It was 8:15 a.m. one day in June, and I was on my bike, heading to the office. I stopped at a red light, but as the perpendicular street was closed due to repairs and I was in a bit of a hurry (as always these days), I decided to overtake the waiting bikes and cross. A minute or two later, as a guy passed me on the left, he knocked his handlebars against mine. I managed to maintain my balance, but it completely jolted me. At the next stop, I approached the cyclist and asked him whether it had been an accident or his gesture had been intentional. He replied in an aggressive tone, “And you, did you intentionally go through the fucking red light?”

On another morning, I was parallel parking in front of the construction site of a massive office tower. Moments after I barely touched an orange cone that served as a parking marker for the workers there, a guy walked up to my car and knocked hard on my window. “Can I help you?” I asked. He yelled a string of curse words followed by “Didn’t you see the orange cone, idiot?”

One weekday afternoon, there were a lot of people in front of my house dealing with trees that had fallen during a storm: people from the city’s public works, people from Hydro-Québec, people from a company that was mandated by Hydro-Québec to prune the branches that were touching the electrical wires. I was watching this circus from my front balcony when one of the guys came over to take a pee on the side of my house. “Excuse me, what are you doing?” I asked him. “Ha ha, just a little pee, ma’am,” he replied. “Sorry, but could you go to the café at the corner of the street or use the porta-potty right there outside the neighbour’s house?” I asked. “Snobby bitch!” he shouted at me.

In the days that followed, the public works people came to pick up some of the debris on my front lawn. I asked politely if the remaining branches would also be recovered eventually. “Ha, well, that we’ll have to see, my little madam!” a guy from the city replied. A few minutes later, my male neighbour—who also had fallen branches on his property—came out and asked the man the same question. He replied—in front of me—“We should have it all cleared by the end of the week.”

When I told these stories to my female co-workers, they all said they’d had similar experiences: one in a garage, one while renovating her apartment, one at the notary’s office (he addressed only her boyfriend when she was the one who was actually buying the property) and on and on. So my question for you is this: Would the interactions I experienced have been the same if I were a man?

I await your answers at @sophiebanford. Looking forward to hearing from you.

Mario Sorrenti

The September 2022 issue of ELLE Canada is available on newsstands now, in print and digitally.

Read more:
A Note From Our Publisher, Sophie Banford
A Note From Our Publisher, Sophie Banford
What the ELLE Canada Team Is Wishing for in 2022