I have been tainted by fear. I feel like this makes me a bad person.
Taking the skytrain in to work this morning, I was CRAMTMmed into a car with a very strange guy.
Now I walk through 3 blocks of the poorest postal code in Canada twice daily, so I see my fair share of strange people, but this guy was a little extra strange. He was obviously of Middle Eastern descent, with long hair and a bushy beard, and looked fairly hard up (dirty, smelly, etc). His ill-fitting clothes were fairly bulky and lumpy to combat the cold. He was also mumbling in whatever language he spoke (I couldn’t tell which one as it was mumbling after all) – whatever it was, it was definitely not English. It also had a strange lilting intonation to it that made it sound chant like.
My first assumption: Oh. My. God. He’s a suicide bomber and he’s going to blow up the Skytrain and kill all these commuters, myself included (since I was literally wedged up against him). I was nearly paralyzed with fear, and mentally preparing how to get off the train ASAP as soon as it stopped again (even convincing myself that I’d be ok at least until then, since his plan likely included either Granville, Burrard or Waterfront stations where he has the opportunity to do the most damage).
Then I got a grip. I paid closer attention and noticed that his mumbling wasn’t a chant. He was most definitely talking “to someone.” Likely one of the city’s many Schizophrenics whose been tossed out to fend for himself and can’t afford or doesn’t want to take his meds. Probably more a danger to himself than anyone around him.
I was immediately consumed by guilt. And rage. What has all of the terrorist propaganda done to me that my first thought at seeing this guy was “Suicide Bomber”?!?! And in Canada! Nobody hates Canada! If he had been of any other ethnicity, I likely would have automatically come to the “crazy person” solution immediately – not thought he was a terrorist.
For the record, I did stay on the skytrain all the way to my stop, wedged up against the strange guy. And when he smiled at me as I disembarked, I smiled back. That’s another thing I learned to do today: When someone smiles at you, smile back. And mean it. We’re all human, and we deserve at least that much.