The pregnant woman wobbled across the basketball court, trailing after her toddler who was pulling his toy train along the wooden floor. “Watch out for the balls, you idiots,” I nearly screamed from my perch on the treadmill overlooking the court below.
At first, the pick•up ball players stopped and let the kid pass; they fidgeted when Mum followed, dragging her sandaled feet in her son’s wake. Then the basketball was released impatiently, and it bounced over the little guy’s head. The roar of the players returned as the game resumed. Very soon players were dodging in, out and around the pregnant woman and her child. Mother and son were blissfully unaware of the danger; perhaps they thought that they were in a park all by themselves – after all, no•one would willingly hit them, would they?
No one did, thank God! Directing growls and hisses at the jaywalkers, the basketball players—after all, this is Canada—respectfully manoeuvred around them and played a haphazard game.
Mum and son eventually made it to the sidelines at the other end, at the son’s pace, after he made sure that the toy train could execute every turn and reverse that he could it put it through. Mum followed. I think her pre•occupation must have been, “Let him do it. He’s got to do this on his own and learn from it.”
The only bag of nerves witnessing this scene was I, running even faster on the treadmill to calm my nerves and keep ahead of the image of a player trampling the little boy, or worse yet, throwing a ball accidentally on the woman’s swollen belly.
Why do people in this country feel so safe? Are they safe? Well, Pregnant Mum & Son were saved this time because the players (the opposition) cared and took reluctant precautions. But that does not happen everywhere and all the time, does it? Is that why teenagers disappear into strangers’ cars that offer “a ride”, or they overdose on lethal drugs on the assumption that they can always return safely to base, or tourists suffer diarrhoea because eating food at an open night stand in a foreign country must be no different from eating a hot dog from a vendor by the CN Tower, no? No.
When I was growing up, another world away, we drove on the road expecting every other driver to be unlicensed and drunk (many were); we walked down alleyways psyched to run when the first shadow moved; we boiled, and strained drinking water that came from municipally purified reservoirs; we shut our doors at night and kept garden lights lit to prevent intruders from breaking in. Not a nice way to live but we survived.
As I see our planet becoming less certain and more unsafe, where armies are no longer conventional but mingle among civilians to drop bombs in public places, I wondered if that kid on the basketball court was being adequately prepared to take his place in this world?