IN THE CROSSHAIRS

TARGET’S CANADIAN FAILURE SHOWS WHAT POOR PREPARATION AND CORPORATE ARROGANCE ULTIMATELY LEADS TO. BUT PUBLIC REACTIONS TO THE LOSS OF MORE THAN 17,000 JOBS SHOWS THAT CONSUMERS AREN’T ALWAYS BETTER

 Look, I get it.

I understand that there’s no theatre quite like the suffering and failure of others. Especially when that failure happens on an epic level to a massive billion-dollar behemoth that is seen by many as an invader; an alien undermining an entire country’s values and way of life, which is how most Canadians saw Target when the retail giant purchased 220 Zellers leases from HBC in 2011, putting an end to the iconic yet flailing Canadian retailer once and for all and signaling the arrival of another massive American power north of the border. Most Canadians greeted it the same way-“Yep, another big American company taking over the Great White North” (before they grabbed the map for their next cross border shopping trip).  So when that particular Goliath surrenders, as Target did last week when it formally announced it was closing down it’s entire Canadian operation less than two years after opening it’s doors, there was no limit to the amount of grave dancing and laughter that greeted the grim news. But amidst their glee and insults and bargain shopping plans, what a lot of people chose to ignore or dismiss entirely was that in a single day, in a single wretched moment, well over seventeen thousand people had just learned that their jobs had been erased.

I found out when I checked my Facebook page first thing that morning (yes, checking my computer happens before breakfast and checking Facebook, which is linked to the majority of my news and entertainment sources is my second daily cyber stop of the day, shut up and don’t judge) and the first thing that popped up on my screen was the status of a friend and former co-worker who’s a current manager at one of Ottawa’s Target locations. She was informing everyone that she and her fellow co-workers knew as much as everyone else did and thanked everyone for their support. It was kind of detail light but it set off more then a few alarm bells. I quickly began scanning past the previous night’s sports scores, current political shenanigans on both Parliament Hill and in the White House and ignored the multitude of funny animal videos. It took about thirteen seconds to find out what she was talking about; Target Canada was surrendering and closing all 133 of its stores, laying off 17,600 employees in the process.

First of all, anyone who greeted the news that Target was waving the white flag by smugly telling everyone who would listen that they knew it would happen any day now is lying. Let’s get that out of the way right now, shall we? It was no secret that Target faced serious challenges and had more problems than you could shake the proverbial stick at, but the chain was pushing through with plans to open more stores and expand its presence in the Great White North less than two years after breaking Canadian ground (here in Ottawa they were still building a huge location in the Bayshore Shopping Mall as part of that shopping centre’s multi-million dollar renovation). And given the number of high-profile collapses in the Canadian retail industry lately (Jacob’s closing all of its stores in one fell swoop, MEXX filing for bankruptcy protection, Staples is in the middle of plans to close more than five hundred stores across North America, Sony announced it was also closing all of its Canadian stores hours after the Target announcement and Sears continues to fight it’s inevitable demise), these were surely signs that Target still had plenty left in the tank for the future. New CEO Brian Cornell, who took over Canadian operations just last August, acknowledged Target’s problems with surprising candor and vowed to get it right. Even the most astute analysts, many of whom regularly criticized the American giant, were taken back by the news that Target Canada was throwing in the towel. So maybe you may have thought Target might not have been up to snuff for the long haul-and fair enough if that was your opinion-but let’s toss the idea that you knew it was going to call it quits this year or this month out the window because I’m calling shenanigans on it right now.

But worse yet is apparently many of the armchair economists and experts and naysayers couldn’t wait to start dancing on Target’s grave, right in front of people getting buried right along with the Big Red Bullseye. My aforementioned friend’s next Facebook update, coming just a few short hours later, asked if customers could refrain from bragging in front of her staff, staff that had just found out that they were losing their jobs, staff who may have greeted that news with tears and who may have gone through the same rotten fate a few years ago as a possible former Zellers employee (as many Target employees were) that they knew all along that Target was doomed to failure. In essence, that everyone, you know, act like civilized human beings and give disappointed and heartbroken employees a little space and breathing room.

