The Ste-Catherine Street shuffle

Practically every day I walk down Ste-Catherine Street on my way to and from the gym and metro, dodging people almost as if it were a game of cat and mouse.

Over the last few weeks I’ve noticed an increasing amount of people standing in front of an office tower, on the north side of Ste-Catherine, across the street from the Second Cup café.

They’re not there to ask for donations, like the people with puppy mill petitions, nor are they busking for change like many musicians who play for passers-by.

These young teenagers and twenty-somethings are stopping people, mainly young, attractive girls and women, asking them to come upstairs to their agency’s casting call.

For what? I have absolutely no idea. From the sign they sometimes put out on the sidewalk, it seems for some sort of television or modeling gig.

On Thursday, July 5 at around 4 pm, as I was heading westbound, coming around a shop under construction, I could see six to eight people all gathered around, some talking, others listening.

All of a sudden I see someone coming straight at me, so I move quickly to the right as a young man with a blue short sleeve collared shirt talking to two girls backs right into me.

He drops the cell phone in his hand and it hits the sidewalk. Quickly he picks it up and I try to walk around him, but he jumps in front of me screaming: “You just broke my cell phone!” (with a few added expletives in French).

I said excuse me but it wasn’t my fault that he was standing in the middle of the sidewalk as people were trying to pass. As I tried to continue on my way, he wouldn’t let me pass and kept screaming in his non-Sunday school French: “You’re going to pay for this!” (meaning the phone, I thought).

At this point there are many onlookers and I turn my head to see who was watching this scene when he punched me in the face!

My glasses were knocked off my face and were laying in the middle of the sidewalk. I picked them up and turned around to see the young man (no more than twenty-years-old) running across Ste-Catherine and down Peel Street toward Dorchester Square.

Absolutely stunned. Myself and a bystander named Frédéric pursued him on foot into an alleyway behind Harvey’s restaurant. I was seriously considering calling the police to press assault charges, but as soon as we got to Rene-Levesque Boulevard, a police cruiser was sitting there.

There were no police officers inside the vehicle, so Frédéric and I followed him to Place Ville-Marie, where he fled underground. I decided to go back to the scene of the crime to see if he did, in fact, work at this agency.

Two other young employees were outside and I asked them if they had also seen what happened. They told me they were shocked that Alex (the young man’s name) would do something like that.

I asked them to take me to their boss, so I could explain the situation. The two bosses (a man and women in mid-twenties) assured me that Alex did work there and would return for his belongings.

About 10 minutes later Alex casually walked in and the boss invited me into her office to sit down so he could apologize. For about five minutes, Alex pleaded his case saying his phone is very important to him and that, he thought, I was disrespectful.

After a few more minutes of the boss demanding he apologize, Alex finally said he was sorry for hitting me. It wasn’t very heartfelt, but at the moment I just wanted to see him realize how wrong he was for attacking me on the busiest sidewalk and pedestrian strip in Montreal.

I don’t know what the agency, Star Media, ended up doing with poor Alex. I just hope they sent him home, where his parents should make him understand violence isn’t the way to deal with problems on the streets, or sidewalks, of this city.

Adam Bemma is a journalist, humanitarian, and media consultant based in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

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