My girlfriend Sarah and I are walking home from a final evening together before parting ways for the holidays. She’s from British Columbia’s Okanagan region while I’m from the dry city of Ottawa. This isn’t the first time we’ve done this.
It’s 5AM in downtown Toronto and Sarah has just finished her final all-nighter of four in the same week. Ask her and you’ll quickly learn that’s not an unusual grind for a third-year fashion design student.
We cross Carlton Street where it intersects Jarvis with a higher sense of awareness than normal despite being beyond exhausted. There’s no one else around other than a man walking toward Wellesley. But it’s about to get a lot busier.
As we take to the north Carlton block to finish our walk to Sarah’s apartment, the sound of a deafening smash comes from behind us. We both whip around to see two cars sliding in different directions in a cloud of dust. A third vehicle crashes into a signal light pole just a split-second later. Shreds of plastic car parts roll within feet of us.
“That’ll require a 9/11,” I say, incoherently.
I pull out my phone, dial the three digits and get an operator. She asks what emergency services are needed. I tell her police and ambulance, and I’m connected to a second operator. She asks what’s happened.
“Yeah, there’s a pretty decent accident at the corner of Church–”
“Jarvis,” Sarah interrupts to correct.
“Sorry, yes — Jarvis and Carlton.”
We walk closer to the intersection after a sub-five-minute conversation that leaves me feeling a strange guilt for not knowing most of the answers to the operator’s questions.
A man who claims to be a cab driver is telling a colleague what he saw.
“I saw it,” he says. “He ran through the red light going like hund- very fast.”
We nod having missed the original impact.
“Maybe he stole the cab — he must’ve been drunk!” the cabbie exclaims, adding that the cab in question belongs to a rival agency.
His counterpart notices the person is no longer in the driver seat. A squad car arrives as the man continues his story.
“He got out and ran away,” he says, pointing East. “He went down the street.”
Sarah appears skeptical of what he’s saying. I concur.
On the East side of northbound Jarvis, a driver from one the vehicles involved kneels in the street.
“I don’t feel so good,” he mutters as he puts a cellphone to his ear. He has no obvious injuries.
Across the street, a group of people huddle around the driver door of the car that collided with the signal pole. It’s hard to tell if anyone is hurt there, but no one was is raising their voices. Smoke slowly escapes from the vehicle’s crumpled hood.
We wait around a little longer as an ambulance and fire truck show up to make sure we’re not needed for questioning.
“We didn’t really see it happen,” I say to Sarah. “We wouldn’t be much help.”
After a brief deliberation, we decide to retreat to her place.
Three hours later, we cross the intersection in the same direction we came. We’re going to breakfast before I catch an 11:30AM bus.
“Twenty seconds and we could’ve been right in the middle of it,” she says in mild disbelief as we walk toward Ryerson.
We sit down at the table inside a campus cafe ten minutes later. It’s not overly busy, but as we finish ordering, more start to file in.
“We beat the the rush,” I say.
“We always seem to — it’s weird,” Sarah points out in response.
“We’re always on time, baby.”