On the way back from Fubar II, we passed a guy kneeling next to a wheelchair, wearing an alien mask. I noticed him but thought nothing more beyond just another panhandler with a gimmick. He picked up a small plastic gas container and poured it over himself. I guess I am so jaded by city living that my reaction was to keep on moving until the people I was with said that it was gasoline and we should call 911. He then walked over to a phone booth, grabbed a sledge hammer and walked across the street (Sherbrooke) to the Loto-Quebec building. I got my phone turned on (ironically, I was the only person of a party of 5 with a working cell phone) and called 911 and told them what I saw. The guy on the other end of the line seriously asked me to describe him. I said "dude, he's covered in gasoline and wearing an alien mask, what more do I need to tell you!" This was after I had given the specific address and there was a crowd of people gathering. During the call, the guy had smashed the glass doors of the Loto-Quebec building and was waiting with the sledge hammer cocked above his head outside the door. The cops came in about 3 or 4 minutes, but it still seemed a bit too long considering we were right downtown. That's the second time I've had attitude from people manning the 911 booth here.
More and more cops came (as one of the people I was with remarked, the cops are quite good at swarming into situations) and eventually they took the guy down, first with the taser and then throwing him down. They demasked him and brought him to one of the cop cars, where they wiped the gasoline off him and treated a cut on his shoulder (I guess from the broken glass he fell into). We stuck around until they put him in the ambulance. A thin guy with a close-cropped head and beard, maybe in his early 30s. On the way home, I got a call back from "station 20" and they asked me exactly what I saw. When I asked them what his deal was they said they didn't know "he's not speaking at all".
I have to say, I've seen a lot of crazy behaviour in my time, but that may well be on the top of my list. It seemed all so well planned, with the wheelchair, the gasoline, the sledgehammer set up in the phone booth, the waiting by the Loto-Quebec building door, but all so useless at the same time. What was his goal? I've seen true madness and there usually is some kind of internal logic that drives the thinking. But there is also usually some kind of external extreme behaviour, often of a performative nature, that helps you identify it as craziness. This guy was so cold and methodical that I didn't even register that he had just poured gasoline on himself.
Oh yeah, a nice coda to the scene was the guy who came up after it was all pretty much over and taped off who started screaming about Montreal corruption, how it was all going down and the damn frogs. Like insanity flies to the crazy light. That's more what I'm used to.