These are strange human beings, most likely with mental health issues, some of whom are potentially dangerous, while others are merely a source of curiosity. And although many night people are capable of criminality and violence, there are those who are just as capable of unexpected acts of random kindness and surprising nuggets of wisdom.
Generally speaking, though, you do not want to make eye contact with night people because they will invariably approach you or worse yet follow you.
Now, obviously not every single person you encounter at night is going to be a “night person” – I’m out at night and I am absolutely normal – but it is usually easy enough to “sense” you are in the presence of a night person without having to actually look directly into his or her eyes, at least not while they are looking directly into yours.
They have a way about them – a shiftiness that is easier to “know” than to define. It might take less than a minute for your brain to determine you are indeed in the presence of a night person. And while sometimes these snap judgments and concomitant suspicions of malevolent intent prove to be unfair, it is frankly better to be safe than sorry, i.e. it is safer to avoid night people altogether, which isn’t to suggest these people should be persecuted or dehumanized, just politely avoided for your own safety.
I, however, do not always take my own advice because as I often parrot, human beings are inherently hypocritical and I am a human being so…
I also am a person who suffers with a guilt complex about pretty much everything and find it difficult to be what I perceive as cruel to another living thing (although granted my perception of “cruel” is probably irrational, as it includes simply asserting my right to disagree or say no).
The result of my weakness of guilt (or perhaps it’s just passivity) is that I’ve found myself in situations I feared I was not going to get out of unscathed, although often not realizing this until after the incident had occurred.
There was the time a night person followed me home by foot at about 2 o’clock in the morning, which I did not notice until an hour later when I was awakened by this same person staring into my face, only inches away. I jumped up and shooed him out the door, as if he was no more dangerous than a housefly, and went back to sleep.
It wasn’t until the light of day and a conversation with one of my concerned roommates that I understood this night person who had followed me was known to have both a psychotic disorder and a lowered IQ, and although there were no reports of him hurting anyone, it was clearly a possibility.
Another unfortunate time I was on the Skytrain at night in a sparsely occupied car with a few other riders and one nut who stood up the whole way, even though there were lots of places to sit, eating from a can of creamed corn that had been crudely opened with a knife or some other sharp object, as implied by the still attached lid’s jagged edge.
He was having some sort of Tourette’s crisis and shouting profanities and other insults at the rest of us, his trapped victims. We were like a handful of leftover Pringles rattling around at the far end of a cylinder tube, trying to get away from a snatching hand.
It was during a string of especially vulgar expletives that I unthinkingly snapped at him to “take it easy”.
WELL, you’d think I’d just hurled the worst personal insult he had ever sustained, because he whirled on me like a madman free of his constraints and proceeded to rant into my face. It is weird how many trivial things can go through your mind when you unexpectedly find yourself in a distressing, possibly life-threatening situation.
In this case, he was so close to me that I could smell his breath and it struck me that he didn’t stink, as one might expect of an enraged lunatic traveling around on the Skytrain after midnight, chowing down on a can of cold creamed corn without any utensils.
He also seemed to have a vacancy about him and was not particularly unkempt or dirty looking, leading me to wonder if he was experiencing some kind of drug induced or post-traumatic flashback, rather than being strictly a mentally disturbed street person looking for an audience.
Regardless, at the time, I did not care what was causing him to behave in such a bizarre, menacing manner, it was that canned cream corn with the serrated lid that most alarmed me.
He was waving it around as if in punctuation of his disgusting words and I worried he was going to slash me with it, whether by accident or on purpose. Thankfully, though, I got out of that predicament unscarred, at least physically, but I do think about what could have happened every once in a while.
My latest run-in with a night person occurred at maybe 1 o’clock in the morning a couple weeks ago when I was approached by a tall, skeletal-looking, poorly-dressed-for-the-sub-zero-weather character outside of a 7-Eleven. I had pulled up to the gas pump, but needed to go inside to pay first, and it was during the jaunt from the pump to the door that Surgical Drain Guy accosted me.
