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I got in an actual fight

Yesterday afternoon I was walking down Merivale Road, nursing a migraine, when the guy walking in front of me grabbed an election sign out of the grass and tossed it in the ditch. Moments later we were both standing at the intersection of Merivale and Baseline, and I said “You know, you’re not supposed to do that.”

“The wind would have blown it away anyway,” he said.

“Then why not just wait for the wind to blow it away?”

“You’re not supposed to attach an election sign to someone else’s sign,” he said, “And it was leaning on the Conservative sign.”

“No it wasn’t,” I said.

A few more words were exchanged. My final word on the subject was “Bullshit.”

Then the lights started changing. I took my phone out of my pocket.

Suddenly he grabbed my right wrist, the one with the phone in it, and with his other hand he wrenched the phone from my hand.

I told him to let go of me and give me back my phone. He refused. He said I had assaulted him by taking his picture. I hadn’t taken his picture, but even if I had, there’s no law against that. It certainly isn’t assault.

A scuffle ensued. It was surreal. I found myself engaged in a physical fight with a stranger on a busy street corner in broad daylight. He was bigger and stronger and crazier than me, and my attempts to free myself were embarrassingly ineffective. I hope if I’m ever fighting for my life, I’ll fight harder and better and meaner than that.

Meanwhile a couple of cars that were stopped at the red light started honking. But when the light turned green, they drove away. In desperation, I grabbed the guy’s glasses with my free left hand, and he freaked out. I said I’d give them back if he gave me back my phone. He said I’d have to give him his glasses first. I refused. He refused. Then he did something with my phone. I thought he threw it away, but he must have put it in his back pocket or something. He tried to grab his glasses back with his free hand, but I squeezed them hard and the frames crumpled and the lenses popped out.

Suddenly he had my phone in his hand again, and I lunged for it, thinking he was going to destroy it in retribution for breaking his glasses. He still hadn’t let go of me. He said “I’m calling 911!”

And I said “Good, call them.”

Because, you know, when a crazy aggressive stranger is physically overpowering you and stealing your phone, it’s a big fat bonus if he decides to call the cops.

Once he connected with 911, he let go of me. I stood there, listening to him lie to the 911 operator. He said I just came out of nowhere for no reason and started taking pictures of him, and when he tried to put his hand over the lens, I ripped the glasses off his face and broke them. He said he was blind without his glasses. He said he was in pain.

Several times during the 15-minute call, I asked him to return my phone. I asked him to let me talk to 911 and he refused. I found out later that the 911 operator even asked him to hang up and return my phone while waiting for the police, but he refused. Strangers came along on bikes and on foot and asked if everything was okay. I said no. I was too rattled to say much, though. I was on the verge of tears. If I talked, I’d cry.

I was anxious for the police to arrive, but I started worrying I might get charged with assault for breaking his glasses, and what if I got a criminal record over this jerk? A woman on a bike said I should deny breaking his glasses; it would be his word against mine. I told myself to just relax and tell the truth.

And then, finally, the police arrived. One of them interviewed me while the other one interviewed him, on opposite sides of the street. I was fighting back the tears. She told me to take my time. I told her what happened. She then went across the street to talk to her partner.

She came back, gave me my phone, and told me that he wanted to have me charged with assault and mischief. She said that if he persisted with that, they would charge him with assault and mischief. The other officer came back too and said he’d lied to her four times before admitting to what I said happened. Plus he’d gone through my phone and looked at all my photos.

They asked if I wanted assault charges laid against him. I said no, not really.

Nonetheless, he wanted me charged. They told him that just because you’re the one to call 911 doesn’t mean you’re in the right, and I was acting in self defense. He insisted on talking to their supervisor, so the sergeant was on his way over. We all waited.

The guy lay down on the grass, and I called GC and told I’d just been involved in a fight with a stranger on a street corner. He was there within minutes. He saw the guy lying on the grass and wondered if I’d flattened him!

He gave me a big hug and the cop told him he was a good partner.

They said I was free to go, as long as I was sure I didn’t want to lay charges and was ok with letting them resolve it.

