Commentary | Little woman, big Montreal

Learning the martial art of navigating streets

One brisk September day, I’m walking down the street – on the sidewalk, mind you – when this car drives up to me, bumps into me, and then honks at me. There’s always something hurtful about being honked at, whether the honking is deserved or not. That honker shredded my self-esteem as a pedestrian. And then I wondered: Is Montreal full of bad drivers, or am I just an awful pedestrian? I always wait for the light to turn green. I admit, I don’t think I fully understand who exactly has the right of way when the light is green, me or that angry cab driver, but I go with the pedestrian flow. Besides, I’ve never heard of anyone getting fined for crossing on a red light…. Killed maybe, but not fined.

So, I’m continuing my leisurely walk when I come across a pigeon. To avoid collision I veer left, it veers left; I veer right, it veers right, and I think to myself, if this were a movie we’d be on a date in the next scene. Since when does a pigeon have the right of way? I know I’m a freshwoman, but I must have more guts than a pigeon. So I walk forth, claim my path, and Monsieur Pigeon starts flapping straight toward my face and I’m running down the street – the middle of it, mind you – arms flinging while brakes are squealing, feathers falling, children bawling. It was at that moment, standing next to Monsieur Pigeon’s remnants splattered along Sherbrooke O. (I believe anywhere between the Museum of Fine Arts and the Ritz-Carlton is a dignified place for a pigeon to die) that I felt some greater force in this city rejecting me – telling me I don’t belong here. What is a true Montrealer anyway? Probably not a traffic disturbing pigeon murderer…. But there must be something that makes you fit in here. It’s most likely just a matter of claiming your turf.

When I was in Israel this past winter, it didn’t take me long to realize I had to be just as ruthless and rude as the locals if I wanted to catch that bus back to Be’er Sheva on time. I had to stand my ground amidst all those soldiers-to-be with their intimidating guns hanging by their sides. Yeah, so okay, I had to make a few babies cry and shove a few old ladies to the side. Sounds cruel, I bet, but when you’ve just missed two consecutive buses standing inches away from the door, you have to step up your game. Enough with good-intentioned Canadian sympathy.

I’m sure Montreal demands the same kind of toughness from its citizens. I must no longer be the innocent out-of-towner. I am Pedestrian, come what may, be there dead pigeons and honking cabbies, I have the right of way.

Zoë Toupin is a U1 student. Write her at

Comments posted on The McGill Daily's website must abide by our comments policy.
A change in our comments policy was enacted on January 23, 2017, closing the comments section of non-editorial posts. Find out more about this change here.