I am completing my three “clashes” with police who approached me because I look drunk, when in fact I am Deaf-Blind, with severe ataxia. The first incident of noteworthy happened in the mid 1980’s. For your reading pleasure, it is here The Police File (I can’t seem to link other published works yet…)
So, many years had passed from the first police encounter in the late 1980’s. I mean a lot! I was living in Toronto, married, with one child, who, should be, at the time of this incident, around 27 months old.
The day of the incident, Dad & Son went to our first Intervenor Open House at George Brown College in at their St. James Campus. It was a long day, 6 hours at least, full of fun and laughter, eating and chatting, meeting old friends and making new ones, changing diapers, and all that jazz! By the end of the day, father & son where both tired from chatting with everyone (me) and playing with students (him)!
As we had just moved to Toronto 8 months previously, I was still learning my way around the city. On this day, after the open house, we were heading to the subway to meet up with the wife who was just finishing work.
I leave the Open House with other Deaf-Blind friends, but I want to head off in my own direction, being overly tired. So, I veer off King St., East onto George St., (I learned the names of the streets just now), and walked on the west side of George St., heading north. My son is now dozing happily in his stroller, having maxed out his energy playing. I’m not sure, but I believe there is either a can of soda or a can of juice in the cup holder of our big stroller. Now, please remember I’m tired, not particularly paying close attention to where I’m heading. As well, I’m probably walking with more of a stagger, because of said tiredness. I am pretty sure that I took a swig of my Coke Zero to keep myself semi-awake.
As I walked north, I came upon a fence in the middle of the street going directly north, it is one of those ubiquitous construction site fences. I glanced to my left and see a nearly completed housing project. There is no one in sight, and very little debris, so I assume the fence is there to protect the citizens from traffic. I walk inside the fence, but not on the newly completed sidewalk, I’m about 10 feet from the actual building. At the end of the project, there is another fence running east to west on Richmond St. I look for a gap in the fence and, seeing none, make one. I then carry on my way without a backward glance.
All is good, or so it seems.
I find myself, about 10 minutes later, beside a huge church (which I now know is St. James Cathedral) and start walking north on Church Street. Don’t ask how I returned to King Street East and Church Street, I remember not.
Soon after turning onto Church St., a police cruiser pulls up beside me, I recall seeing his lights flashing. At first, I ignore him, thinking this is for something else. The officer tries to get my attention as I continue walking, he stopped his cruiser and approached me, trying to converse. When he actually tried to take control of the stroller did I realize he wanted to talk to me. I gestured that I am “Deaf” and looked in the stroller storage for a Sharpie and a pad of paper which I gave to him.
He wrote down, probably, I can’t remember exactly, “Have you been drinking?” and later “Is this your child?” The first line reminded my of Youth Encounter, so I give him a full frontal coffee-tainted assault “Not today!” to which he backs off quickly enough. I ignore the second question.
He is about to leave when it dawns on me; What? Why did he approach me in the first place? Where does he get off asking me if this is my son?! My recent fatigue forgotten in a flash of raw adrenaline. He had no right to approach me and ask me if I’ve been drinking or, even worse, if this was my son! I was angered! I demanded his badge number (with 20/400 vision, I cannot read badge and nametag info that other people can pick up quickly, I must ask for it). The officer responded by: confronting me more, calling a backup, and wrangled for 20 minutes! I did get his number! Yet, it was a fair exchange because he left my wife’s cell number. I was mad, and the boy had awoke!
Having the boy awake, I had to get myself calmed down. We walked to Queen Station, and finally caught up with my wife. I informed her of what transpired. To which she replied that a nice police officer called her to explain what happened…
Drum roll… The Police received a call regarding a “drunk” with a baby in a stroller!
Remember my tired stagger? Remember my swig of Coke Zero, easily misread as beer? It was conceivable that this person me, and I was imbibed! And, oh look, I have a child! Better apprehend the “drunk” to save the child!
Yet, I believe it had more to do with my walking in the construction site; someone most likely, from above or behind, hollered at me to get out of the site. But, Deaf am I; shouts, yells, whispers, hear not I.
So, the construction worker assumed the worst, and did their civic duty to protect a child from dangers of a “drunk”, picked up the phone, and passed the (non) problem onto the police, thereby making their lives easier, while screwing me over. Thank you kind sir! It would have been better if you solved the problem yourself by either closing the gate, or posting a worker at street level.
I did consider pushing human rights complaint, but let it drop due to having the police officer apologize. I know now that Toronto has a few cops who are ASL fluent, and are more understanding regarding those with disabilities!