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Ross Murray's Border Report
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Ross Murray
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is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at ross_murray@sympatico.ca
Posted 06.30.10
Stanstead, Quebec

ROSS MURRAY

Welcome to McMelbourne, Quebec

I'm mightily miffed about this McDonald's in Melbourne, Quebec. Ostensibly outraged, even. The situation hardly seems fair. I mean, what about the rest of us living in small, commercially fragile towns across Quebec’s Eastern Townships? Where's our McDonald's?

You Quebecers may have read a brief item about the opening of the McDonald's/Couche Tard/Esso/rest stop/blight on the landscape in Tuesday's Sherbrooke Record. The expanse of concrete is set to open July 2 conveniently off Autoroute 55 at the exit for Highway 243 outside Richmond.

According to the article, the rest stop will include tourist information, parking for RVs, even spots for truckers to stay overnight in case they get sleepy after ingesting too many McWretcheds.

I don't know who chose this location to build the latest McDonald's but clearly there was no consultation process. Otherwise, many of us living in other small communities off the 55 would have argued strongly that our local economies were equally deserving of being destroyed by Big Burger.

Take where I live, for instance: Stanstead. Like Richmond, my town is conveniently located just off the autoroute, and, like Richmond, there are plenty of local restaurants and cafés that people would no longer be forced to patronize if there were Golden Arches on the outskirts of town.

I mean, small-town restaurants are all so... quirky and unique and, I dunno, unpredictable. Sometimes the owners even want to talk to you. Human interaction: ick!

With McDonald's, there's no discomfort of the unknown. Everything's always the same and safe and over-salted. In fact, you can sit in a McDonald's and imagine you're anywhere in the world -- London, New York, Istanbul, Magog...

So why should Richmond's restaurants be allowed to go jelly up when our businesses could just as easily give up the toast?

I mean, it's going to be so easy in Richmond. Combining a McDonald's with a gas station and a convenience store -- did I mention the McPlayground? -- such a complex offers all the essentials to not only travelers who already planned to ignore Richmond but also those who never knew it existed in the first place.

Which is probably a good thing, what with all those unsightly boarded up restaurants downtown. How embarrassing!

Stanstead could definitely manage being bypassed. In fact, we have experience. The provincial tourist information centre is located two kilometres north of Stanstead on Autoroute 55. So even if visitors from the US did want to, say, look at granite, they're already well past Stanstead by the time they reach the tourist centre and discover our town's many granite-viewing opportunities. The only legal way to get back to Stanstead is to travel all the way up to Ayer's Cliff and turn around. And once tourists are captivated by the seductive allure of Ayer's Cliff, who's going to come back to Stanstead?

For that matter, why not open a McDonald's just before the Ayer's Cliff exit? They could build it on the rise overlooking Lake Massawippi. That way, people wouldn't have to drive a-a-a-a-ll the way into the village for a bite (honestly, does that road have to be so twisty?) but could simply pass through the Drive-Thru while enjoying nature the way it was meant to be enjoyed -- from inside your car with Spackle Sauce on your chin.

And not just travelers. What about those of us living in the community? Those lucky people in Richmond and Melbourne will now be able to choke back McSloppies 24 hours a day. How convenient is that?

When you need your fat fast, it's right there. No need to wait until 7 a.m. for the owner of your local diner to open up and personally pour the pancake batter. Now you can have some sourpussed, minimum wage-earning teen hurl a hash brown at you at 5 a.m. And would you like a defibrillator with that?

I guess I'm just jealous. I probably shouldn't be. I'm sure it's only a matter of time before some franchise rolls into all our towns to blow the local economy to Timbits.

Ross Murray's book ‘You're Not Going to Eat That, Are You?’ is now available in area book stores and at www.townships.ca.

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