I’m not defending Target; the brand struggled badly since opening its Canadian doors back in March of 2013. The stores were clean and shiny (a welcome change from the dreariness of your average Wal-Mart) but the company drew immediate and sharp criticism for low stock and Target admitted it was wrestling with the distribution models needed (and used successfully by other) retailers to service its Canadian stores. Pricing was higher than what many Canadians-who were hoping to see price points similar to the Target stores they frequented on their cross border shopping trips-expected and there was that infamous data breach in December of 2013, when the data of an estimated forty million users was stolen as a result of a three-week long hack. And I’m assuming there were probably plenty of other problems and concerns beneath the reported surface as well; there must have been because I’d sincerely like to hope that neither Target nor any other business would be choosing to take an estimated 5.4 billion dollar bath (with another five to six hundred million in expected costs the following fiscal year as a result) and layoff the population of a large town otherwise. It’s recently been revealed that the list of Target Canada’s creditors is more than 42 pages long, it has liabilities exceeding 5.1 billion dollars and it owes the Canadian Revenue Agency over 12 million, the Canadian Pension Plan over 8.1 million and the province of British Columba nearly 2.7 million. And there’s already been plenty of justifiable criticism on how the company is handling and communicating the termination to its thousands of employees as it winds down (and you’d have to be naive if you didn’t think Target was trying to think of every possible way to squirm out of paying as many of those debts as possible). Target has earned every word of bad press it gets and at the end of the day, its sudden demise is it’s own fault, the result of short-sighted arrogance and a stubborn refusal to adapt. This will go down in future business textbooks as the greatest corporate meltdown in modern business history, a how to guide for certain failure.

But it’s the seventeen thousand plus employees who were suddenly blindsided by the worst kind of news you could get need a little sticking up for, and not just from the employer who failed them, but from the public at large who seem to revel in their newfound unemployment. As soon as the news had been digested I couldn’t believe the number of blogs that immediately sprout up declaring “GOOD!” at the top of their lungs, with little or no mention of the employees who had just been unceremoniously dumped. Not to mention all those who flocked to social media to gloat and proclaim how horrible Target was, that they deserved this fate and they were the devil’s very own spawn all while the body was still warm. And you don’t really want to get me started on all the ones who couldn’t wait to parade their smug little selves into the nearest Target store so they could point their self-righteous, self-congratulatory fingers in the faces of every shell-shocked employee they came across to tell them that they knew it was coming and yessiree, weren’t they right the whole time. To offer some context to all those who greeted the news with morbid glee, this is considered one of the largest mass layoffs in Canadian history, right up there with the closing of the Maritime fisheries in the early 90’s. The announcement drew immediate concern and response from the Federal government as Labour Minister Jason Kenney has said the government will set up special programs to offer support to former Target workers. In the little over a week since the news broke, some Target employees have confided that customers were asking when the going out of business sales were going to start before said employee had even been informed that the company was surrendering. A few employees have admitted that customer callousness has reduced them to tears.

Individuals can be smart, compassionate and charitable, but as a whole, the consuming public is a flighty, greedy, needy, ignorant creature that jumps at its own shadow and is guided exclusively by its unerring blood lust. The Public is little more than a narcissistic beast that is only ever concerned with instantly satisfying its voracious and infinite appetite. If you disagree, pop into your closest Target next weekend and I guarantee you’ll find it busier then it’s ever been, full to the brim of people searching out those promised liquidation bargains, vultures ruthlessly circling the corpse. So if you were convinced that Target wasn’t long for business in Canada, well, last Thursday’s news makes you right. And like I said to start, most people can’t get enough human suffering as long as that suffering belongs to someone else, but that doesn’t change the simple fact that if you were one of the many who bragged about your awesome foresight to someone who’d just lost their job as a result of the same news, well that makes you an ass.

