As a general rule, I always try to give people the benefit of the doubt and think the best. However, over a decade’s worth of dealing with the light and dark side of society has caused a healthy level of paranoia within me. Even now, when I go to pubic places, I usually try to tactically place myself in such a way as to have a clear view of all exits, be able to survey the whole room and prevent anyone from being able to sneak up behind me. Is it a bit much? Maybe. I just know that’s it’s kept me alive through a rather colourful policing career for quite a number of years.
The problem comes when someone is the polar opposite of what I described in the first paragraph. For the most part, members of the public have their heads down in their devices or are generally oblivious to the world around them as they wander; a habit that can be dangerous and even deadly in the wrong circumstances. As a martial artist, I’ve spent years training myself to be aware of my surroundings and be vigilant. To some, this may mean I’m paranoid. But a little “healthy” paranoia can keep you safe…
Many say that the world has become a dangerous place but I would argue that it has always been dangerous. It’s one’s exposure or lack thereof, that lends to one’s perspective. But make no mistake, danger is consistently around us in some given way, shape or form. There are some statistics (although i couldn’t locate concrete ones) about the fact that every person will cross paths will a killer at some point in their lives. Am I being a little too dark? Is my perspective on the world skewed? Maybe. But maybe not…
Last Thursday, I took the bus to work as my wife needed the family car to run some errands. Nothing out of the ordinary for us and we happen to have a bus stop ten feet from our house that drops me off a five-minute walk from my office building, downtown. Doesn’t get any more perfect than that. I was dressed and ready, had change in my pocket and was out the door with only five minutes to wait until my bus rolled up and I hopped on. Morning was going according to plan. What more could I ask for?
As part of my general sense of wellbeing, I walked to the rear of the bus and took a seat on the far right side of the rear bench. As described above, this allowed me a clear view of all the other passengers of the bus and all the exits. Given that it was about 6:40 in the morning, there were only two other people on the bus, but one of them was sitting on the far left seat of the rear bench as well. Clothed in a dark hoodie with their hood up and head down, I wasn’t able to make out any facial features and couldn’t even tell if it was a guy or a girl.
The bus moved into motion and I did my usual, which was to text my wife and observe my surroundings. Given the events in 2008, where a man was stabbed and beheaded while on a Greyhound bus in Manitoba, I make a point never to be asleep or inattentive on public transit. Again, maybe that’s my paranoia being somewhat on the excessive side. But that morning, it paid off as I dealt with a rather unusual situation.
As I was looking out my window, I turned my head and glanced in the direction of the individual on the bench with me. Although my eyes didn’t linger on the person, I suddenly did a double-take as I noted the person appeared to be staring straight at me! this wasn’t subtle; their head was turned directly to the side and their eyes were locked on mine as we sat there. I held eye contact for several moments, thinking they might say something but nothing came. I finally broke the silence and asked the individual if I could help them with something, to which I received a deep, rasping response of, “No.”
The creepiness factor sent chills down my spine and I’ll admit that I removed my gloves and unzipped my coat as I anticipated this person might attack me in some way. We all have an latent survival instinct that warns us of impending danger; some call it “lizard brain.” This is the sort of feeling that came over me in that moment. The odd thing is, despite the depth of the voice, I still couldn’t tell if it was male or female. I was moments away from needing a clean pair of pants when the individual pulled the “stop requested” cable, stood up and waited at the bus exit until the bus came to a stop. The individual dismounted. All of this, while maintaining eye contact with me.
Was I familiar to this person? Did they think I was someone they knew? Is it someone I possibly arrested during my policing career? A dozen questions ran through my mind as we rolled away. I calmed significantly once we had driven a ways down the road and I knew there was some distance between this person and myself. It was certainly a creepy experience and I have no idea what it was all about, but it stands as a good example of why one should always be aware of their surroundings and not lost in their device or asleep when out and about. You never know what could happen. ☯️