So you think you’re pretty fucking smart…

After making breakfast in bed with for Catherine on Mother’s Day, I headed over to Beanz to grab breakfast myself before heading into the office to get a little work done. I ordered my customary cappuccino and toasted bagel and sat down to read Saturday’s Globe and Mail along the front counter looking out over Queen Street.

Before I had a chance to take a sip of my coffee, someone — I won’t name them here because it might only serve to make a bad situation worse — came up behind me, said hello, and then asked me about something I’d posted here about them on my weblog. I attempted to explain my reasons for making the post, but before I could finish they responded by saying “so you think you’re pretty fucking smart” and then took a swing at the full cup of coffee in my hand, spilling it across the counter and over my newspaper and breakfast.

Without another word they went out the front door and sped off in their car.

The Criminal Code of Canada says that “assault,” among other things, happens when someone:

…attempts or threatens, by an act or a gesture, to apply force to another person, if he has, or causes that other person to believe on reasonable grounds that he has, present ability to effect his purpose

By that definition, I think I was assaulted this morning. I wasn’t injured, at least not physically, and certainly my assault pales in comparison to the kinds of things that others suffer every day. But violence is violence, it it ain’t fun no matter the degree.

After taking an hour to settle down — the kind folks at Beanz who witnessed the incident and helped me mop up the coffee gave me another cappuccino on the house — I decided it was important to report the incident to the police. I didn’t want to have this person charged with a crime, but I wanted their actions on the record. I called the Charlottetown City Police and they took my details and promised to have someone call me back.

About 30 minutes later I got a call from an officer. I explained the details of the incident, tried to give a little bit of the context, and asked them what they suggested. They told me they would go and talk to the person in question to explain that their actions were “an inappropriate response.”

I suppose this morning serves to refute, at least a little, my suggestion that, when it comes to Prince Edward Islanders:

…for the most part, things work out: Islanders have a way of relating to each other that allows people of wildly divergent political, religious or philosophical views to, well, joke with each other.

Certainly I’ve written some things that have been critical of my assailant in this space. But, going back now through the archives, I think my comments have always been fair. Forthright, perhaps. Rhetorical. But fair.

Which, of course, is completely beside the point. Even if my comments hadn’t been fair, the “appropriate response” to words is not violence. Indeed, as it says here:

In Canada, a criminal act is seen as a crime against all of Canadian society, since all people have an interest in seeing that the rule of law is upheld. Therefore, an individual who has been the victim of a crime does not have to handle the charge against the wrongdoer.

In other words, when someone gets angry about something that’s written about them and responds by assaulting the writer, they’re working to erode freedom of expression for all of us.

And of course it’s working already: why am I really not giving you the name of the person who took a swipe at me this morning? Because I’m afraid that if I do they’ll only get angrier, and the next time I meet them instead of spilling my coffee they’ll throw a punch. And that’s too bad.

Comments

Jevon's picture
Jevon on May 13, 2007 - 16:19

Peter, this is terrible. Something like that would be really scary to go through.

You have thousands of people glued to ruk.ca every day because you are the best and most compelling writer on PEI. You are always fair, if you weren’t, we wouldn’t all be here every day.

I am glad you reported it to the police, it was the right thing to do.

I do think this fully cements your local-celebrity status though. I mean, this could be Compass material! ;)

Steven Garrity's picture
Steven Garrity on May 13, 2007 - 17:05

Wow — I can imagine how unnerving this must be. Who does that kind thing!? (rhetorical question)

Knowing you relatively well, I can attest to the fact that you actually *are* pretty fucking smart. I too think you did the right thing in contacting the police. People don’t have the right to intimidate like that, no matter what the means.

It’s actually quite sad.

Rob Paterson's picture
Rob Paterson on May 13, 2007 - 17:15

Hey Peter — big hug on its way to you
The word “wanker” for your assailant comes to mind
All the best
Rob

Daniel Burka's picture
Daniel Burka on May 13, 2007 - 18:13

I’ll second the wanker comment Rob made. It’ll be curious to see if the cops _actually_ talk to the guy or not. Take care.