I could see out of my peripheral vision that he was confidently marching towards me and knew that unless another clown suddenly produced a squirt gun and started squirting people in the name of a Slurpee, there was no way I could avoid the situation.
I was correct.
He called me ma’am. I hate when I’m called ma’am, only because for hours afterwards I find myself drowning in existential turmoil over how I’ve squandered my life in the time it took to go from being referred to as a “girl” to now being referred to as a “ma’am”. I don’t feel grown up enough to be a “ma’am” – I feel ridiculous and inadequate ALL the time.
But of course this guy neither knew nor cared about any of that – he thought he was being polite to the “elderly lady”, not because he was polite, but because he thought politeness would soften me up.
He was wrong.
Now, as I’ve already said, my natural state is to accommodate people and do as I’m asked, but as I’ve gotten older, even though most of the time I still feel ridiculous, I’m not quite as willing to instantaneously concede my pride and act like a doormat.
In this case, I was on guard and weary and knew perfectly well what he was getting at, but before I could wave him off he blocked my path and told me he was desperate to go south to see his ailing mother. All he needed was $60 for the bus, but whatever I could spare would greatly assist him.
I patiently listened to his spiel, even though I felt impatient, and as I did I noted he had a surgical drain in his hand and a hospital bracelet around his wrist. It looked sort of gross and come to think of it, he looked sort of gross, so I grimaced in spite of myself, which he promptly noticed and was NOT pleased.
He jumped to the outrageous conclusion that I had no intentions of helping him and his whole persona metamorphosed from humility to fury.
“You don’t want to HELP me?!! First I get kicked out of the hospital and THEN I’m treated like this!!?”
He then called me a vile name I choose not to repeat and ripped the drain out of his hand, threw it at me, screamed, “FINE!!” into my face, and disappeared behind a dumpster.
I hadn’t even said anything to him.
Do you see a pattern here? Crazy night people like to get right in your face. Hopefully, I have not unknowingly contracted an airborne disease from one of these maniacs and it is incubating in my system as we speak.
And I’ll tell you another thing, security guards and other security measures like password-activated doors, camera-monitored parkades and heated-tunnels DO NOT make you feel secure at night.
Night security guards are themselves peculiar, creepy people who, in my experience anyway, NEVER look like they could fight off an assailant – they appear either so fragile and sickly they couldn’t even fight off a cold, or so galootish and over-nourished they couldn’t even make it up a slight incline before having to stop and take a breath.
Recently, there was a security guard, a woman as it turned out, although her gender was not immediately discernible, who closely followed me all the way to my car without first asking me if I needed or wanted her assistance. She moreover did not say a single word to me, even when upon realizing she was following me I said something akin to, “Hello?”
She might have nodded.
This oddity of a woman did not get right up into my face as other weirdoes have in the past, but she was close enough that I could distinctly hear her labored breathing. It was very disconcerting and also unpleasant.
The worst part, however, is that I think I’ve inadvertently become a night person myself. This horrible realization overcame me last night as I walked into the Real Canadian Superstore at around 1:30 in the morning.
It was as I was about to enter the big-box store that it occurred to me every piece of winter clothing I was wearing – from the boots on my feet, to the down jacket on my back, to the scarf wrapped around my neck, to the toque perched atop my head and the earmuffs muffling my ears – were all bought after midnight from clearance racks, shelves and bins at various times throughout the preceding week FROM the Superstore.
I felt like Seinfeld's Elaine Benes trying to put Putumayo out of business by buying an excessive amount of merchandise from what she thought was its competitor and wearing ALL of it at once:
I was a barely-able-to-move snowman of mismatched fleece, feathers, faux fur and knit - a virtual mascot of cheapness and consumerism all rolled into one. I then exploded in a kind of demented laughter at the thought…but abruptly STOPPED laughing when I noticed a security guard eyeing me suspiciously.
I recognized that look and the horrible, horrible truth suddenly dawned on me.
This guy has seen a lot of whackos out after midnight...and evidently I’m ONE of them. Good GOD.