Shayne Kempton

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JUST A SMALL SAMPLE

A UNIVERSITY OF NORTH DAKOTA STUDY REVEALED SOME PRETTY HORRIBLE NUMBERS REGARDING AMERICA’S CAMPUS RAPE CULTURE. UNFORTUNATELY IT WILL BECOME A WEAPON BY RAPE APOLOGISTS AND OTHERS WHO ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM

       A few months ago, I got into a name calling contest with someone I’d never met that spanned nearly three days. The fight was spurred by a comment I made on the Ottawa Citizen’s website regarding a story on Emma Watson’s (a.k.a. Hermione) speech at the United Nations. Miss Watson had just been appointed the UN’s Goodwill Ambassador for Women and just delivered what I (and many others) thought was an excellent speech on gender equality. And I said as much in the comment I left, adding that if things were to improve, that men were going to help with some of the heavy lifting as well. Well, this apparently provoked this individual (who we’ll call “Allan” moving forward) who asked why I (and the author of the Citizen article) wasn’t more compassionate to my own gender and continued to tell me in no uncertain terms that racism, homelessness, mental illness, failure of education and the failure of the government to care for veterans, suicide and just about every other evil and crime in the western world were overwhelmingly exclusive male problems and women’s issues (because y’know, women have never been affected by racism or suicide or government negligence and incompetence) would only ever improve if men were taken care of (because apparently if you’re a man in Western society, your life is automatically tougher then a woman’s). The thing is, he didn’t leave this gem of wisdom on the Citizen’s forum, where I made my initial comment, no he found the Facebook page I maintain for the Ottawa Edge and he started the fight there. In fact, I’ve left it there in case anyone’s curious to see what it looks like to spend a few unsavoury hours in the mind of a misogynist. I gave legitimate debate a token try and when that inevitably failed I promptly followed in the footprints of the immortal Bugs Bunny, one of my personal heroes, and white duel glove slapped him-after I slid a brick in the glove. It was very easy to tease his thinly veiled hatred and bigotry out from beneath the thin veneer of his “logic” and expose him for what he was-a misogynist who couldn’t contain his bitterness and hatred. He was a puzzle that was easily solved, an ideological relic who wanted a return to the times when men were considered special simply by the merit of their gender because he had failed to achieve anything significant in a time when you actually needed to do something special to be considered special. There’s a reason behind sharing this tale and I’ll get to it in just a sec.

Researchers at the University of North Dakota recently conducted a study that concluded one third of men on American college campuses would rape a woman if they thought they could get away with it. The same study found many of the men who admitted they would rape a woman shied away from using the word rape and those who didn’t expressed some pretty horrible attitudes towards the fairer sex.   The study has gotten a lot of attention and has been promoted by a number of online news services (often times as obvious click bait) and has been embraced by a number of Equal Rights Activists. It has been polarizing to say the least. But the problem isn’t the survey’s results, it’s the survey itself. Most importantly, the sample size. Only one school was used in the survey-the University of North Dakota itself-and only 86 male students were surveyed, with only 73 giving responses that could be used.

73.

Now anyone who knows the slightest thing about statistics and surveys knows that nothing reliable can be proven by a sample size of 73. It robs the study of any credibility at all. When grocery store chains perform surveys on what kind of drink box kids like best or where they should display the new flavor of ketchup they use minimum survey sizes in the thousands. When pollsters try to predict which political party or candidate is leading their respective race; they’ll talk to 73 respondents in the span of an hour on their way to a sample size also in the thousands. Quite simply, trying to draw any results or conclusions on a sample size of 73 for anything is the very definition of stupid and no one with any legit academic credentials would normally dare release the results of a study with such a microscopic number. It would be like trying to say that a third of all Christians would endorse the genocide of gays by surveying 73 people from the same church in Mississippi. Or that a third of women believe in polygamy because 73 women who belonged to a Mormon church in Salt Lake City were surveyed.   Or that a third of NFL fans think the New England Patriots are cheaters because 73 Indiana Colts fans were surveyed. The idea that you can paint an accurate picture of college students country wide based on the responses of 73 guys at one single school is beyond absurd. This study, for all intents and purposes, is flawed to the point of being useless.