Ken's picture
Ken on May 13, 2007 - 19:56

Get a restraining order.

island_journalist's picture
island_journalist on May 13, 2007 - 20:14

Peter,

As one who tunes into your blog every day not only for the interesting little human interest things you write about, but also for the hard news items you often feature, I’m very sorry this has happened to you. Please don’t stop keeping us up to date on all things Island. We need you!

Cyn's picture
Cyn on May 13, 2007 - 22:13

Sorry to hear this Peter. If it’s of any solace, I concur with Steven.

Matthew's picture
Matthew on May 14, 2007 - 00:24

‘Dido’ to the above comments,

Peter — keep up the excellent work; I enjoy reading your blog every day.

Stan Rogers's picture
Stan Rogers on May 14, 2007 - 00:36

I am another daily reader who is sorry to hear about your unfortunate incident. I recommend buying 2 or 3 dozens eggs this week so they will be ready to toss on Halloween night.

Andrew MacPherson's picture
Andrew MacPherson on May 14, 2007 - 01:39

Look at it this way — you obviously got to him. That probably what you is at least in part what you intended to do. Unfortunately some people are unable to to respond as effectively (wankers usually).

Chuck McKinnon's picture
Chuck McKinnon on May 14, 2007 - 06:12

I’ve been the victim of uninvited aggression before, and it’s certainly no fun. Worse than the specific incident are the lurid imaginings about what the other person might have done or might yet do in future. I’m sorry this happened to you and agree with the others here that you did the right thing to report it.

oliver's picture
oliver on May 14, 2007 - 17:44

I think that would have shaken me for half a day. Your post was upsetting to read but seems like an excellent response to me, along with your statement to the police—and I imagine probably both took a lot of courage and reflection. I hope your aggressor has inebriation or something less than ever-present about him to explain this outburst and guard against the next. I think it’s worth mentioning that a wantonly flailed 6-12 ounces of steaming coffee can seriously harm or even maim (if it hit a toddler in the face?). I’d prefer to think the assault wasn’t wantonness so much as carefully executed thuggery, because somebody actually passionate and violent is dangerous even if their ambitions to harm are humble.

Alan's picture
Alan on May 14, 2007 - 20:22

You did the right thing calling the cops. As you have not named the person you should continue to give your opinions on the person as fully as before. As the police have the person’s name, further similar action by him would be worth a charge of assault and maybe also harrassment. Also, if he were to verbally come at you, he might be facing uttering a threat which should be taken seriously given his obvious comfort with using his temper to get his way. And don’t worry about this reflecting on your PEI — there are arsehole everywhere.

David Crow's picture
David Crow on May 14, 2007 - 22:34

Peter this is horrible. People deserve better than this, you deserve better than this. Keep doing what you think is right!

Stephanie's picture
Stephanie on May 15, 2007 - 02:02

Sorry, dude. You obviously struck a raw nerve.
And what an intellectual giant this person must be, someone unable to “use his words,” as the preschool teachers say.
Instead, he kicked sand in your face. Just like high school, eh?
Seriously, reporters go through this crap all the time.
And sometimes, the friction is with cops, or elected officials.
I could tell you stories that would make your hair curl.
Stick to your guns, but try to stay off this Neanderthal

art's picture
art on May 15, 2007 - 02:20

Isaac Asimov said that violence is the last refuge of the incompetent. If you had not described the aggressor’s departure in a car, I would have fully expected him to have scurried up a tree and flung dung for the rest of the day with the other pathetic examples of the slow pace of evolution. Incidents like this should always be reported, this individual obviously has a short fuse and one can only imagine his behavior with those who have the joy of spending extended time in his presence.

Rob Paterson's picture
Rob Paterson on May 17, 2007 - 01:27

I wonder — the web will make it more difficult for people and organizations to behave badly. Before the blogosphere, they could get away with it. Now when a person Google’s a name, how they behave pops up. The worse they behave, as in this case, the greater the cost to them.