Anyway. The whole thing was very weird. It’s just so unsettling that a total stranger can grab you on the street and refuse to let you go. Fortunately he was arrogant and self-righteous enough to also want to call the police while doing that.

The cops were terrific, and it makes me happy to be able to add two more cops to my list of good cops.

As GC lead me away, he asked “How’s your migraine?” and for the first time I realized it was completely gone! Must have been the adrenaline. Or maybe all the blood flowed out of my brain during the fight-or-flight response.

I guess all’s well that end’s well. My only lingering concern is that he went through my phone, so he might now know my name.

GC took me out for gelato afterwards. We decided this would be our new tradition: whenever I get in a street fight, he’ll take me out for gelato after collecting me from the police.

44 comments to I got in an actual fight

  • Eric

    Wow. Congrats for getting through that. I’d have been so mad at the arrogant jerk that even the nice police officers might not have been on my side.

    • It’s one of those experiences that you relive in your mind over and over again, thinking about what you could have done differently. At the time, I was just running on instinct and adrenaline. I think my fear was tempering my anger, and vice versa.

  • deb

    This makes me wonder what I would do in a similar situation…the glasses idea was brilliant. Having been attacked by you in the past; it wouldn’t have surprised me if he was flattened by you. Finally, GC is an awesome partner and he just proved it again.

    • I think it’s important to point out that I haven’t attacked you in many decades! As kids, my brutal battles with you kept my street fighting skills well-honed. But I’m really really rusty now. You should come over for a tussle! (And you’re right about GC – he’s an awesome partner. He says if he’d been there he’d have held the guy for me.)

  • HOLY. CRAP. I am very glad that you weren’t hurt physically, but man, that had to have been a disturbing experience. I’m also glad that the cops were reasonable about this. Sad that the actions of a minority of police officers can taint our perceptions.

    Please avoid people like that in the future. It’s too early to go on LTD at your new job. 😉

    • Bob, you’re right, it was definitely disturbing. I had insomnia last night for the first time in ages. I just kept replaying it over and over again, and going through a whole lot of “what if” scenarios.

  • I’m so sorry that you had to experience that. I’m working up just sitting here reading your story. Any idea if he went through with pressing charges?

    • That’s a good question. I don’t know how or if it was resolved. The officers seemed pretty confident that their sergeant would be able to talk some sense into the guy. I think if it wasn’t resolved, the officers would most likely let me know. One of them gave me her card, so maybe I’ll call her next week and ask.

  • Wow. That sucks. And you may have felt feeble – but Zoom – you didn’t back down! Kudos to you!

  • Nat

    I’m grateful you weren’t hurt and that the “good” cops were there to help. Also glad that GC came to lend support quickly. Crazy people out there eh? Be careful.

  • Kathleen

    Thank god you are ok, what a experience, good for you taking his glasses off. What a jerk!!! I am glad that you did not get hurt, and that the police were so good. It is obvious that he has a loose screw. GC is the greatest, you can also depend on him to be there for you. Take care of yourself.


  • OMG. That’s an amazing story. I’m glad you grabbed his glasses — that was the perfect thing to do.

    • Grabbing his glasses did even the playing field a bit more, but he still had the upper hand. And that Self-Defense for Women course I took 25 years ago didn’t help much! Maybe it’s time for a refresher!

  • Good work zoom. The taking pictures thing is weird… I had a guy in an electric wheelchair lunge at me and knock me down and try to grab my camera because he thought I was taking pictures of people on the street. Which I was, but it is perfectly legal to do so.

  • Holy crap, as the late, great Frank Barone used to say. I felt my adrenaline going as I was reading the play-by-play. I am so glad you came out of the incident physically unscathed. I am thinking about that good samaritan in a coma in Quebec who was trying to stop a petty theft. He was knocked to the ground and suffered a head injury. Maybe it doesn’t pay to step in, sometimes. But you do what feels right at the time, I know.

    • But I didn’t even feel like I was stepping into anything. I was just saying something. It escalated – or deteriorated – so quickly!

  • Em

    Wow, what a wingnut. I wonder what he was trying to tell the cops. Sounds like you handled it really well. Also, I’m glad you had a good experience with the local police, for a change!

