Saturday December 5, 2015. I had just left the Air Canada Centre after watching the Golden State Warriors beat the Toronto Raptors to push their record to 21–0. It was a close game, with the Raptors even holding a lead late in the 4th quarter. Steph Curry and Kyle Lowry were incredible, each scoring 40+ points.
I got on a subway train and settled in for the half-hour trip home. Most, but not all, of the seats were occupied. I sat back, put on my headphones to add some music and zoned out.
About halfway home, I noticed a sudden movement in the corner of my left eye. I turned to see a white man violently attempting to drag a terrified elderly South Asian woman off her seat and onto the ground by her collar. Her torso had gone from upright to diagonal and she was on her way down. There were probably over a dozen passengers closer to them than I was but nobody seemed to be reacting. Instinctively I jumped out of my seat and yelled “what are you doing?!” as I quickly approached while shoving my headphones back into my pocket. There were 3 empty seats right next to them, so this wasn’t just a fight over a seat. Upon hearing my voice, the man quickly released her and turned to face me. The woman, free from the assailant’s clutches, quickly got up and moved away, no doubt rattled by what had just happened.
Assailant: “She touched my bag!”
I turned to see a backpack sitting on a seat.
Me: “So? That doesn’t give you the right to assault an old lady!”
A much more salient point, I thought.
Assailant: “There’s explosives in there!!!”
Me: “What are you talking about?!”
Assailant: “Those are my fireworks!”
Me: “Nobody cares about your fireworks, you’re out here assaulting a woman. What are you thinking?”
Assailant: “I’ve got weapons!! I’ll blow this whole fucking train up!!”
I was pretty sure this guy was full of it, but that’s not a threat I’d ever take lightly.
Me: “Can someone hit the emergency alarm?”
Nobody moved. I walked backwards a few yards and pressed the yellow emergency strip myself. This brought forth groans and grumbling from the other passengers about how long it was going to take to get home now.
Me: “If I said that, you’d all be worried. I’m not letting him slide just because he’s white.”
That shut them up.
The assailant, meanwhile, had become enraged. He got into a fighting stance and started yelling about how he was going to “fuck me up”. He was smaller than me, and older. As he stood with his fists raised, I shifted my gaze to his eyes. He was scared. I didn’t move, planning only to counter any aggression. This tableau persisted for about 10 seconds until the train stopped at Davisville station. He grabbed his backpack and started backing out of the train.
Assailant: “If I see you again, you’re a dead man! A dead man!”
We were at the south end of the train near the driver. Other passengers had already gotten off and started telling him what was happening. I followed the assailant off the train. He went to the driver and started telling him that I was the one doing all the things he was actually doing. I laughed and said, “you know they have cameras on these trains, right?” In hindsight this was probably a mistake; he immediately gave up that charade and scurried out of the station before any security personnel arrived.
Once he was gone, other passengers thanked me for stepping in and handling the situation. Some of them said they thought I must be a police officer, which made me laugh. I checked on the victim of the assault, who was shaken but physically fine.
On Monday morning 2 days later, I got on the subway again to head to work. The train that pulled up was filled with people, with almost as many standing as were seated. As I boarded the train, I saw the assailant walk by. He started reaching under someone’s seat, making them uncomfortable as he explained that he was looking for a bag. I certainly wasn’t going to make my half-hour commute while wondering what he was going to do next the whole time.
“Hey! You! Remember me? Get off the train.”
He didn’t protest, or even really respond. He got off at the next stop, stared back at me. “What are you gonna do, call security?”
I waved bye bye as the doors closed on him. I haven’t seen him since. I hope I never do.