COLUMN: Downtown on uneasy street

On the drive home, I took extra comfort in the fact we live in Sooke.

By Rick Stiebel

The bride and I made one of our handful of trips a year into the big city recently to get the car serviced, which translates into me passing time outside a dozen thrift stores and shops while she hunts down that rare bargain that escaped her grasp in Sooke.

I was standing outside Russell Books on Fort Street near the heart of the downtown core on this particular sun-soaked Saturday morning, just another face in the blurring bustle of people of all ages going about whatever it is they were up to. Shoppers with bags already in hand or slung across their shoulders, people enjoying a coffee and pastry on the collection of brightly coloured building-block configurations that pass as downtown picnic tables where parking spaces used to be, and parents making their way wherever with collections of kidlets in tow.

There was one fellow right outside the store secretively nursing a beer that he kept out of sight under his jacket between guzzles occassionally greeting a portion of the passers he was familiar with a friendly hello.

He was seated on the sidewalk beside a bicycle that was probably worth more than my car, and mentioned to someone who asked about it that he was watching it for a friend.

The peaceful, laid back but active vibe that permeated the area felt like something right out of a tourist infomercial; welcome to our friendly downtown.

Unfortunately for everyone within a one-block radius,  any warm and fuzzies they were feeling were flushed down the sewer in a river of rage when the owner of the bicycle returned.

The level of agitation was visibly palpable in his demeanour and body language before he even opened his mouth. After reaching into the back pack on his bike for a beer, he launched into a high decibel tirade of f-bombs peppered with other vulgar words, creating new profanities with each angry utterance that targeted every gender, race, lifestyle and -with apologies to our American neighbours, nationality.

It seems he was upset with the service at a nearby financial institution and wanted everyone within shout shot to foment in his wrath.

At one point he yanked out his wallet and waved six crisp hundred dollar bills around like a knife between curses. That added a level of confusion for frozen onlookers because it would seem he had been successful with whatever transaction had triggered his tirade.

Those finishing their fresh-baked treats and sandwiches couldn’t get the last bite down fast enough while those blindsided by the outburst tried to race past him without making eye contact.

I was forced to watch this for a few excruciatingly long minutes before my wife finally exited the bookstore. As we hurried across the street at a pace that would shame speed walkers, he kicked it up a noticeable notch, the profanities only fading as the distance between us and Mr. Mayhem increased.

I found myself wondering how long the disruption continued, if the police responded, or simply filed it under nothing out of the ordinary on a weekend day downtown.

On the drive home, I took extra comfort in the fact we live in Sooke. I couldn’t imagine that scene unfolding in our little burg without some sort of immediate police presence, which reinforced in a roundabout way why our trips into Victoria will remain few and far between.

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Rick Stiebel is a Sooke resident and semi-retired journalist.