  • grace

    I’m sort of speechless here. And very glad you weren’t damaged,

    Would you have handled the situation differently if a Conservative sign was tossed? That would be a hard one for me to decide. . . .

  • Where’s your inner ball of rage?!? I’m afraid in such a situation, I would totally lose it and do some real damage – or hurt myself trying to. I am divided on whether you should have pressed charges, though. Glad you are okay and GC is such a good partner and the cops were good ones this time. Be safe!

    • Abby I grew up in a family where the only person who was allowed to get angry was my mother. The rest of us quickly figured out that anger just made things worse, and learned to swallow any evidence of it. So that’s my first instinct, even all these years later. But I’ve been wondering today too if I should have pressed charges. Not out of any need for retaliation, but because that guy needs to know that there are consequences to grabbing women on the street. Hopefully the broken glasses will be enough.

  • Wow! That’s a real “Twilight Zone” event! So sorry it happened to you, and I’m not surprised you had trouble sleeping. I think grabbing his glasses was a pretty good idea – if you’d done anything even close to hurting him it could have gotten awful, really fast. Ugh. So creepy. I think I might need some gelato…..

  • Freaks come in all shapes and sizes and can appear in broad daylight.
    Just happy that yer OK, kid…

  • Jeff

    “Freaks”?? He was obviously mentally ill. Is it ok to call such people freaks now?

    • Jeff, I think he had issues, but I never got the impression he was mentally ill. Arrogant, self-righteous, obnoxious, imperious, and possessed of exceedingly poor judgement, yes. But mentally ill? I’m not convinced.

  • I stand by the label. I don’t clearly see that this was someone mentally impaired given the description of events. If I am misjudging, I stand corrected.

  • Just glad yer OK, dude… have a great Sunday!

  • Jeff

    I’m also glad that you’re ok. I suppose he may have been a freak. Whatever that means.

  • Wow I’m impressed with how you handled yourself! My reaction would have been to let him take my phone, go home, blame myself for the whole thing and how I provoked it by saying anything at all, and feel sick thinking about it for years and years!

  • What an experience! It’s an ironic way to find out about the good cops in Ottawa, given your eye-witness experiences.

    I also stand with the label of “Freak”. Unfortunately, there are many of these people out there, and the catalyst for their behaviour is anyone speaking out against it. I have to say that I get myself into trouble all the time for similar events, but I know that it’s much better to do the right thing than to agonize over not acting and wishing you had.

    The problem is that most people let these types do as they please – act like 10 year-old brats, until they push the boundaries and somebody HAS to say or do something. Then the brats call mommy, teacher, the police or 911.

    We love you, Zoom!

  • Connie

    I think you should consider pressing charges, if it won’t be too hard for you. If this jerk grabs a woman on the street just because of a verbal interaction, I’d bet he’s beating up on other women too. He needs to face consequences. His trying to blame you is typical abuser behavior.

  • Gillian

    I’m glad you’ve got a good guy on your side, and that you’re OK.

  • future landfill

    Gelato can be an effective antidote to unpleasant occasions. Well done all around, it sounds like. Well, but for bozo…

  • Gwyndolyn O'Shaughnessy

    Whoa, that’s a bizarre, scary encounter! I’m sorry you had to go through that. You did a great job of standing up for yourself.

    Grabbing his glasses was brilliant. I’ll have to remember that next time I get into a bizarre interaction. (Yes, it happens in broad daylight, with others standing at the bus stop with me. No assault or grabbing, but weirdly unpleasant, victimizing conversations. Most of them are “just” intimidating, but a guy pretended to hit my face one time … stuff like that.) (Oh, and a pair of young parents yelled at me for telling their 6-yr-old not to play with the emergency exit trigger. That was strange.)

    I hope you decide to lay charges. Just the thought that he might have your info creeps me out (way over in Seattle!). The temptation is to just forget about it, but it’s OK to defend yourself legally as well as physically.

    Hope Duncan is feeling blessed!

  • Wow. So glad the cops saw through the guy’s bullshit. I’m glad you’re okay.


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