Friday, September 01, 2006

I went downtown today to take care of the business I have neglected while cheerfully selling overpriced shoes and socks all summer, and downtown very nearly took care of me. I had lunch a little ways off campus and then walked back along the south side of Bloor, a perpetual and seamless construction zone, and saw a crowd next to an ambulance at St. George. At first I thought that someone was hit by a car or collapsed, but then I noticed that the intersection was blocked with police tape. In fact, the whole block to the west (Bloor from St. George to Huron) had been closed off.

As if to answer my question, the bomb squad pulled up alongside the half dozen or so police cars parked on St. George, north of Bloor. While I had been having lunch, a man got into a taxi and told the driver that he had a bomb. A crowd had built steadily in response to the closure and the heavy police presence. The mood was laid-back, carefree and even a little festive. There normally is a hot dog vendor on the northeast corner of the intersection (the closures were on the west side). I don't think he was there today, but a popcorn vendor would have been just as welcome.

I kicked myself for not bringing a camera and then went on with my business, figuring that the police would eventually search the cab and find no bomb. This is the third very serious bomb threat that I've walked into on the street, along with a fourth at work that we ignored, and I recognize the sometimes excessive caution exercised by the police. What I didn't know was that there was someone inside the cab, which would've probably made me stay.

I came back a half hour later and the situation was the same, but the crowd had swelled immensely. This was street theatre at its finest, and by now the TV cameras and newschoppers had arrived. The police now faced a two-front battle, the nutjob inside the tape and the burgeoning crowd around it. About fifteen minutes later, as I skirted the tape for a better look and maybe a cup of coffee, I saw an ambulance next to the taxi. I'd missed the tear gas takedown, someone informed me, doubling my regret. Next time I just might jog under the tape, hold open my wallet while yelling "homicide!" and pull out the red wire. That's about how threatening the entire situation was anyway, though I am, of course, being farcical. I'm surprised that the police didn't urge the crowd to move on for their own safety.

No comments: