Bus

skull-crown

I’ve lived in Toronto since 2004. Yes, with a couple of not-insignificant breaks, but I would estimate that I’ve been in the city for at least eight or nine years in total, and whenever I’ve been gone I haven’t ever really been very far. I kept a relationship with the city, is what I mean. In all of that time I’ve stopped, I think, three people from walking into traffic. I don’t think any of them were trying to do it on purpose, not like I wanted to do for a brief period of time in the winter and spring of 2005, they all just seemed distracted, lost in their thoughts or doing something else. I’ve almost done the same myself, at least once, I think, although it was a long time ago, if it happened at all. Today I grabbed a kid—he looked to be twenty-two, but he was probably even younger than that—just as he was about to walk into the path of a bus at McCaul and Dundas. He was on his cell phone and wasn’t paying attention, and hadn’t noticed that the light had changed. I saw that he hadn’t seen it but the bus was turning and I was sort of incredulous that he was just going to walk into traffic like that so I waited until almost the last moment before I grabbed him by the arm and told him to watch out. I actually just said, “Hey,” in a kind of surprised but firm tone. He just stopped and stood on the curb (got back on it, actually), without even looking at me, while he finished telling a story to his friend and the bus passed through where he would have been. It was like he hadn’t even noticed I had saved his life, or at least saved him a trip to the hospital. After what felt like a minute or two, but couldn’t have been, he turned to me and said a clipped, insincere thanks before immediately turning and crossing to the north side. Like I said, it wasn’t the first time I’ve stopped someone from walking into traffic, but it was the first time that someone had been so flippant about it—usually they’re at least embarrassed or relieved. There’s some kind of recognition of what happened. For sure there was with me. I felt like this guy was on another planet, not because he seemed depressed or distracted but because it didn’t even occur to him that actions in this world could have physical consequences. Like he was walking on a sheet of plastic laid over the intersection, like they used to do when they animated cartoons. It took me a couple minutes to think about what had happened and to feel the adrenaline that was finally kicking in and to realize yeah, I had really saved this guy some trouble, and yeah, it didn’t matter to him. It’s not that I wanted to be celebrated or anything, because I could care less about that, anyone would have done what I did in my situation, I’m not the exception. It was more that I was just astonished that someone could come so close to death or major injury and be more invested in what sounded like a pretty a dumb cell phone conversation with his friend. When you’re young you feel immortal and when you go on the internet a lot or spend too much time on your cell phone reality seems less important, your body starts to feel like it’s just a flesh cage used to carry your consciousness across tabs and through screens, and a part of me wonders if the result of all of this build-up of technology are guys like this kid who don’t care whether or not they’re going to get blown away by a bus, who are naturally more invested in what’s going on in their phones than in the world around them. Which, yes, is probably the case when it comes to checking their news feed while they wait at a bus stop, which is basically how it is for everyone, but I mean to the point of not caring whether they live or die. But that’s crazy, it’s the kind of thing that a bad newspaper columnist would write, the truth is more complicated than that, and probably this guy was embarrassed, and he just didn’t know how to express it, and that’s why he crossed the street so quickly, and when he got to the other side he took a deep breath and told his friend what had just happened, how he had almost died, and talked really quickly because his heart was racing, and looked across the street back at me and made brief eye contact, and felt ashamed or embarrassed because he had let himself get so recklessly close to death.

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