Christina David was so excited when she procured a ptarmigan—a delicacy from her homelands up north—that she couldn’t wait to start preparing it. Without thinking twice, the Inuit woman leaned over and started plucking it.
Trouble was, she was on a Montreal subway, and the culture clash was immediate. Fellow riders moved away, some gagging, from the looks of a video that a passenger shot—from the far end of the car.
Said video went viral on YouTube, given that its original headline, “Une femme déplume et mange un oiseau mort dans le métro de Montréal,” somehow got turned into “Woman Plucks, Eats Raw Bird on Montreal Subway” by the likes of the Toronto Sun. National and then worldwide media followed suit. Montreal transit police investigated.
“Police say a woman could face charges of disturbing the peace for plucking and eating a raw bird on the Metro, though they are not ruling out that she could have a mental illness,” noted CBC News in a caption on its initial story.
The incident happened on July 1, a day after National Aboriginal Awareness Month ended. David surfaced on social media a few days later, and the Nunatsiaq News in Nunavut picked it up.
It turned out that far from being off her rocker, David was merely acting in concert with her cultural norms. She grew up in Wakeham Bay and Kuujjuaq, Nunavik, in northern Quebec—12,000 people live there, about 90 percent of them Inuit, reported the news and culture site Vice, which interviewed the woman who “has become an unlikely spokesperson for Inuit culture and traditions.”
“I didn’t really care who was watching or where I was, actually,” David told Vice. “I saw my aunt that day, and my aunt gave me some of my country food—ptarmigan—and I was so excited I just wanted to prepare it before I got home. So I was preparing it inside a plastic bag. And I wasn’t eating it!”
The mass freakout that accompanied her act seems due to more than just the spectacle of someone doing something out-of-context on public transport. After all, as the NYC news site Gawker pointed out, plenty goes on in the underground, from nail-clipping to eating odiferous food, among other noxious activities. And presumably the Montreal metro car was not full of vegetarians.
But people did not hesitate to condemn David for her action. Indeed, she was facing the possibility of charges of disturbing the peace before the culture-clash element came to light.
“She was eating a raw bird inside the train, and there’s people that were disgusted by this incident,” said Montreal Police Constable Manuel Couture to CBC News.
"I didn't know that it was going to affect any other people like that because in my culture it's completely normal," David told CBC News.
“It's not like we get to eat our country food everyday,” David noted in her Facebook comment, according to CBC News's translation from the French. “I was so happy that I didn't care where I was at the moment, but all I have to say is that I ain't crazy.”
Does this activity look like the behavior of a crazy person? Judge for yourself, below.