But I’d wager that the results might not be too far off the mark. And that’s the problem.

I’m as Progressive as they come and I’ll defend my beliefs and values until the cows come home, cook dinner and leave again. And Gender Equality is a hill I’ll die on six days a week and twice on Sunday. But I’m also a Pragmatist and the only thing this survey, and the attention its received, will do is hurt the cause it’s trying to help.

Look, if you don’t think there’s a problem, on college campuses or anywhere else, with how our culture views and treats women or the challenges and often dangers they face on a day to day basis, and how they often get the short end of the stick legally, then I don’t know what to tell you. Entire forests have been felled detailing the problems that women face, the struggles they’ve endured and the sacrafices they’ve made and how far we still have to go as a society, and every day we’re often provided with another example of how if a women speaks out or seeks justice, for any reason, she faces merciless vilification in the media and around the water cooler. I can offer at least a dozen day to day examples of the casual disrespect I see women suffer, often with an accepting grace I could never muster. Not to mention the daily cases we see in the world at large by a culture that prefers its women to be window dressing or damsels in distress. Or victims, preferably the quiet ones. And there are certifiable, legitimate statistics in both Canada and the United States that more then bear that reality out.  If I ever have the privilege of being a father and I happen to have daughters I’m going to be freaking out on a truly epic level (and I’m never really kidding when I say that they’ll be armed and know how to kill a man by the time they’re thirteen). If you really want a clear example today, I’ll refer you to a story on Cracked.com, written by a rape victim entitled “8 Ways the Legal System Screws Rape Victims (Like Me).” It isn’t the story you should read (although I’d definitely recommend it, especially if you need an eye opening reality check), but the feedback it received. Against my better judgement I skimmed some of the more then 4300 comments left on the site and the hundreds more left on Cracked’s Facebook page (on a story that had only been posted that morning, mind you) and Sweet Baby Batman the amount of victim blaming, name calling and naked misogyny turned my stomach so badly that I wanted to run out onto the street and penis punch the first straight male I encountered. With a honey badger. That had rabies. Some of the respondents, in all their class, replied to this young woman’s article, a woman who had been raped and endured the humiliating trial to convict her attacker, that her story was uninteresting and she needed to work on her “base writing skills.” The simple fact that the United Nations, a global body that usually addresses major issues with glacial speed, thinks it needs a Goodwill Ambassador for Women speaks volumes. So again, if you’re one of those people who refuse to acknowledge the problem or willfully ignore it, well not only do I not have time for you, but you are part of the problem. So now that we’ve got that straight . . .

The reason this survey is more damaging then anything else is because it bases its results on wholly unreliable procedures. And it’s more obvious then Donald Trump’s hairline. The problem is this survey gives the deniers and the haters, the people like my aforementioned friend “Allan,” another bullet in their arsenal. And a big one at that. Whenever the debates begin to rage, when someone tries to illustrate the very real problem in our culture by citing legit numbers and statistics, opponents will simply be able to roll their eyes and respond “you mean like the North Dakota one?” In short this survey stains far more thorough and efficient studies with its incompetence.

You want a real survey? Conduct it on a dozen schools in each of the fifty states, engaging at least a thousand respondents on every campus. I would not be surprised to see if a much larger, much more detailed survey yielded similar results (horrified and disgusted, but not too surprised), but a true conversation cannot begin with just the sliver of a study that researchers at the University of North Dakota provided. Extend it to high schools as well and offer a detailed analysis of views, perspectives, age, subjects majored in, academic success, economics even vocabularies and cross reference all of that data against that individual school’s record on sexual assault (because every day it seems we’re hearing of more and more schools that have spent years brushing thousands of sexual assault allegations under the rug a la Penn State). That’s where the conversation, as overdue as it is, begins. That’s where it has to begin. Now will people like “Allan” (or the fine folks at the likes of FOX News, Breitbart or others for that matter) take the survey at face value, no matter how thorough it is? No. But they won’t be able to use it against the already mountains of data proving the problem exists and desperately needs to be addressed. They’ll have one less disguise to hide their ignorance and hatred and have one less excuse to use when they’re dismissed from the conversation.

