Is It Just Me …

… Or is January bringing out the crazy in people?

The month’s barely half over, and already there’s been:

That horrific mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona, among all the other incidences happening globally. I was at work when it happened and, several days later – even after watching the memorial – it still doesn’t seem entirely real to me.

And here in Toronto, things just seem to have gone haywire. In the last 48 hours, I’ve heard about:

  • Two bomb scares involving two suitcases left outside the CSIS offices downtown, plus a package later on. Luckily I was off yesterday, but I still had to go downtown for personal reasons … which means I got to see the police tape that blocked off a section of Front Street. Later, the man presumed to own the luggage returned to the area. Reports say he was agitated, and he was subdued with a Taser, taken into custody, then taken to hospital. The package he carried when he returned to the scene was the reason for the second bomb scare. That was detonated.
  • Early this morning, a man stole a snow plow from Toronto’s downtown east side (Dundas and Parliament) and went on a wrecking spree, killing a Toronto police officer in the process. The man was finally shot by police and stopped in the Junction (Keele St., just south of Annette St.). Details are still kind of spotty, but reports say the man was homeless, likely on drugs. Like most people who have been watching or reading about the story, the information that will be released in the coming days and weeks may help shed more light on this bizarre crime. But a policeman has paid the ultimate price, leaving a family heartbroken, and a little boy without his father.
  • This afternoon, I heard a weird story on CP24 about a dude on a bike in a section of Parkdale (Queen St. West and Lansdowne), who’s apparently beating up pedestrians at random. I saw it flash on CP24’s ticker, but haven’t heard anything about it since. Perhaps it was all a hoax.  But real, fake or otherwise, that’s just creepy.

And don’t even get me started on the poor sod who was run over by the streetcar yesterday morning. Not that it has anything to do with the previous three instances that I’ve mentioned … but it certainly adds to the list of bizarre things that have happened in the downtown core so far this week.

I’m trying not to let the “we’re going to hell in a handbasket” mentality get to me.

But I have to say, we’re having a hell of a January so far. And none of it has been good.

The Crazy and The Christian

(Preface: I have nothing against Christians. Some of my family friends – and friends – are. I just happened to find the following to be funny …)

Last Friday morning, I was standing on the Scarborough RT (rapid transit) platform, listenin’ to the old iPod and waiting for the next train to arrive.

Then I looked to my left and saw him – Crazy RT Guy.

Backstory: Crazy RT Guy is this middle-aged dude who (to me) always looks dirty, wears these huge Coke-bottle glasses, and has what I think is an enormous head (which I’m pretty sure is due to some kind of medical condition that makes him a bit unstable).

Every time the RT pulls into the station, no matter where he is, Crazy RT Guy ALWAYS comes rushing up to the first car – which I always ride in – and pushes his way in front of whomever is rightfully standing there, kinda erratically waving his arms in an “out of the way!” fashion, just so he can get in the car first. And during the ride, he’s always gesticulating to people who lean on the glass, not to do so … tapping on the glass, scolding, that sort of thing. He’s a bit like the Rain Man of the RT.

Anyway … I saw him standing about 20 feet away and thought, oh man. Why do I have this feeling he’s going to push his way into my car? He comes my way, I’m definitely moving back.

So while I was waiting – and watching Crazy RT Guy out of the corner of my eye – I could hear, over the noise of my iPod, this lady singing. I figured, meh, it’s one of those middle-aged church ladies who likes to sing hymns. No big deal. Sure enough, this tiny black lady dressed in black passed behind me, singing.

But within moments, I noticed she wasn’t just singing. She was practically dancing, snapping her fingers. I kept trying not to notice, but then I kept looking at her, swaying and snapping. I even entertained the thought that maybe she was having an impromptu rehearsal for a choir she might be in. ‘Cause who’s that happy – or crazy – at 10 a.m. in the morning?

So the RT pulls up. Sure enough, Crazy RT Guy came bustling towards the first car. I stepped back well ahead of time to avoid his manic behaviour in front of the doorway, and got into the other set of doors nearest to the front of the car.

Inside the sparsely-populated car, I tried to listen to my iPod. Crazy RT Guy was sitting in the middle of the car, clutching his dirty bag.

Singing Church Lady was still singing. And dancing.

I’ve heard about making a joyful noise unto the Lord. But all that was missing from girlfriend’s routine was some Holy Jazz Hands.

About three or four minutes into the trip – and I didn’t actually see this – I guess Singing Church Lady wanted to spread the joy, particularly to Crazy RT Guy. But he wasn’t having any of it.

“STOP,” I heard him say, loudly and sharply.

I guess Singing Church Lady didn’t believe he honestly meant that, because I think she was trying to talk to him when again he barked:

“STOP!”

I think she then was trying to convince him that she was happy and should be allowed to express herself, and that everyone was here for a purpose.

That’s when I saw him frantically make small circular gestures with his fingers near his temples.

The international gesture for “crazy”.

I smirked. That was rich.

I think she told him she loved him, ’cause he did it again!

