Happy New Year

Last night, Matt, Theo and I got all gussied up to ring in the new year – me in a sparkly dress and a crown of flowers, and the boys in their adorably dashing kilts. Early in the evening, we made our way east, crossing the Don River and heading to a friend’s place in Riverdale, where we spent the night sipping champagne and nibbling delicious hors d’oeuvres, as befits the status of classy people such as ourselves. We also sang, cuddled, debated about The Hobbit and witnessed an adorable toddler sleepover. Then, around one in the morning, we woke up our sleeping toddler, packed him into his stroller and headed out into the cold, snowy night.

The streetcar service along Broadview was intermittent (to put it nicely), so we ended up having to walk up to Broadview station, which meant that by the time we made it to Yonge & Bloor, where we had to change subway lines, it was nearly two. The platforms were filled with a rowdy crowd of people heading home from their various New Year’s activities, and, once the train arrived and we all boarded, Matt and I found ourselves squarely in the middle of a large, loud group of drunk people. Which was totally fine, and, really, the only thing you can expect when you’re riding the subway at two o’clock in the morning on New Year’s Day.

The subway doors slid closed, and we were all waiting for the train to start up when suddenly voice spoke out over the PA system:

“Aaaaaand here’s the announcement none of you have been waiting for: this train is now out of service. Everybody needs to exit the train. Come on, now, everybody off.”

There was a lot of grumbling (and a few outright rebellious shouts) as we made our way off the train, and I heard a TTC worker mutter,

“Don’t blame me, blame the drunk girl who – “

He cut himself off, perhaps suddenly realizing that people could hear what he was saying.

As the train we’d just disembarked pulled, empty, out of the station, amid shouts of “FUCK ROB FORD!” and “YOUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK”, I went up to the TTC employee standing at the head of the platform and asked if he knew when service would be restored. It was late, after all, and I wanted to get Theo back to sleep as soon as possible.

The man just shrugged.

“It’s hard to say. We have a power off situation at Summerhill, and who knows when power will be restored?”

Now, when the TTC says that they have a “power off situation”, that can either mean that the power is, in fact, off, or it can be a euphemism for a whole range of events and situations, including people jumping or falling in front of trains.

Luckily, we didn’t have to wait long before another train arrived and, the power apparently having been restored, we boarded the train and headed home.

By the time we’d gotten off at Summerhill station, I’d nearly forgotten that it had been the scene of the power outage. After all, the delay had been so short that clearly no one had been seriously injured or killed. I remembered the TTC worker’s words about the drunk girl, though, as we came up the stairs and found a young woman sitting on a bench surrounded by five police officers.

She’d obviously been out somewhere nice. She was wearing a short red skirt with tall black boots, and her long brown hair was arranged in an artfully dishevelled wave. She looked young, maybe in her early or mid twenties. She was crying, hard. So hard that she couldn’t answer the questions the cops were asking.

“We need to know why you did what you did,” one of them said, not very kindly.

She just sobbed and shook her head.

“I don’t know, I don’t know.”

“Where do you live?” asked another.

The girl just buried her face in her hands and cried harder.

“Where do you live when you’re here in Toronto? Rosedale? Parkdale? Come on, now.”

She shook her head again and didn’t, or couldn’t answer. She was more than just upset, or sad; she was terrified. And not one of those police officers had a kind word or look for her. In fact, they seemed more irritated or angered by her antics than anything else.

I don’t know what she did to cause the police to be called, and likely I never will. Did she threaten to jump? If so, why were there no paramedics or health professionals there? Why was her only help a crowd of big, burly, intimidating policemen? Why, instead of trying to calm her down, were the cops using their power to frighten her even more?

Of course, maybe she really did do something bad enough to warrant five police officers (although if that were the case, you’d think she would have been in handcuffs or something). Maybe I misread the situation completely, or else I was just projecting, or my mind, in an attempt to make sense of what I saw, was doing some other weird thing that psychologists have a fancy name for. I don’t know.

But I do know that she was scared. I know that I can’t stop thinking about her today. I know that, above all, I hope that she’s okay.

I know, too, that I wondered last night, and am wondering still, if I should have done something. Should I have gone and sat with her? Offered help? Told the cops to back off? It’s hard not to wish that I’d done something. It’s also hard to admit that part of the reason I did nothing was that even I, a bystander, was intimidated by the policemen, with their uniforms and their guns. This is not the kind of person that I want to be.

Happy 2013, everyone. Please be safe, and don’t forget be kind to each other and to yourselves. Let’s make this year better than the last one.

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