Shayne Kempton

CALENDAR CRUNCH

YES, WINTER’S HERE OTTAWA AND IT’S PUNCHING US ALL RIGHT IN THE HAPPY-HARD-BUT IF YOU WILLING, HERE’S HOW YOU CAN MAKE THE CALENDAR MOVE JUST A LITTLE FASTER

 Growing up the two days I hated the most were the first day back to school following summer vacation and the first day back after the two-week Christmas break (with any day I had to go see the goddamn dentist as a painful second). Man oh man, getting out of bed on those two days were Herculean tasks and I’m pretty sure my mother needed a team of Clydesdales on a few occasion to drag my cranky posterior out of bed. It’s a feeling I’m pretty sure thousands of students across the Nation’s Capital are reminded of today as they return to class following this year’s Holiday break (as well as any parents who are employed by the Federal government, many of whom are returning today as well). If nothing else, it was a joyless reminder that winter, endless, bleak winter, was here.

But like most things in life, survival is a matter of perspective. Keeping the following things in mind won’t really beat Old Man Winter, but they’ll help you keep your sanity intact until Lady Spring comes along to kick the frosty old bugger’s ass.

January sucks, no bones about it. Everyone is suffering from Holiday Hangover (especially those of us who wait for the Christmas season with bated breath all year), stores and homes and schools are removing the bright and festive decorations, lights that once illuminated the unforgiving winter nights are gone, replaced by harsh winter shadows, and a glum depression settles over everyone as the two-month anticipation for the Yuletide season gives way to dread for the inevitable arrival of Christmas shopping bills. The weather is rotten, a psychotic recipe of cold, snow, freezing rain, wind chill warnings and more cold (something everyone who lives in Ontario got a heaping helping of this past weekend); you wind up having to add an extra twenty minutes to your daily schedule so you can gear up before leaving your house to prevent dying from hypothermia in thirty-seven seconds flat. Even as I put the finishing touches on this, the wind is screaming outside a window I can’t even se out of because it’s covered in a veil of ice (I’m looking forward to going outside about as much a root canal). January. Just. Sucks.

But if you can endure the thirty-one days of pure asstastic that is January and make it to February, well like our favourite Joes used to say about knowing, you’ve already won half the battle. February can be brutal cold as well and usually has no shortage of homicidal weather to throw our way, but if you look just right, you’ll notice the days slowly growing in length as the sun hangs out a few extra seconds. Sports fans get to kick the month off with Superbowl Sunday (a virtual holiday in the U.S.) and cap it off with the NHL trade deadline (which admittedly, is just a lot of speculative hysteria in a salary cap world) and sandwiched in the middle is the NHL and NBA All Star games. Ottawa and Gatineau break out Winterlude and lovers get Valentine’s Day (and hey, even if your single you can take advantage of all that chocolate on sale for half price on the 15th). And if you happen to live in Ontario, we get an extra day off to hibernate with Family Day. All in all February is a much more survivable month then it’s foul mouthed, dark hearted, frigid pain in the frozen ass predecessor. Even the movies are better.

And as for March? Even if the weather is still cold and awful come March 1st, you know it’s only a matter of time until Winter hits the annual bricks. Unlike February, there’s no doubt the days are growing longer brighter and the air is a little less bone chilling despite March’s traditional bluster. Even if Old Man Winter still has a few nasty surprises up his sleeve, it’s obvious he’s breathing through his mouth and that Spring has him on the ropes. Because on March 1st, Winter’s days are quite literally numbered and it’s only a matter of time until Winter’s icy grip melts into memory. Keeping these things in mind won’t protect you from frostbite, but they just might keep you from skating down Bank St. cackling hysterically one February afternoon.

Shayne Kempton

FAMILY TIES

BEING LAID OFF SUCKED, BUT LOSING A FAMILY AND NOT GETTING A CHANCE TO SAY GOOD BYE OR TELL THEM HOW MUCH THEY MEANT TO ME WAS WORSE. SO HERE IT IS, SAP AND ALL

         “Is this is a meeting I really need to come in for?” I asked, already knowing the answer.

