I have witnessed random acts of psychological violence from time to time.
I had just come to Toronto from the Lower East Side of New York City where I had lived for 13 years. I hadnt been in Toronto very long. I was using the subway to get back and forth from a job I had just acquired. Coming home from work in rush hour I noticed a fellow was tailing me. In New York I had learned several things about dealing with people in the street. One, you never meet their eye because, if you do, this can become an invitation to a confrontation or it gives them a signal that they can beg from and so forth. So, you never meet their eye. They other thing is that youre always watching out of the corner of you eye. You know if someone has fixed on you or is following you.
With these crowd tools in my toolbox, I noticed, out of the corner of my eye, that a fellow was tailing me on the subway platform. I recognized him in the sense that there is something about the sleazy looks of these guys that tips you off that they are not normal. He was trying to tail me and I was careful, as I said, not to meet his eye.
I used the crowd to do some broken field, not running, so much as dodging until I was quite a ways down the platform. I would stand close to or just behind someone who was taller than myself and I could see this fellow popping up like a jack in the box trying to find me. He was jumping up here and there and looking for me and he cant find me. Hes lost his chosen prey. This little drama went on until the next train came along and I got on. End of story, and that was a kind of funny one.
Ive lost that fine edge of reality-based paranoia that was a survival mechanism in New York City. I was a full year before I stopped routinely carrying a sharp weapon and settled in to the relative calm of Toronto.
I still warn friends who might jokingly grab me from behind. Dont do that. You could get hurt. The old defensive demon could return if Im caught unaware.
Another time on the subway when the trains were crowded as people travelled home from work. There was a young Chinese girl standing next to me and I noticed that there was an older, rather raggedy-looking guy was starting to physically harass her. She was trying to wriggle away from him but he just persisted and the train was too crowded for her to move away. I became annoyed and shouted at the top of my lungs,
Leave her alone, you pervert! Magically, the harasser disappeared ??
I was standing unsupported in the middle of the train aisle and a bit wobbly. I felt someone grasping my arm and I tried to shake them off but the firm grasp continued. I looked and it was a young Chinese man. Hed witnessed the incident and was holding me steady so I wouldnt fall.
Another time I was walking down Yonge Street from Bloor in Toronto, Ontario, looking in the shop windows. I noticed that there was yet another pervert coming along and he would look in the same windows, so I could see his reflection with his eyes bugged out and an intent expression. He looked like a Praying Mantis, a predatory insect with large eyes. He certainly was a bug, of whatever kind. If I moved down to look in another window then, by George, there he was again.
I worked my way down the street and went into a little Laura Secord store that used to be on the corner of Yonge and Carlton, where it crossed Yonge. I was buying a sweet and I glanced out the window and there he was doing his bug-eyed thing. I walked over put my face close to the glass and bug-eyed right back at him. He disappeared and that was the end of that. I guess I was supposed to be really scared but Id ruined it all for him. I wouldnt say he was harmless, since he certainly could have caused some psychological damage to the vulnerable. It alarmed me at first but then it became just stupid. I confronted him, he went bye-bye, end of story.
All of these were isolated incidents quite far apart in time, random acts, but they stayed in my mind, like miniature dramas, after they were long over.