bill which was forecast likely not to hit us, but more likely to hit us than any other part of the country, which seemed to be good enough.  And turned out to be a whole bunch of nothing. 

Then there was Hurricane Danny, which was not even tropical storm strength by the time it got here.  But at least we got some rain which pretty much saved us from having any prolonged dry spell this summer at all. 

Then last weekend – sharks. 

Wow, what a revelation.  Sharks eating seals.  This is not news.  I’ve seen half-eaten seal carcasses washed up on South Beach for over 10 years.  The surge of media has nothing to do with there being sharks – there are sharks all up and down the east coast.  Rather, it has everything to do with the species.  Great white.  Sharkus Hollywoodus.  

No, that’s not quite true.  The great whites aren’t completely to blame for the frenzy.  I had a friend call up from the Midwest the other day to tell me not to let Sofie swim in the water because of the sharks.  CNN was taking this story national.  The same CNN crew that had been freely speculating on hurricanes on Friday the 21st and Friday the 28th

So they would show up on a Thursday night, hang around, and then be gone by Sunday.  Sounds familiar in this resort area.  Of course, it didn’t help that when our crew from Hit and Run History went around to film these non-events (to show what farces they really were), the guys from the networks freely admitted they lobbied to come to the Cape for a long weekend.  And again.  And again.

 

The end result being that going anywhere near the Lighthouse became the real descent in the maelstrom.  Visitors from far and wide, drawn by telecasts, did nothing more than drive here to stand on the shore for a few minutes and gawk.  I’ve never seen so many overdressed people at the beach in the summer doing nothing but standing at the water’s edge and staring.

Meanwhile, the networks that brought them here dominated parking in the beach above.  That parking is 30 minutes.  I remember back in the mid ‘70s when that limit went in, and it was not popular with the locals.  Those spaces in front of the lighthouse were designated for the sightseers, not the beachgoers.  Apparently, though, they are also meant free all-day parking for multi-billion dollar corporations.

So I had to ask Chatham Police about this.  I was told at the station, no, the half-hour rule was being enforced.  I was also told I’d get a call back about this.  I must have been away from my phone when they did.

Perhaps there was some confusion, since it is easy to overlook a large white truck with a satellite dish on top, and orange cones all around it, including the adjacent parking spaces, and long cables running from it, across the sidewalk and running down the banking and another 200 feet out onto the beach to various camera and light stands.  Yes, clearly, the intent was to set up, shoot and break it all down within a window of 30 minutes. 

Or maybe CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, the Weather Channel, Fox and friends were parked there for days on end, doing nothing more than using a public space for private gain, and not being subjected to the penalties that either the residents or summer visitors incur.  All because these clowns want a long weekend of paid vacation on the Cape.

So if you have received a ticket for parking too long down at the lighthouse this summer, you might want to ask if these mobile offices weren’t also there the same day.

Likewise, in light of the controversy over a small local businessperson being charged for holding classes on the beach, it is reasonable to ask why these very large and profitable, out-of-town corporations got free use of our most popular destination in town, week-after-week, on some of the warmest, sunniest beach-going days of the year.  All so they can hyperventilate to the world about things that pose little danger to us.

So if we’re not charging them for parking, ticketing them for overuse of limited spaces, or requiring permits for filming when they have the budget and we have the best locations for these recurring stories… what do we get out of this?

Besides simmering pubic resentment, I mean.

 

Read this and Andy's other columns online at The Cape Cod Chronicle.

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