After a pause, the voice on the other end of the line responded: “Well, there are some changes,” and my suspicions were confirmed. It’s often said that when someone gets bad news they get a pit in the bottom of their stomach. Well, when I got the call that my job no longer existed, what took up residence in my guts felt more like a black hole.

I tried telling myself that I was jumping to conclusions, that I should at least consider the fact that I was making a mountain out of a molehill. Perhaps someone had been let go, and the resulting absence was one they wanted me to fill. Was it so out of line to believe there was at least a chance the powers that be wanted me to fill a possible vacuum? Human beings may have an incredible capacity for self-deception, but on my way into my final meeting with that particular employer, the persistent voice of common sense was shouting over my delusions. From the second I saw the first text, calling me in on my day off with no explanation, I had little doubt it was because I had now officially joined the ranks of the unemployed.

All the right buzz words were present and accounted for; I was a victim of corporate restructuring, it was the way the whole industry was headed, there simply wasn’t room to keep me, I was a good employee and shouldn’t have any trouble finding something else, feel free to use me as a reference etc. etc. In truth, there were signs that things weren’t going well for my then employer in advance of my dismissal; people were moving, locations were closing down and downsizing was becoming an annual ritual. Enough so that I had begun poking around other opportunities and even attended a job fair, but that still didn’t absorb the sudden impact of being handed an envelope with my walking papers out of the blue. I’d been let go of jobs before, and left others of my own satisfied accord, but there are fewer things that can deflate a human being so thoroughly as being laid off from a job you’ve had for nearly a decade.

I wasn’t the only one let go that day and I couldn’t complain about my severance. And the truth is there’s very little about the actual job I’ve missed, and I certainly don’t miss the building itself, where the heat rarely worked properly in the winter, the air conditioning was fickle at best in the summer and the roof leaked all year round. But what I’ve truly missed in the year and a half since, and will continue to for I don’t know how long, is the (occasionally dysfunctional) family I had unknowingly become a part off. The day following my dismissal I was dazed, stumbling around in a cloud of depressed self-pity. It wasn’t until texts and e-mails and Facebook messages began trickling in, offering condolences and expressing sympathy, genuine and sincere messages telling me how much I was going to be missed that I became fully aware of what I had lost. Of what had been taken from me. After years of celebrating birthdays and attending Christmas parties, weddings and even the occasional bachelor party, organizing surprise birthday parties and going away parties, celebrating births and graduations, playing in our annual Good Friday ball hockey game and barbecue and offering a shoulder to lean on and occasionally getting one in return, I had become part of a family. And after one brutal day, one brutal conversation, I was an orphan. I’m not going to lie, I was a bit misty eyed.

“No man is an island,” few truer words have ever been spoken, but you never realize how deep and frightening the oceans that surround you can be when the people who keep the lonely dark at bay are suddenly gone. Last Christmas I was locked so tightly into survival mode as a result of my layoff that the loss wasn’t quite as profound, but this Holiday season I found my thoughts drifting back to my former family again and again. “You never know what you have until it’s gone,” that one is heavy with ugly truth too. So guys, this is my clumsy, hapless way of saying I miss you, and I hope you know how much you meant to me. I’m sorry I never told you how much I appreciated you before, and I hope you can accept this, late as it is.

