A rare and strange phenomenon occurred just the other day in Rockland.

Down here in the South End, a cry of delight, almost reaching the level of pure joy, was heard as residents discovered that the Water Street clock had at last been repaired.

The sound of happiness grew all morning, until by midday it was audible in all parts of the neighborhood, and then began spreading out into the rest of town.

However, just as the sound of joy was reaching optimum levels of volume somewhere around the ferry terminal, the wave was met by a counter-wave of unmistakable misery and woe emanating from the North End of town, as people slowly but surely began to realize it is now temporarily impossible to buy a drive-through hamburger in the Lime City.

The collision of these two waves of psychic reflex reminded me of the words of a solemn hymn we used to sing on Sundays when I was but a boy: “Did e’er such joy and sorrow meet…?”

For as I am sure we all know, not only did Burger King close its doors in December, but now McDonald’s is not operating.

At least this is likely to be a short-lived deprivation, as McD’s is merely remodeling its premises. But the effect of the construction project has been catastrophic on many hundreds of bellies, as McDonald’s entire feeding system is currently suspended and the regular lunchtime crowd is no longer able to pick up a tasty bite to eat from the comfort of their cars.

No wonder the public pain and suffering were audible, for this situation has not existed in Rockland all this century, nor for many decades before. Even when McDonald’s closed while its building was torn down and replaced with the current structure in the late 1980s, at least Burger King was fully functional to take up the slack.

Of all the inconveniences our people have been through this past year, perhaps this is the most immediately devastating of all.

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There are some compensations that might slightly offset this great unhappiness. My investigation into why the Farnsworth museum provides free admission to Rockland residents has produced an interesting piece of information.

The museum’s chief curator, Michael K. Komanecky, has looked into the admissions policy, and has been in touch with former Director Marius Peladeau, who instituted the policy during his directorship. He reports as follows:

“Lucy Farnsworth’s will includes no statement regarding a fee to enter the museum or the Homestead, and it is clear from the exchange of letters from her lawyer that she left such decisions to the executor of her estate.

“In these letters she considered requiring a fee of one dollar for visitors to the Homestead, though she was persuaded otherwise by her lawyer, who cited his concerns to her about a fee in the midst of the Depression. Ultimately, all such matters regarding the operation of the museum, library and the Homestead were left to the discretion of her executor.

“Former Director Marius Peladeau recalls that it was sometime around 1983-84 that he instituted free admission for Rockland residents, and though he's not certain of the exact date, the policy was initiated during his directorship.”

So, we can see that while it is not possible to feed ourselves upon a drive-through burger in Rockland at the moment, the museum’s free admission policy does provide Lime City’s beleaguered population with a long-term provision for the feeding of the soul, at no cost. Go and see some art.

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Not that our fair city is rid of all its problems. I have been talking lately about the labor shortage almost everyone everywhere is suffering from at the moment. The practical effects of this shortage were made plain to a random sample of our citizens last Saturday afternoon, while I was buying some books (another form of art that many of us find to be just as satisfying as a burger) at our Goodwill store.

A long line formed behind me at the sole operating checkout, and as I was forking over my pennies, a woman from the extreme back end of the line made her way to the front to point out to the sales clerk how many people were still waiting to be served, expecting no doubt that he would call for “back-up to register two” or something like that, to speed things up.

Sadly, though, all he could say was that there was nobody else available who could come down and open another checkout.

Outside the store, signs proclaimed that Goodwill is “Hiring Now.” Welcome to the labor shortage of 2021.

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Speaking of food to go, I see the Amato’s lunch wagon has returned to town, and was expected to open again for public feeding on the Middle Pier behind the police station this week.

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I also noticed the Flagship movie theater in Thomaston was recently proclaiming it would reopen some time this month, too.

One of the schooners that parks in Lermond Cove had its winter wraps removed the other day to be made ready for the summer business, and some brave soul was standing and doing something inscrutable at the top of a mast some 50 or 60 feet above the deck.

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Speaking of Thomaston, the Dorman’s ice cream stand is already open for the season, as are Beth’s farm stand at White Oak in Warren and Dairy Queen in Rockland.

Ice cream and fresh vegetables. That should help us keep life in balance.

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With all the increasing signs of commercial activity about town, I suppose it should have been no surprise to find an enforcement operative from the state’s office of Professional and Financial Regulation parked down at the public landing, last week.

This branch of state government regulates a vast quantity of occupations, not quite a list from A to Z but pretty close, ranging from accountants to veterinary technicians, and I imagine there was some practical reason for this visit.

I do wonder if there is also a branch of government that regulates the time of day? If so, we can be very glad that our clock is working again, and that we are once more in full compliance with the Time Lords.

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Finally, I can report that the trees planted in the sidewalk at the bottom of Winter Street are blooming, and that the four daffodils behind the sewage plant are in flower.

Can summer be far behind?

David Grima is a former editor with Courier Publications. He can be reached at davidgrima@ymail.com.