I just shook my head. But, of course, that was also the precise moment at which she turned away and made eye contact with her.

She was grinning. Almost maniacally, now that I look back on it. She might possibly be able to beat the Dalai Lama in a smile/laugh-off, if there ever was such a thing.

And she started talking to me. I realized I still had my earbuds in my ears, so I missed about half of what she said. I figured she was talking about Crazy RT Guy.

Then I removed my earbuds, and all I remember her saying was, “I see you’re listening to your little (gadget) … He’s here for a reason, you see. You, too. We are all here for a reason.” The woman was nodding, practically giddy. I smiled wanly and nodded weakly. And then when Crazy RT Guy got up and huffily waited for the train to pull into his stop, she turned back to focus on him, and I promptly stuffed my headphones back into my ears.

By the time Crazy RT Guy departed the train, the woman did stop dancing. But she never stopped smiling.

Listen. People who look happy usually make me smile a little. But I was never happier than when I saw the back of that woman’s head as she stepped off the RT and down the elevator.

If that’s what “high on life” is actually like, I’m not entirely sure I want to be.

(Unrelated Post-Script: I just realized that today was my second blogiversary. Yay, me!)

She’s no Zanta …

A couple of mornings ago, I boarded the slightly-crowded Rapid Transit out of Scarborough, as is part of my usual commuting routine to get downtown.

So there I was, saddled down with bags, newspaper tucked under my arm and minding my own business, when I heard this unintelligible nattering behind me. And then I felt this hand give me a semi hard tap just above my elbow. I turned around … and saw her.

And by “her”, I mean this crazy Chinese lady who I swear just rides up and down the subway all day. I immediately stood near the doorway and gave her a quick glare.

I was already annoyed by the fact I couldn’t read my paper. But having her on the subway really made my ride a little less pleasant. I’ve seen her a number of times before, so she’s not new to me. It’s not the fact she yammers and sometimes raises her voice in an unintelligible language that’s neither English, nor seems to be Cantonese. It’s not even the fact she sometimes scratches her long, dandruff-y hair, or that she can’t look directly at you because one of her eyes rolls to the left.

It’s this unbelieveably irritating habit she has of snatching newspapers out of other people’s hands like she can’t stand the crinkling and rustling of the pages, stuffing it behind her, and then proceeding to take it out a few minutes later and pretend to read it. I witnessed this later on in the trip to the subway. Some kid was reading a leftover copy of the Epoch Times to pass the time, and Crazy Paper Lady just reached across, past the passenger sitting between them, and slapped the paper out of the poor guy’s hand. Then she proceeded to stuff it behind her, then pull it out a few minutes later like she just noticed it was there, pretend to read it, then stuff it back behind her, only to pull it out again and pretend to read it.

The guy was pretty good-natured, and gave her the customary “crazy lady …” look that anyone would have. But seriously, though – for whatever reason, I was mad. I mean, I know the woman can’t help it – she’s mentally ill. But irrational thought had already taken over. I was trying to picture myself in that same situation and lemme tell you, the outcome wasn’t good.

I pictured myself snatching that paper back, rolling it up and whacking her with it. I even imagined myself towering over her trying to wrestle that paper back from her. For real – is this what white-collar rage is like? ‘Cause I’m pretty sure I’m an eye-twitch away from choking the woman if I ever run into her again.

Seriously, having Zanta on the RT would probably be more entertaining … mmm, wait. Maybe not.

Crazy people LOVE me

I’ve always believed I attract crazy people. Case in point:

While standing at my desk this morning, the phone rings.

It’s one of the security guards downstairs.

Not just any guard – it’s Dan. We’re on first-name relations. Why? ‘Cause the one person we both dread seeing has dropped by the building. For the fourth time. In three weeks.

It’s this middle-aged Korean lady who wanted me to find someone to do a story. She’s somehow here in the country illegally, because she tried to get from her native South Korea to the United States, but she says her immigration attempts were foiled by her country’s government.

What else? Ummm … she came up with this medicine, which she tried to get patented, but to no avail, because the Korean government interfered with that, too. And her secret serum somehow ended up in the hands of last year’s Nobel Peace Prize winners for Chemistry. (I barely know how to spell “chemistry” on my best days, let alone understand it.)

I’m sure some of you have sympathy for her. I did, too. At first. That was mainly because her English – spoken or written – wasn’t the best.

Then I found a colleague who speaks Korean – and has better judgement than me – to talk to her and translate.

She thinks everyone is conspiring against her. I’m not just talking about her homeland’s government. I mean, the U.S. Patent Office, and even her own family, who’s tried to put her in a mental institution. Twice. And disowned her.

She even gave me one week to get back to her and decide whether we can interview her. And I called her back earlier in the week and left a message at the place she was staying and said, “No interview.”

Apparently to her that translates to, “No interview today. Try again tomorrow.”

I even said to her face, “We can’t do this story. No interview. None.” I explained to her why. Or, at least I tried.

I’m waiting for the phone calls to start.