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“We’ve got a store that I explore when the customers aren’t here anymore…”

June 27, 2010, 12:14 AM

Tonight I learned some very disturbing news. G20 protesters in Toronto broke windows at The Bay’s Queen Street store on Saturday. Fans of Today’s Special will know this place best as simply “the store”. I was shocked, and it actually briefly brought tears to my eyes. But they did:

Broken windows at the store  Broken windows at the store
Photos: Karen Liu/Toronto Life

That really hurts me to see. I grew up with that store through Today’s Special, even going on a trip to Toronto in 1999 with the main reason for going being to see that store in person. The phrase “Robert Simpson, Merchant, 1896” has been burned into my memory for over 25 years, and I found the real version of that plaque on my visit to the store in 1999.

As you know, I’m a fan of protesters and black blocs, but I’m not big on property destruction, since in the end, it’s counterproductive, ultimately netting bigger paychecks for Big Insurance. And now, projectile-wielding demonstrators got the store. And what did that accomplish? Really, what? The windows got broken. That means that they will have to file an insurance claim to get the windows repaired, and then Big Insurance will raise their insurance premiums. So in the end, Big Insurance makes off like a bandit. And it makes the protesters look foolish, since it’s ultimately just petty vandalism. I hope you’re happy.

Now the Hudson’s Bay Company, which now owns the store, is certainly not without sin. After getting completely out of the fur business in 1991, the company resumed selling fur in 1997, and as far as I know, continues to sell fur to this day. Killing animals just for their fur is a Bad Thing. The Hudson’s Bay Company now needs to do the right thing and stop selling products made with real fur. And for a company built on the fur trade, it would be a hard pill to swallow, but one that they need to do for the sake of animal welfare – and because it’s the right thing to do. But even that doesn’t give people carte blanche to go breaking windows for reasons mentioned above.

I’m just really annoyed about that. And until I saw the pictures, it never crossed my mind that the store would be a target. I combed through G20 protest photos to see if I could catch a glimpse of the store, considering that a lot of the action was taking place right around there. Then I Googled it directly, and I saw broken windows on the store. I was saddened and upset by it. After all, the store is a significant part of my childhood. You do not have my permission to break its windows.

Then I got to thinking, what would Jodie say about this? I think all of the folks from Today’s Special – Jeff, Jodie, Sam, Muffy, and Mrs. Pennypacker – would be devastated. I believe Jeff would have been particularly affected, since for him, the store was his entire world. One step outside, and “the magic spell will be broken, and [Jeff would] be a mannequin again.” For him, the store was a safe place where he could learn and explore, and to find out after coming to life at night that protesters broke windows at the store would shatter his sense of security. I couldn’t imagine the feeling that you might not be safe somewhere, but being unable to escape it. I’m sure that everyone else, particularly Jodie, would be able and willing to help Jeff, but it would certainly be a long process.

The whole thing also makes me wonder whether protesters would listen to a plea to spare the store. Would they listen to a police officer or a private security guard? Hell no. So a real-life Sam Crenshaw would not be a viable option. But what if a group of Today’s Special fans, who grew up with this store, and where the store is a part of them, came out to defend it? I wonder if protesters would listen to people for whom the store was part of their childhood, and spare it from desecration. Seriously. I think I could effectively negotiate with them, and the store could be spared.

Let this be a lesson for future black blocs – property destruction is not the way to go. It makes you look foolish, it is counterproductive to anti-corporate views, and you may be desecrating someone’s childhood memories in the process.

Web site: My visit to the store in 1999

Song: Since finding out this news, I've had just about every song from Today's Special specifically about the store running through my head...

Quote: Article from The Globe and Mail about the protests. I really don't see what senseless property destruction accomplishes, and if that makes me a poor radical, then so be it.