Do I have a problem, motherfucker?

23Feb09

So, I had a bit of an eventful commute home on Friday night. Someone on the subway car I was on hit the little yellow strip that sets off an emergency alarm and halts the train in the next station with the doors locked open until TTC security arrives. I actually wasn’t unhappy about this, because the alarm was sounded because I was in imminent danger of being attacked by a big drunk native guy.

Around six o’clock Friday evening, I got on the last car of a southbound train at Eglinton station, where there were a few empty seats, two of which were taken up by a guy sitting on a perpendicular bench with his legs stretched out on them. I stood there for a moment and waited for him to take the hint to put his feet down where they belonged. He didn’t. I looked at him. He looked back. He didn’t move his feet. “You got a problem?” he asked.

I didn’t think this was worth pursuing, so I just sat down on an empty bench seat across the aisle, cramming myself between two other passengers in their puffy winter coats. The native guy kept staring at me. “You got a problem?” he repeated.

“No,” I muttered. I averted my eyes. I glanced back. He was still eyeing me.

“You got a problem?” he demanded again.

“No,” I repeated.

“You’re gonna have a problem,” he said.

“No,” I said.

“Racist motherfucker!” he shouted.

Now, I’m not racist. I’m going to be, though. In less than a year, this is the second drunk native guy who has picked a fight with me and wanted to know if I had a problem, motherfucker. Even leaving aside the dire lack of originality in their material, they’re not exactly putting their best foot forward as representatives of their community.

“Just say one word,” he said. “One word. I’ll fuckin’ kill ya.”

Okay, I thought — but did not say, because that would have been one word — time to exercise the better part of valour. I got up and walked away, toward the front of the train to the last exit in the car. I looked out the window and watched the landscape speed by as we approached the Davisville train yard.

“You got a problem?” I looked back and saw the big native guy approaching me now. I silently willed the train to reach the station before he reached me, to no avail. He soon loomed over me, cornering me in the doorway. I prepared to defend myself, calculating the odds of him pulling out a knife, or maybe smothering me with a pillow and then hurling a control panel through a window and escaping to freedom.

Before it came to this though, I made a sincere effort to talk my way out of this. “I don’t have a problem with you,” I said. “I don’t want any trouble. I’m very sorry if I offended you, and I apologize.” Around this time, I heard an electronic alarm go off in the background and realized someone had hit the yellow emergency strip. Thank god.

This actually placated him. His expression softened. “Don’t be mean,” he said.

“I won’t,” I said. “I’m sorry.”

He stuck out his hand. Warily, I took it, though I only gave him my fingers for the handshake instead of fully clasping his hand, in case I had to jerk them away suddenly. The train pulled into Davisville station right then, and the doors opened. “Well, this is my stop,” I said, although it wasn’t. Then I got off the train.

I turned, walked quickly up the platform a couple of meters, and got right back on the closest door of the next car. Right then, a woman rushed by in the purple coat of a TTC employee. Noticing me, she quickly asked, “Did you push the strip?” I must have looked traumatized.

“No, but it was for me,” I said.

“What happened?”

“Big native guy. Someone will tell you,” I said, edging further down the car before the guy saw me through the door connecting the cars. She ran into the last car. I went the other way, to the other end of the car. This turned out to be where the subway guard’s booth was. I stayed there.

She came back, having sized up the situation to some degree. I filled in the blanks. She asked if I wanted to lay charges. I said I didn’t. She still had to deal with the situation of a drunk and disorderly passenger threatening other passengers, though, so she got on her radio to summon backup security to remove him from the train, and then left again.

Meanwhile, as our train stood in the station, another southbound train pulled into the opposite side of the platform, having been brought into service from the nearby train yard to relieve the blockage in the subway system, and several passengers in the car I was on disembarked and transferred to the new one. The guard returned and reported that unfortunately, this had included my antagonist, who had continued on his way before security could arrive. I was sorry that security hadn’t had a chance to remove him, but at least relieved that we no longer were on the same train.

