why are you closed guy

In 2010, an aging gentleman wanted to shop at Toronto’s Eaton Centre. It was closing (locking down during the G-20 protests). He pounded on the doors and demanded an explanation. Someone, amused, shot him on video. It was later removed, but copies have earned millions of views over the last two years.

This video holds the key to life. This video is everything.

Let’s walk through the highlights.

0:00: Already the futile way he shakes the door tells you this man is on a sincere and mockable mission.

0:09: The second “tell us why you’re closed” is, I believe, the first real laugh line.

0:13: It’s around here that I first notice his bag, which is holding… a beach ball?

0:16: “I wanna go shopping at the Eaton Centre!” is beautiful because it’s completely unnecessary to specify the location in which he wishes to shop. He is in it. It surrounds him. Already we are considering that the people inside must have an exit — surely Eaton will not trap them — and that this man would do well to find it and negotiate his entrance there.

0:17: The young man in the untucked button-front has made his plans with his friend — “Go AROUND” — and we meet Vacant Staring Lady. The cameraman helpfully zooms in on her. This unsettles me, the way she, another waiting woman, and several customers inside just stand and look at each other. People looking at people looking back at people. Ugh. I don’t know why, but it gives me the shivers.

0:33: Everyone abandons the antihero. His appeals escalate: “Why are you putting people through this?” This is rewarding to those of us who were hoping he was as crazily emotional about this as he seemed.

0:44: I used to hate this kid, this jean-shorted teen who runs and slams himself against the glass. But my anger is as misdirected as Why Guy’s, for this is a teenage boy, and he is doing what teenage boys do. To hate him is like hating a wild horse for galloping through a meadow. Accept him, and watch him flail his limbs in an attempt to steal the attention from Why Guy — who barely glances at him while continuing his monologue.

0:51: In fact, Why Guy is covering new rhetorical ground: “What gave you the right?” This is a misstep, of course, as it opens him up to the videographer’s retort: Eaton Centre is a privately owned property. He can appeal to decency, but he cannot appeal to the law.

0:59: Sit down, green t-shirt kid. The joke has been made.

1:18: Whew, enough of those fools. They distracted me from some of Why Guy’s best lines: “Who are you?” “How dare you do this to us?” “We want to shop!” Soaring, demanding, and delivered precisely into the crack between the two doors, unfortunately making him lean up against the handles and, facing an opaque surface, look far more ludicrous than even his monologue deserves. Had he made his argument through the glass, he may have preserved some dignity.

1:19: That small added “why” breaks my heart.

1:29: My heart stops here, as he turns — this is the moment when the horror movie villain reveals their face, and no matter what it is, you have prepared to be shocked. I certainly expected a younger, spritelier man. This man looks too rich in life experience to be broken by a locked shopping mall. He clocks the camera as he walks away.

1:37: Dear god, what a satisfying segue. Why Guy addresses the bystanders, doubtlessly embarrassed by their own interest in his meltdown. “Doesn’t anyone else ca-ere?” he asks, with an extra syllable meant for some loftier Antony-esque speech.

1:43: I fear for the videographer’s life.

1:47: Again, this speech in some cinematic context would be compelling, his performance dramatic and hearty. His sarcastic laugh is genuinely well-delivered. He calls us into the darkness of his mind.

1:52: “Let the police cut off my balls, I don’t care because it’s the cops and they’re always right.” Right here, I want to build an entire Coen Brothers film out of that line, that jaunty delivery, and all it says about Why Guy. Also note that the two wild horses linger for this afterparty.

1:57: Am I reading too much into the videographer’s “not really”, or do these two words fully convey that he is a fine, reasonable man who simply wants to share a funny moment in his life without rancor, that he would never so crassly insert himself as the teenage boys have?

2:02: “I’m saying I’m not giving you permission to film me.” Have you noticed that people are more likely to use precise newspaper terms when they are wrong about a point of law? While Eaton Centre is a privately owned space, it is legal to record video there until asked otherwise by the property owner. Why Guy has tripped over his own mistaken understanding of public and private.

2:05: No matter, he is easily distracted. “Oh really, you’re gonna explain it to me?” I feel there’s definitely a way to write this character that’s not simply a non-violent Walter Sobchak.

2:15: Why Guy makes his final forensic mistake: Taking the videographer’s joke literally. “Oh, Cadillac Fairview doesn’t want me in? That’s why they closed the whole place? ARE YOU NUTS? Are you crazy, I just walked over here, for Christ’s—”

And it cuts out. Leaves us wanting. Leaves us hopeful that Why Guy reaches an understanding with the videographer. Probably not — maybe Why Guy lobbied for the video’s removal from YouTube. But he once again misunderstood how the world works, because the copies have flourished, fed by the views of millions, and those two minutes are now the most important of that man’s entire life.

Be careful out there. Safe shopping.

  • T

    Beautiful breakdown.

    • Wolf

      It was indeed a beautiful breakdown, I’m glad someone was there to film it.

  • Katherine

    My daughter and I agree…this is perfection. Thank you, thank you, thank you. A beautiful tribute to a real life masterpiece that seems too good to be true.
    …and thank you, Why Guy.

  • bcarter3

    What a great Blast from the Past! I’d forgotten all about this classic.

    I think jean-shorted teen’s flailing attack on the door was supposed to suggest an invasion of brain-dead zombies, a la “Dawn of the Dead”, thus adding another dimension the brilliant street theatre.

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