For those of you who live in places worried about the Coronavirus, the fundamental lack of law and democracy eroding the foundation of our country, and the mysterious shrinkage of every waistband of each pair of pants you own during the winter months, you may not be aware of the small-town politics happening here in East Hampton Village.
Our judicial system is embroiled in a serious case prosecuting a store owner for having a stuffed dog outside her door with a small wooden “Welcome” sign around its neck. The owner of Petit Blue, a village toy store, had to appear in court to face a fine up to $1000 and 15 days in jail for violating the village sign law. You can’t make this stuff up.
This is in the same week our local law enforcement was dealing with sexual misconduct against a child; a gang member with a decade of crack, cocaine, and heroin dealing; and a man arrested not once, but twice in 10 hours for allegedly driving while intoxicated. Is a stuffed dog outside a store really where we want our taxpayer dollars and court hours spent?
The owner faced charges from a code enforcement officer of having an illegal sign outside her store and illegally displaying merchandise outside her store. During the trial, the attorney for the store owner established the stuffed dog was a gift to her daughter from the girl’s grandmother, so not technically merchandise for sale. There also was a debate about the definition of sign that is egregious. Come on, this was a small wooden plaque around the dog’s neck.
The store owner also pointed out in the offseason that it is necessary to let customers know you are open when many local stores are closed. I also appreciated the owner’s attorney’s dramatic court moment when he rolled out a welcome mat and asked if THAT was illegal in the village, and the answer was, “No.” (“A Few Good Men” has got no courtroom drama edge over this version of “You can’t handle the truth.”)
First of all, I want to state publicly here that I support the store owner and her stuffed dog with its “Welcome” sign. As a longstanding tax-paying citizen, I do not want to see her or the dog prosecuted, fined, or jailed in any way. I think she is owed attorneys’ fees and an apology.
Secondly, in protest, I am going to buy as many stuffed animals as I can afford within my VISA credit card limit and put them on my front residential yard advertising free booze, tarot card readings, and lessons in constitutional law, democracy, and the accurate definition of feminism. I will erect a large neon sign stating, “Welcome, except if you are a bully, buy dogs from fancy breeders instead of rescuing them, use plastic straws, don’t tip properly, can’t punctuate correctly, display bad manners, don’t put the seat down, cut in line, or have ever told me I look fat in it.” So there.
Come after me if you want, but leave that store owner alone. In the world we live in, we all need a faithful dog, a sign of welcome, and play toys that will not escalate nuclear war. Perspective, people!