fist-fighting commuters

Toronto, 2013.09.30

Recently on the way home from work work I saw two fights erupt on a short stretch of my route. The first involved two fellows in hatch-backs who disliked one-another's driving habits. Many a word were exchanged at a red light as they revved their four cylinders at each other and made little feints and starts at each other with their fenders. It was actually kinda fun, and at first I laughed to see such sport, but then the doughy fiftyish Caucasian fellow started braying about "settling this". For some reason, his opponent—slight of build but younger and more fit, non-Caucasian and speaking with an accent—was all up for that idea, and as the light finally changed the two drivers jolted for the curb. Happily, I was heading the other way.

I hope the puffy older fellow came out all right. I suspect he was out of his element; he had a soft, suburban look to him and the other fellow had that lean look that could well have come from a more hard-scrabble life. I'd think twice about being so casual about getting into a street fight over something as stupid as driving; Christ when would it end? As my decade-plus-old shoulder injury attests, there's always plenty trouble waiting when you leave your own back yard.

Anyway, that was on King street just to the west of the bridge, and by the time I'd gotten to Queen & Broadview about 800m to the east, it all started again. This time there was a street-car involved, and pedestrians. It started when the cyclist ahead of me rapped on the window of a car that had, unlike the rest of us, refused to stop when the street cars doors opened. In Toronto, stopping for pedestrians coming out of a street car is a thing that newcomers don't always seem to get, and this fellow ignored the cyclist and kept trying to roll forward while pedestrians were crossing in front of him. So the cyclist knocked again.

And the driver jumped out of his car in a screaming fury, insisting in a thick East-European accent that one didn't have to stop for any of the doors of a street car except the first. Queen & Broadview is one of those tinderbox intersections in the city where you don't want to toss too many lit matches, and this got everyone, even pedestrians who had quietly put up with his attempts to drive through them, a bit worked up, and the screaming, cursing, and finger-jabs-that-can-turn-into-blows.

I won't try to convey the entire situation, but as you might expect it mostly wasn't the women causing the noise. There was a late-teenage female passenger in the car who looked like she wanted to be a thousand kilometers from that scene shrinking into her seat in the car, and one of the pedestrians was urging her fellow, "Sean, that's not helping" as in a profanity-laced stream he demanded to know if the driver wanted to kill someone etc etc. One or two of the "regulars" for want of a better word (people hanging around who aren't there to transfer from one street car to another) who were joining the shouting as much for something to do than anything else were women, but the main participants were all male. It was a pretty chaotic scene and for a moment I thought the driver would just spontaneously explode from rage but around then the cyclist who'd originally rapped on the driver's glass decided it was time to go, and I happily followed.

I was glad to be home, that evening. I blame the hot weather, the decades of retrograde transit "planning", and the general stupidity of people for the events I witnessed that night.

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