This past week was rough. It was rough and had nothing to do with autism. In fact, some of the most draining events in my life have absolutely nothing to do with autism. What happened this past week could happen to anyone and hence why I would like to share with you. Have you ever really feared for your safety? Or worse for the safety of your child?
As most of you already know I have a driving disability. What I mean by that is my driving is confined to a small 20km radius thereafter I start to get grossly uncomfortable. I can’t drive over bridges or on highways anymore. This has me using alternative modes of transport to get me to where I need to go. This past week I was taking my daughter to a concert in town. The plan was to take a bus into downtown then Uber the rest of the way to the venue (because it was extremely windy and cold that night).
I live in an affluent neighbourhood on the South Shore of Montreal. It has small town feel. Everyone kind of knows everyone or at least everyone’s business. The previous week I had taken the bus into the city for some interviews I had lined up and it went super well. It seems the quickest way to get into the city nowadays with the crazy amount of traffic due to road work in and around the island of Montreal.
So picture this. My daughter and I are standing in the bus shelter chatting about our day. We are the first two in line waiting for the bus. Then two young adult males who don’t seem to know one another line up in back of us…backpacks on their backs and headphones on their ears. There is only about 5 minutes until the bus is scheduled to show up. When I look ahead I see a male sauntering towards us. Instead of following suit to get in line he stops in front of Manisha and I. My feelers go up and I can tell you I am already taken a back. He starts talking to Manisha and I asking if we are mother and daughter. To which I respond “yes”. He then proceeds to tell me how beautiful my daughter is but not in a complementary kind of way but in the way that makes a girl feel cheap. To top it off he is talking about my girl. He askes if the bag strapped across my chest is “Gucci” I chuckle no this thing is a Coach purse. I quickly realize he is not going to stop talking. He proceeds to tell us that he just got in a fight with his girlfriend and is heading in town to see his mother.
Naively I can’t wait until the bus comes so I can gain space from this person. Since I have to pay for the fair with cash I tell the men to go ahead. The two young guys who had lined up make their way to the back of the bus and the creeper (let’s just call him that) sat towards the front. Therefore, when we get on I think to myself let’s gain space and sit in the middle. The bus driver asks if we are all going into the city which we respond “yes”. Otherwise the bus makes a stop elsewhere before heading into town. It only takes a few minutes before I regret being so quick with my answer to the bus driver. Now more then ever I wished I had said “no”. Why? Because creeper came to sit right next to us where he continued his rant – telling me how he gave up drugs a month ago (I could tell he was a user because his teeth told the story), he used to be bad, his girlfriend doesn’t appreciate him, he wants to be a good man and he goes on and on.
Every part of my being is telling me that this guy is dangerous. I have convinced myself that he might have a knife or a gun on him. I can picture him jumping me and how I will proceed to protect my daughter. Therefore, the whole time he talks, the whole time I listen never looking away fearing he might pull a move. I don’t want him to think here yet again another person is rejecting me so I talk to him as though I am his mother. I say encouraging things and never ever take my eyes off of him. Manisha is extremely uncomfortable and decides to put her head on my shoulder. Which I am glad because I don’t want him looking at her and I want him to see I am just a mother taking her daughter into the city.
The bus is approaching the bridge when I think it’s the perfect time for him to make a move. I take calculated breaths so that I don’t pass out in fear. He continues to talk of how he wants a family and to be a good man. It doesn’t matter what he says I just want to jump off the bus with my daughter. I pray that the bus keeps moving forward because one more second in this situation could be the death of me. I continue to look into his eyes and respond with nothing but kind words. He askes me is I am married and I respond “yes”. Then he asks if I ever cheated on my husband, “NO”. How old are you? I respond but all the while I feel like I am being objectified. He tells me I don’t look my age. He is 33 and I look 33 too. OMG – I think what is happening. Still I remain calm and answer his questions. I never want him to feel that he is being a jerk for fear he will snap and jump me.
On this day I am grateful for the cold because I am wearing gloves. If he had seen my fingers he may just have wanted to contemplate his new road on the straight and narrow to score a beautiful engagement ring, wedding ring and anniversary ring my husband had given me. I am grateful that my hands are hidden. Then I think how precious life is. It only takes a moment for everything to change. Manisha is quiet and as though she knows that not speaking to me is the best strategy in this situation. This seems to be the longest bus ride of my entire life. There is a huge part of me that wished Manisha wasn’t with me. All I can think of in this moment is keeping her safe. I figure if he jumps me my strategy is to jump on him with all of my body weight – using my full force with the intent of pushing him over. This guy although average size is clearly mentally unstable – probably due to years of drug use. We all know its not the size of a person that matters but rather how crazy they are. I was hoping that someone threatening my daughter would give me the force of a thousand men.
We are approaching the city and I pray that my strategy is working. My fear doesn’t dissipate instead it intensifies. We are minutes away. I am thinking ahead of how this guy might follow us off the bus and continue to torment us. I desperately want out now. Then I remember the bus usually stops in Old Montreal before heading to the main station. I get up and tell Manisha to follow I ask the bus driver where the stop is and she says the next set of lights. I sigh. Then to my horror the creeper gets up. This is it he is going to attack us when we get off the bus. What do I do? I scan outside and spot 2 men waiting for the light to change, in order for them to cross the street. I think if creeper gets off I am going to cling onto one of the men. Creeper doesn’t get off the bus and Manisha and I rejoice. Both immediately admitting that was an incredibly stressful situation. We are relieved that it is all over. Is it really all over? For me it isn’t …I live with an emotional hangover for days. I am exhausted, cranky and suffering silently. It’s ironic how once we deem ourselves safe we want to go on like nothing happened. I can’t do that anymore – my body, mind and spirit won’t let me. I have spent a good part of the week trying to process and let go.
Once off the bus we catch an Uber. For whatever reason we are compelled to share the story with our Uber driver. He proceeds to tell us how I had done the right thing. He states he knows because he is studying just that? I ask if he is studying psychology and he says “No I am studying to be a police officer”. He states in fact that he has his final exam the next morning. We rejoice in his success. He reminds me that I did the right thing by staying engaged with creeper. In that moment I feel validated as a protective mama bear – ready to do anything and I mean anything to protect my daughter. The Uber driver is the total opposite from the individual on the bus and both Manisha and I find comfort in his words. He drops us off at the venue. Manisha is over the moon excited and I am grateful she can move quickly past the events. She gets in line to check out the merchandise. I on the other hand pull straight up to the bar and order a shot of tequila and a chaser. I need something to calm my nerves. Let’s just say it takes a few more to do the trick.
If this story only ever helps one other person then writing my BLOG is all worth it. Like I said before this BLOG is therapeutic for me… once I have written and shared I can let go. This incident has been haunting me for days and now I pray that sharing it will help me release the emotions attached to it. I encourage you to share this with your teens so that if ever they are faced with such a situation they will know how best to react.