So I saw a woman take her clothes off on the subway.

Coming home one evening, I neglected to catch up on my backlog of reading, and instead allowed my tired eyes to wander. You know when your eyes just kind of glaze over someone, without really looking at them?

My gaze fell on a totally normal-looking woman, crunched up in a ball on her seat. White, short brown hair, jeans, light jacket—nothing extraordinary. But she managed to maintain my gaze by angrily staring back at me with bugged-out eyes, as if daring me to stare back.

I thought little of it—the slightly deranged abound on the transit system. I went back to idle musing. A few minutes passed.

Then I heard the woman say, to the car at large, “What would you do if I took off my shirt?” She didn’t yell or scream, she just asked.

Nobody responded. No one told her to quiet down, no one even shouted “TAKE IT OFF!!!” as I expected someone would. Everybody just assumed the subway pose—deadpan ignorance of anything beyond a foot around you.

A few more minutes passed. After receiving no response to her offer, she decided to take the matter further, apparently to find out what people really would do. She stood up and put her purse and coat on the seat beside her. She then, methodically and calmly, removed her sweater, her T-shirt, and lastly her flesh-toned full-stretch-coverage bra (also known as Granny Bras). She then sat back down, her somewhat saggy breasts quivering with the motion of the car, her shiny, flaccid nipples growing increasingly taut.

And still, no one did anything. A few people smirked to themselves. I exchanged bemused glances with a few passengers. An elderly Chinese gentleman sitting directly across from her seemed totally oblivious to her presence. The two young boys next to me giggled a little, but didn’t look too shocked. Their mother, who was clad in a burka, made no attempt to shield their eyes, and merely smiled to herself.

I glanced back at the woman. She looked rather composed and, I might surmise, a little cold. She stood up decisively and gathered her belongings. She disembarked at Yonge and Bloor with her clothing over one arm and her purse on the other, striding confidently through the crowds. A few people in the incoming crowd laughed, but still, no one did anything. No nipple-twisting, no flab-grabbing, no taunts, no insults, no pleas for decency. It was all very, well, Canadian. Polite, understated, peaceful. I feel a bit proud, I admit, to know I live in a nation of people who, when feet from a naked lady, can resist the urge to give her shiny nipples a twist (I myself only just managed to avoid succumbing to that temptation).

I entertain the notion that she was a secretary gone mad, desperate for adventure and attention in an all-too-routine and bland life. But really, considering the absence of any shock or action of the part of everyone else, was what she did really so extraordinary?

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