It’s not fucking smart to be an asshole. Good for you Peter — then and now

Andy Capp's picture
Andy Capp on May 19, 2007 - 20:50

So who was it? Someone with a lot more money than the average citizen or a down and out type? Psychopathic or completely rational? The suspense, the suspense.

Maybe revealing the assaulter will sway the election?

Kevin's picture
Kevin on May 25, 2007 - 13:38

Anyone can lose control of their anger occasionally, it’s just part of being human. If there’s an apology then one ought to consider the incident an unfortunate moment for an otherwise decent fellow and move on. I’ve made worse mistakes than this and I’m sorry for every one of them (and have done my best to say so when I realize it).

If no apology is offered then perhaps he considers this acceptable behaviour. In that case one has some considerable basis for considering him an jerk. It was a stupid thing to do — there are many who’d go all “old school” if they felt personally threatened (that’s the school I went to).

I for one, unless there is a sincere apology offered, will never again place my reputation on the line in his defense as I (frequently) have when I hear people rip a strip off his ass. And I’m eating a little crow; many of the comments I’ve dismissed would have predicted this type of thing.

Anyway, it must have been quite a moment for you Pete, but ultimately people let people down all the time and it’s no big deal really. I guess I feel let down. But, ultimately I’m not (nor are you) the one diminished.

Craig Willson's picture
Craig Willson on May 25, 2007 - 18:56

Kevin has said “it’s just part of being human. If there’s an apology then one ought to consider the incident an unfortunate moment for an otherwise decent fellow and move on. I’ve made worse mistakes than this and I’m sorry for every one of them (and have done my best to say so when I realize it).”

….and he is right.

I have made mistakes too, and Kevin was at the receiving end of one. While he may still think me a jerk (I can live with that), he had the good grace to accept my apology for what it was — a sincere acknowledgment of being out of line.

When one choses to embarrass someone to the public (even when the party deserved it), there is always risk that the embarrassed party will respond the only way they know. Not everyone knows or understands the world in which Peter operates.

Ton Zijlstra's picture
Ton Zijlstra on June 28, 2007 - 20:57

Actually I do think you’re pretty fucking smart :)

Sorry to hear this story, Peter. I think you’re pretty decent about it all.

Justin's picture
Justin on June 28, 2007 - 22:02

Hi, Peter

I did catch Q last night. Actually the content about you woke me… and I figured to see this thread. I took a scan of a few posts to see if my opinion was already posted. Kevin posted much of my opinion.

Here’s 2 more cents:

The situation spiralled of control more than one should expect after that original article. If he saw the photo on your blog then he had ample chance to post a “mea culpa”, instead he slapped youa cuppa.

I think you’ve made him vulnerable for the first time in nearly 20 years and he may have lost touch with that feeling. Your considerable notoriety has given you a power over him that perhaps of which even you are unaware.

Maybe he wasn’t even been angered by it at first, but had a rotten first hour of the day, ran across you, and lashed out just that once like most of us have done at least once in a lifetime. It sure is embarassing.

A good way for him to erase a lot of recent damage to his public image is to park an apology for what he did to you on your blog and admit his original faux pas. He can’t expect forgiveness if he doesn’t ask for it after all.

DerekMac's picture
DerekMac on July 1, 2007 - 15:08

I guess PEI needs fewer people like the coffee-slinger, and more like this Banks guy, who recently donated an undisclosed sum to preserve the Watterworth property at Basin Head, part of Nature Conservancy of Canada

bryce's picture
bryce on May 25, 2009 - 13:42

I make fun of someone online , they spill my coffee, and I act like it was assault?

Jonny's picture
Jonny on September 5, 2009 - 22:24

Doh, I thought this was an article caressing the egos of people who think they’re so fuckin’ smart. Like me, and I came to check-in for my daily ego-caressin’. Sorry about the spilled-coffee, why not make the best of a bad situation and sue McDonalds? (lol)

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