Usually, it is the media chasing The Snake. I never expected The Snake to chase me. Nor to fear for my safety in his presence.
I’ve been a reporter since a week after The Snake moved to town in 2010. On Tuesday morning, I learned that he had slithered onto a parcel of little-used land adjacent to his house. In a letter to the the city’s executive committee, he said he wanted the check out the land so that he could erect a “better” fence to prevent young people from trespassing on his property and to protect his children.
In his letter, The Snake said the land was a “vacant” parcel; a Go Station official told me it was actually a sliver of city-operated parkland that had mature trees. I decided that I needed to visit the GO Station to see what it actually looked like. I also wanted to see if The Snake’s home already had a fence. And I wanted to see where the land was actually located; the map was confusing.
(This isn’t a real story. I just changed some words in Daniel Dale’s account of his encounter with the Mayor of Toronto. The real story is here, and isn’t actually funny.)
I arrived sometime after 10 a.m.. I walked around the GO bridge toward The Snake’s property. I took note of the trees, then, standing perhaps 10 metres from his wooden backyard fence, emailed an additional two sentences to my editor at 10:03 a.m.. My phone died as I tried to snap photos of the trees and the fencing. I’m still not sure if the parcel I was standing on is the parcel The Snake is looking to acquire, but I can say this with certainty: I never came close to entering his backyard.
Moments after my phone died, The Snake appeared, wearing nothing, at the sole entrance and exit to the GO bridge; he had slithered around from the front of his house. He appeared extremely agitated.
“Hey buddy,” he hissed. “What are you doing? Are you spying on me? Are you spying on me? Are you spying on me?”
I shouted, astonished, that I was not – that I was writing about his attempt to buy land. He began to approach me at a brisk slither, asking again, at an escalating volume, if I was spying. I continued to plead that I was writing about the land.
At some point, perhaps 10 or 15 seconds into the encounter, he cocked his forked tongue near his head and began slithering at me at a full run. I began pleading with him, as loud as I could, with my hands up, for him to stop. I yelled, at the top of my lungs, something like, “Mr. The Snake, I’m writing about the land! I’m just looking at the land! You’re trying to buy the land!” Instinctually, I also reached into my pocket to grab my dead phone. I then fiddled with my voice recorder, trying fruitlessly to turn it on so that I would have a recording of any physical violence.
At some point, perhaps two metres away from me, The Snake did stop slithering toward me, but his face remained menacing, and he continued to cock his tongue and hiss. “Drop your phone!” he demanded, shouting louder than I have ever heard him. “Drop your phone! Drop your phone now!”
Every time I tried to sidestep him to escape, he slithered with me and yelled at me again to drop my phone. I became more frightened than I can remember; after two or three attempts to dart away, I threw my phone and my recorder down on the grass, yelled that he could take them, and ran.
When I reached the park’s parking lot, a fair distance away, I approached two young men who were sitting in a car, asking them to use their phone. The Snake, looking in our direction, continued to hiss, and I ran to my train and let it carry me away.