Killer, Rock Jess Monster and Toya Story, feeling and being treated like your big brother was always an honour, and not seeing you guys on a regular basis gnaws at my insides. Each one of you has a bright, beautiful future ahead of you and all the very best on your nuptials Jess. Meggers, I miss your “I’m just waiting to see what kind of mischief I can get into” smile and Jessus, I miss hearing you squee out loud whenever you encounter something too adorable to bear (and I’m also going to miss being there whenever you say something truly awkward and embarrassing out loud). I’m going to miss how Tweety used to roll her eyes on the numerous occasions I said or did something stupid and I’m even going to miss running for my life from Mongoose; a five foot tall package of cute yet deadly trouble. Miss Amy Ramirez, you’re the only person I know whose looking forward to torturing people with dental tools but I miss you enormously nonetheless (not so much for the case of arthritis you’ve probably given me by your deadly hand slaps, though) and I miss discussing the finer points of pop music, Sugar Mountain, why Chris Phillips should be the Senators next captain and the adventures of mini-mom with Bethers. I miss Brianna’s brilliant smile and beautifully warm heart and how she always found the silver lining in even the darkest storm clouds, sometimes by barely even looking. For some reason I miss the way Lorien made me feel guilty just by looking at me with her expressive eyes and how she could instruct me to crouch down so she could fix my constantly askew shirt collar with just a look. I miss being occasionally stalked by Marcus Aurilious and all the purely stupid conversations we used to waste time with. I even miss being the target of so many of Jessica Ladyhand’s practical jokes, though I must confess that I miss chasing him for his life a little more.IMG_0247

Demona, I miss your evilness more than a little but mostly I miss how you were one of the few who could silence our outspoken Greek friend. I miss my daily debates with Mr. Tim Tebow, on everything from politics to sports to how badly I always seemed to be doing in our annual hockey pool. Samantha B, always, always keep your chin up and remember that you’ve already achieved more through conviction and willpower then most people in their entire lifetime’s. I miss Red Jenn’s spontaneous, shameless public dancing, but like the dynamic duo and Abbot and Costello, Team Shenn is immortal. I’m really going to miss the aforementioned annual hockey pool with all the usual suspects (the three Matts-Mac, Kay and Lengacher-along with Schneids, Rob and the like), and the endless debates we had over trades, penalties and suspensions. I miss Panda’s unsuspecting awkwardness and her iPhone addiction and I even miss Allibama’s Tourrettes Syndrome (at least, that’s what I always figured it was J). Remember Allie, if you ever start smoking again, I’ll tell your mom.

Farmer Slim, you and I put up with a lot and I lost count how often we wound up being each other’s sounding board. And while I sometimes exhausted my supply of stupid jokes (let’s be honest, did I ever have any other kind?) trying to lift your spirits, you lifted mine with your random quirkiness more than you know. And there is not, there never has been nor will there ever be anything wrong with your weight (except that one time). So you don’t get to punch me in the spine or sternum anymore, OK? Amtrack, I miss our debates on movies and science, and I wish one day I could have tuned my emotional radar to whatever frequency you used because seriously, while I could read just about anyone else, you were a blank canvas ninety percent of the time. Trust me, I don’t know how, but that was supposed to be a compliment.

There are plenty that I’m missing, I know. Singuard, Marco, Allie Hill (who ‘s going to bribe you with puppies after saying stupid things now?) Andrew, Luk, Roblieh, Geoff, Tyler, and Katmandu. For some scary reason I even miss Patrissimo’s creepy-yet-can’t-look-away moustache and Piotrovich’s occasional insanity (you and Demetrious are the only originals left now Pete-remember there’s an LCBO just down the street), RyGuy, Cody, Kal, LJ, Nangie, Dantastic and so many more, including my best and favorite customer, Brittany (don’t think your off the hook either Miss Gould, I’m still expecting my autographed copy of your debut CD). I hope to see all of you in the future but am terrified that I’ll lose touch with too many. We had our differences and even occasional arguments, and I know I was an enormous pain in the ass sometimes, but I want all of you to know that it was a privilege to work with you and the hardest part about being laid off was that I don’t get to laugh, bicker, joke and fight with you anymore.

I’ve had to say good-bye to valued co-workers before, their absence stinging, sometimes deeply, and this isn’t the first time I’ve been forced to say good bye to a family (Moose and Charlene will know what I’m talking about) but never so many all at once or without any merciful warning. To those I fear I will inevitably lose touch with, take good care of yourselves and all the absolute best in your futures. For the others who are stuck with me in the meantime, just let me say one thing-thanks for sticking with me a little bit longer.

Love and Respect Forever;

Shayne Kempton