The best reason to pay attention

Think the STM is looking out for you? Think again.

Face it — the STM is not watching out for you. Photo via Flickr

Howdy, reader! Are you comfortably face-down, staring at your smart device, earbuds-deep in some other, unassociated aural distraction, centre stage in a public place right now, just dying to see what the Internet says next?

If you answered “yes,” or otherwise might have, you’re not alone. You’re probably a lot like the person beside you.

If that person happened to be the late Audrey-Anne Dumont, you gotta calculate that maybe just looking up occasionally could have made all the difference.

Dumont, 20, met a tragic end at the Monk metro station last month, evidently distracted by her handheld to the point that she mistook the gap between train cars for the subway doors.

I got shivers when I heard the news because I swear that same exact thing has damn near happened to me. That fate was less than five feet off, and I barely shrugged.

But never has the evidence of abject human vulnerability shaken me as hard as in the days immediately after 9/11, when I witnessed a barely post-pubescent “underground city” mall security guard pick his nose and scratch his ass simultaneously, slumped against an escalator landing.

Those paranoid times spoke to something unsettling about a trust the general public affords its own security. Aside from strange, dark alleys, someone else is technically supposed to be watching out for us, especially if we’re paying customers.

So what does an institution like the STM, say, guarantee our passenger dollar that strange, dark alleys do not?

Monolithic publicity screens over its most populous platforms — erected, to be fair, slightly before the rise of the smart device — and two free daily papers to bury our noses in.

It’s reassuring to know, as both these media like to point out, in between ads for our city’s finest tourist destinations and trade schools, that our patronage is good for the environment. But none of that accounts for transit security, whereas instances such as recent attacks on night bus drivers suggest the STM can’t even take care of its own, let alone prevent something as clumsy and benign as a smoke bomb.

Take it past local headlines and look to Boston and Cleveland, and to breaches of personal space and personal sanctity that we can only shake our heads at now, shudder, and wonder how we will ever feel safe in our own environment.

It’s really simple: Accept that only you are accountable for looking out for you.

That sounds like some pessimistic shit. But consider that if you look up and around every now and then, in any environment — because most of us really don’t mean to be so distracted — you might not only be keeping yourself safe. You might just end up grabbing the elbow of that person beside you, off in their own world and needlessly about to end it.

And if you trust that, you might feel safer knowing that person might also one day be there to grab your elbow, too. ■


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