Saturday, June 28, 2014

Making lemonade from Corvettes and Sinkholes

On this day in 1953, the first Chevrolet Corvette rolled (literally) off the Corvette assembly line in Flint, MI.  Since 1981, these highly priced yet highly sought after American made sports cars have been manufactured in Bowling Green, KY. 

Evidently an unbelievable number of people have 1. the desire and 2. the disposable income and time to travel (many times in the Recreational Vehicles that are now their permanent residence!) throughout the United State paying entrance fees to stroll through museums featuring American inventions such as Spam (the canned meat kind, not the equally as undesirable e-mail kind) and Corvettes.  If you are going to have one at all, logically and logistically I'm sure it made sense to make Bowling Green the home of the Corvette Museum. 

For my readers who are not as familiar with the virtues of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, Bowling Green, KY is located only 35 miles from Mammoth Cave, a massive underground cave system that is recognized as one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World. Well, what happened at that museum, on a seemingly random day in February, was a wonder of a different kind.

On February 12th, just a few hours before the Corvette Museum opened for the folks with massive amounts of time and a reasonable amount of cash, a 30 X 40 foot wide sinkhole opened up and swallowed 8 Corvettes.  Yep, just like that.  Here is link to the Youtube video footage from the security camera: Corvette Drops Into Sinkhole  

(photo source: Reuters, Corvette Museum)

In what I choose to believe is a sign from the universe that our culture is valuing all.the.wrong.things and spending our disposable income similarly, these high performance vehicles valued at a total of almost $1 million became scrap metal, in an instant. The timing was fortunate and spared all human life. In fact, the museum found out about it via a call from the security company monitoring the museum.  Wouldn't you love to hear a recording of that phone call to the facilities manager of the museum?!  Maybe it went something like this....

Security company dispatcher: "Hi, is this John Doe, the facilities manager of the Corvette Museum located in Bowling Green, KY?"

John Doe: "Yes it is."

Security company dispatcher: "Well, it seems that our security sensors have lost the security signal response on 8 of the Corvettes in your museum, you better get over there STAT!  It's the strangest thing, it's like they just fell off the face of the planet"

John Doe: "Wow, okay, I am on my way, thanks for calling."

Security company dispatcher: "Sure, no problem, hope you figure out what's going on over there, but I have to run as our system is detecting a plague of locusts carrying off a '68 Mustang Cobra over at the Ford Mustang Museum"  

(Note: there is currently no Ford Mustang Museum in existence, but the author took some creative license because there is one opening in Birmingham, AL in spring of 2016. Evidently this country needs more venues for these people with time, money and recreational vehicles on their hands.)

But the story doesn't end there. At this point, if you are like me, you are thinking "Wow, that really sucks for that museum.  I can't imagine anyone is going to want to go near that place any time soon!"  Well, we would both be wrong.   

If you happen to be the proud recipient of a driver's license and spend any time exercising the privileges that come along with it, you know Americans love to "rubber neck" when they drive by an accident scene, many times causing another one. But our tendencies to rubber neck extend beyond car accidents, and extend into natural disasters.  And apparently the tragic sink hole has become big business for the museum.  A USA Today article by Jolie Lee states, "The museum, located in Bowling Green, Ky., saw a 59% increase in the number of visitors from March to June, compared with the same period in 2013....There was also a 58% increase in gift store sales, a 72% increase in membership and a 65% increase in revenue overall in this four-month period over last year's."  

(Note: I will spare you how my mind would analyze the business metrics found in the above paragraph.  This brain of mine is a blessing and a curse.  I mean, who spends a Saturday afternoon, after a 60 hour work week in real estate, writing a blog post about the demise of Corvettes, which she thinks are an unbelievable waste of precious economic resources?!)

So people are now attending the museum to see... wait for it....the sinkhole. And according to a news release from yesterday, the museum's board has now decided to keep a part of the sink hole in the museum permanently.  And....they are going to put 2 cars that have been retrieved from the sink hole, BACK IN! (head seen shaking in the background)

Let's think about this, shall we?  People are now making the conscious decision to enter a building whose foundation dissolved, instantaneously swallowed 8 sports cars, and put the structure of the museum at risk.  Even more mind boggling is that they are more likely to do this and pay an entrance fee for the privilege, than when it was a completely structurally sound building with luxury sports cars on display.  I would have to verify this but, that karst topography, on top of which that museum was built, has NOT filed a change of address form with the United States Postal Service.

There is a saying, "When life hands you lemons, make lemonade".  While the economist in me can understand the financial reasons behind the museum board's decision to keep part of the sinkhole (but putting 2 previously retrieved cars back in, is entirely ludicrous under any circumstances, IMO), I truly struggle to understand those who desire a taste of that very strange lemonade.  Of course, maybe that is all part of the order of the universe, perhaps also serving as a perverse form of natural selection, as if that hole opens up even more, it will take those who just can't deny those rubber necking tendencies, right along with it.