Here’s the story as accurately as I can remember it…
Wednesday, July 4
I was standing on the 8th Street SW CTrain platform (shown here under construction) like I have for the last 7 years, waiting after work with all the other drones. It’s not uncommon to encounter drunks and addicts and various homeless people at that station, which is across the street from a convenience store colloquially known as “the crack Macs”. Even the cops call it that.
I was leaning against a beam that holds up the roof, listening to my iPod. A very drunk Indian girl – in her early 20’s I’d guess – walked in front of me. I could smell the stench of alcohol from 3 feet away. She said something in my direction, and I ignored her because that’s what I do. I ignore drunk people. It doesn’t matter what age or sex or race or tax bracket they are. I ignore them because drunks are never funny or interesting or charming…unless you also happen to be drunk…which I never am.
This isn’t the first time a drunk has approached me at that station. They usually just wander away and bother somebody else. This girl, however, started waving her hands in my face, so I took out an earbud so I could hear her.
She said “do you mind if I share this pole with you?”
I said, “Do whatever you want.”
Before I had a chance to get the earbud back in, she started walking away saying “you don’t have to be so rude. It’s not my fault you’re white. Asshole.”
I figured that was the end of it. I was wrong.
When my train arrived, I started towards the door. I felt a tug on my backpack, but figured it was just some jostling as people squeezed in. Then I felt another tug and my backpack was gone. I turned around to see the drunk girl walking away with it. I said “What the hell?”, and she threw it down onto the train tracks between the cars. My Kobo, wallet, glasses, and the coffee cup my daughter gave me for Christmas were in that bag, so I thoughtlessly reacted and jumped down onto the tracks – between two 42 ton CTrain cars – to get it. Something told me I had time, but in hindsight that was so incredibly stupid. There was nothing that couldn’t have been replaced, and if that train had started to move I’d have been a red smear on 7th Ave. It’s the thing that haunts me the most about this whole incident. So. So. So. So. Stupid.
Anyway, this dude says “HEY! DON’T GO DOWN THERE!” and he gives me a hand back up onto the platform…where he’s standing right beside drunk girl. I missed getting flattened by about 15 seconds. Plenty of time.
She starts screaming “THAT’S HIM! THAT’S THE GUY!”, and the same dude who just helped me up is now threatening me, saying stuff like “You white guys shouldn’t be messing with natives. You better leave my sister alone”, obviously not aware of the fact that that’s pretty much exactly what I was doing. At this point, the adrenaline has ebbed a little, and I can smell the booze on him too. I can also see by his mildly crossed eyes that he’s under the influence. I also have a vague sense of two or three other drunk Indians closing in behind me.
Next thing I know, WHAM, a solid punch to my jaw. I didn’t see it coming, because it came from behind/beside me somewhere. The human nervous system is an extraordinary thing. The punch didn’t really hurt, because however your brain deals with that involves deadening the pain. Shock, I guess. I sure as hell felt the impact though. Once again, I said “What the hell?”.
Then another punch. This one almost put me down, but I remember thinking “don’t go down. If you go down, they’ll put the boots to you.” I spat out some blood, and again said “what the hell?”
The helpful violent drunk Indian said a few more things that I can’t remember and finished off with “next time I see you, I’m gonna punch you out.” They decided to leave at that point, and walked away through the park.
As a white man in Canada, it was pretty weird being a victim of a racially motivated “hate crime”.
Let me remind you at this point that this is at 4:45 PM on a Wednesday. It’s rush hour. There are at least a couple of hundred people on the train platform, and it’s impossible that at least 50 of them didn’t see me getting jumped.
Nobody said anything to the drunks.
Nobody put themselves between me and them.
Everybody just watched.
After they left, I looked up and said to nobody in particular but everybody specifically, “Thanks for helping out.”
I hopped the next train – which wasn’t mine – just to get out of the area in case the drunks decided to come back. I got off at the next station. By now my jaw is starting to go numb and I’m dizzy. The realization of what happened hit me (pun intended), and I decided to call the cops. I called the non-emergency number. In hindsight, maybe I should have called 911, but I was a little fuzzy.
Turns out, that was the first they had heard of the incident. The operator didn’t say “yes, somebody has called and a car is on the way. Where are you?” I had to provide all the details that nobody else provided. This was about 5 minutes after everything had happened.
Ten minutes later, the police showed up. Ten minutes after that, the Transit Police showed up. This means that nobody called the cops. Nobody pressed one of the transit emergency buttons that are on every train platform. And the “security cameras” were of absolutely no use at all because clearly, nobody was monitoring them. It turns out that the entire thing was captured and recorded and one of the cops thought he recognized the guy who hit me. Big deal. That was about 20 minutes too late to be of any use.
I filled out the police report, got some instructions about how to access the victim’s assistance program (did you know part of every traffic ticket goes into that fund?), and was told to go the emergency room for a check. Then they left me standing at the side of the street, waiting for the next train to the hospital.
When I got to the hospital, the wait for low-priority cases like mine was about 6 hours. So I left. I could bite down hard, all my teeth were solid, and I knew what day it was, so I figured there was no broken jaw/dental work/concussion. I was hungry and wanted to go home.
And that was that.
To summarize; I got jumped by 5 drunks and nobody helped in any way. All it would have taken was for a couple of people to say something or do something, and others would have followed. I’ve seen it before. All it takes is one person with the courage to take the lead. Not today though. I guess everybody needed to get home and see American Idol or something.
I was going to be all bitter and say “I hope they get jumped one day and nobody helps”, but I really don’t. Getting beat up while you are literally minding your own business is not cool. I hope it never happens to anybody.
However, I hope all those cowards at the 8th Street Station on July 4 who watched me get assaulted had a few sleepless nights as they considered what gigantic cowards they are.
I’ll tell you this much, cowards, if I ever see you getting assaulted I’m going to step in. I’m going to call 911, press the emergency button, and yell at everybody around me to make a 5 on 1 situation into a 20 on 5 situation.
Welcome to Calgary, No-Heart of the New West.