- Category: Commentaries
- Written by Laina Dawes
By 3:30 on a summer Friday, the only thing on my mind is getting the hell out of the office. Sure, I am glad for the heavy-duty air conditioning that at times seems so cloying that you find yourself shivering in a wool sweater while others roast their skin on the unforgiving, steaming hot cement sidewalks, but hey:
It’s the weekend! Yahoo! Freedom……even only for a couple of days, but whatever…….
This summer in Toronto seems to chock- full of events for everyone. This past weekend, there was so much to do that deciding to hit Yonge Street for the annual Toronto Street Festival clashed with enjoying the summer breeze from Lake Ontario at the Harbourfront for Beats, Breaks and Culture. And then there was Afrofest, a two-day celebration of African culture at Queens Park, or heading down to the Lakeshore to watch the loud, smelly, noisy but exciting Molson Indy.
While walking down to Union Station after work with a work colleague, we discussed how, despite the anticipation of a busy weekend, how we were going to avoid the downtown area. The traffic was going to be hell, and the city would be overrun with tourists.
“So, you don’t want to check out the Indy? I’ll probably hear it from my apartment, anyway,” I said, trying to stifle a comment that would be perceived as a bit snotty and classist. But I soon realized that my friend and I were on the same wavelength when he said, “I’m not really into drinking lukewarm Canadian in plastic cups and trying to fight off rednecks and blondes with silicone breasts popping out of wet t-shirts.”
So I thought that I would escape the loud partying and regular nonsense that happens in the Entertainment District until I was awakened at 12:30am by the sounds of a car door slamming and what sounded like an argument. After lying in the dark for a couple of minutes, I sat up in bed and peered out of my bedroom window.
An irate taxi driver was engaged in shoving match with a group of guys in front of my building. After eavesdropping for a couple of minutes, I craned my neck to find out what was going on. One of the men, an overweight, sunburned guy with a yellow baseball cap teetering on his head, apparently didn’t feel that he should have to pay the fare. Because of his southern twang and driver’s comments about American money, I figured he was an American tourist, probably staying with a friend or relatives in my building. The driver, a young South Asian man was yelling at him as he was being chased around the circular driveway. After punching the driver in the face, breaking his glasses, the man yelled, “we should kill all of you.”
The fight apparently awakened a number of my neighbours, who were calling down to see if the driver needed any assistance and one disembodied voice yelled at the man and his friends to get away from the car, threatening that he was going to call the police. After a couple of other choice comments, like calling the driver a “Paki” and a “terrorist,” the men finally entered the building. I watched as the driver frantically searched the ground to presumably find the other part of his glasses, and finding them, started cleaning out the back of the car in which the guys had left strewn with plastic cups.
He looked so incredibly helpless and frustrated, walking in circles and occasionally punching the air with his fists. I decided to stay up and see whether the police would show up.
They didn’t. After about twenty minutes, the fed up driver got into his car and drove off. I sat there, stunned at the proximity of an incident that I was trying to avoid this weekend. But it didn’t stop there.
The next afternoon, I boarded an empty TTC bus at the corner of Bay and Wellesley Street to take the scenic route home from magazine shopping. As the bus stopped at the next red light, a man wearing a red Molson Indy T-shirt ran up to the closed doors and started pounding for the bus driver to open up. As soon as the doors opened, the man asked the driver where the police were.
“Did something happen? Is there an emergency?”
What happened next, I swear I am not making up. The man on the street said, “there’s a bunch of Africans in the park. Where’s the police?”
The driver was stunned into silence. As I was sitting a few seats back, nosy me quickly moved up to listen to the rest of the conversation.
“There is a festival at Queen’s park today, I think it has something to do with an African marketplace. Is somebody hurt?” The agitated man seemingly ignored that little gem of information and repeated, “where’s the police?”
“Is there a reason for the police to be called?” The driver inquired.
“Well, it’s just that there is a bunch of Africans in the park and no police. What’s going on in this city? There’s no police when you need them.”
The driver assured that there was no reason for the police to be called and told the man to have a nice day. As the bus drove off, the man stood on the sidewalk, shaking his head in disgust.
While the intelligence factor of the men who were fighting the taxi driver and the guy on Wellesley Street should be held in question, I was a bit perplexed at what I had witnessed within fourteen hours. They always say that this heat makes people a bit wonky, but these incidents seemed a bit surreal.
And they probably happen every day in every town and every city. Perhaps the heightened racial tensions have to do with the last week’s terrorist attacks in London, or maybe it is just an outsider’s view about things that are not reported on by the media. But while I made fun at the stereotypical revelers at one event, I never thought that attendees at one event could potentially cause grief to other attendees at another, including Toronto taxi drivers who are just doing their jobs.
And I felt offended that people who are travelling here to soak up our cultural events could be so arrogant as to bring their prejudices with them, even though we Canadians are no better – we just hide them under fake politeness and non-verbal actions. But maybe this is just the way things will be and are.
Luckily, there are some good people out there, especially some of my neighbours in my building who at least called out to help. But the feeling of wanting to help the injured taxi river and not doing so, watching the humiliation on his face and knowing that he will have to get back in his taxi the next night and maybe every night from then, made me feel guilty and angry. And with that, is knowing that these feelings will take a long time to get out of my head.
Comments powered by CComment