Just then, a big black guy boarded our subway car at the far end and rushed toward the guard. “There was a big drunk native guy on that car threatening … you!” he said, turning to me with the last word. “It’s you!”

This guy, Don, turned out to be the one who had pushed the yellow emergency strip, for which I profusely thanked him. Don said that after I’d left, the native guy had started yelling again, this time about the noise of the alarm, before finally leaving. The other passengers had asked Don why the hell he’d stopped the train, to which he quite sensibly said that he didn’t want to see someone assaulted.

“He actually seemed to calm down, though,” Don said. “What did you say to him?” I told him. “Good,” he said. “But I was like, Aw, don’t shake his hand! I thought he was going to sucker-punch you!”

“Maybe I was going to sucker-punch him,” I said.

We rode down to Bloor-Yonge station, and, as I got off to transfer to the Bloor-Danforth line, I thanked Don and the guard for their efforts on my behalf — and let me thank them again here. I got off, walked toward the stairs, and thought, Just wait — he’s going to be waiting down there to push me onto the tracks.

Suddenly, I noticed a huge, dark red puddle on the platform ahead of me and my heart started racing as I imagined the big drunk guy getting off the train and randomly stabbing someone. Then I noticed the shards of a broken bottle in the centre of the puddle and realized that the stain wasn’t blood, but wine.

Some red wine actually sounded pretty good to me then, and when I got home, I immediately had a huge glass of it, then stayed in for the rest of the night.



12 Responses to “Do I have a problem, motherfucker?”

  1. 1 Will O'Neill

    That was a good story – sorry it stemmed from such a bad thing.

    Whenever I’ve been in Calgary or Vancouver, I have noticed the remarkable extent to which First Nations people are incredibly and sometimes – sadly – criminally disenfranchised. It’s not something that we in Toronto experience with the depth that they do elsewhere in Canada, but it is likely to become more and more of an issue as more First Nations people migrate from the reservations to Toronto. I hope we can implement policy that will more effectively manage First Nations integration into our city than has seemingly been the case in places west of us.

    This is a very complicated problem. I am not trying to criticize other cities in Canada, some of whom have proximities to reservations and aboriginal histories and populations that simply make their situations incomparable to ours in many respects. I am saying, though, that I don’t think the solution is to not talk about it because it would be ‘racist’ to do so.

  2. 2 rhtrtyju

    maybe the dude was just like you, trying to drown his fear in alcohol

  3. 3 Candace

    Poor sweetheart. I’m glad you’re okay!

  4. Too bad you didn’t have your foil on you. This story would be much better with some dueling, even if you have to fictionalize it. Actually, ESPECIALLY if you have to fictionalize it.

  5. 5 Jay Pinkerton

    In the drunk, psychopathic native man’s defense, pretty much any time I hang out with you, I have to resist the urge to punch you. I think it might be a pheremone thing.

  6. Having spent a few days in Saskatoon last summer… I second Will O’Neill’s comment.

  7. Maybe you need to let your closely-shaven head grow out.

  8. 8 Peter Lynn

    You know, I actually thought of that. I wasn’t wearing my toque at the time, and maybe I looked like a white supremacist to him. As soon as I got into the other subway car, I put it on, partly as a disguise, but also because the dude gave me the chills.

  9. At least you are ok, I’m glad to see.

  10. 10 Riley

    A toque? I’m unfamiliar with the word, but wikipedia says it’s a chef’s hat.

    I’m going to have to ask you to pretend that this is exactly what you mean when talking about your head apparel.

  11. 11 Peter Lynn

    Although I’m now considering acquiring a chef’s hat, you might want to scroll down to Canadian usage under that entry.

  12. 12 Riley

    I’m sorry, but I have trouble reading wikipedia articles PPA (Passed the Point of Awesome).


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