Friday, July 8, 2011

It's "Be Nice to the TTC Driver" Day!

On Monday there was some kind of spat on the Bathurst streetcar. According to the National Post (written by Kelly McParland) the "conflict" began when:

"passengers were kept waiting on a hot summer evening for a streetcar that didn’t arrive. Estimates of the wait vary — somewhere between half an hour and 40 minutes. It was rush hour and people wanted to get home. When the car finally arrived, the driver further aggravated the crowd by hopping off for a short break. A middle-aged woman said something and the driver said something back. “I don’t like your attitude and you are not getting into my car,” the woman (who now has a lawyer) says she was told.

She ignored the command and got on the car. The driver ordered her off. She refused. The crowd sided with her and the driver got his back up — one passenger claimed he was “out of his mind.” The driver called a supervisor,who.. tried to settle things down, insisting the woman leave the car."

It goes on to say that all of the passengers agreed with the woman and that one of them started videotaping the situation, the supervisor grabbed the camera, a passenger tackled them, the police were called, blah blah blah blah.

The bullshitty thing about this article is that it makes it sound like the passengers were kept waiting on purpose in deadly heat. It also makes it sound like the driver is responsible for the lateness of the street car, that he purposefully aggravated the situation by taking his break, and that he was not justified in asking the woman to not board the street car. Finally, this article is ALL based on hearsay from "witnesses" and the woman who started the whole thing by being kind of a bitch.

Ooooh, it was "hot" out. People wanted to "get home." We live in TORONTO. It's not that goddamned hot here, we have crapp TTC, I'm guessing it was rush hour(so people should expect delays- this is the biggest city in the country and you are ALL going home from work at the same time), and it's summer time in the city so chill out.

I hate late TTC as much as the next person. When I lived at Christie and Dupont and took the Dupont bus to Spadina station, it was late every single day. Every. Single. Day. I also commute to York frequently and I don't even need to explain that.

It's incredibly frustrating on some days, some days you're not so cranky so it doesn't bother you as much, and some days you are proactive and plan for it or you just walk. Bring a book, listen to your ipod, do some squats. If you want transit that is always on time, move to Germany.

That being said, I have never, EVER taken out my own frustration on a TTC driver. As someone who has worked in retail, in the service industry, and as a Teaching Assistant I understand that people's frustration often lands on the first person they come into contact with.

Had a bad day? Waited forever for a table? Your coffee isn't as hot as it should be? Well, I guess you asking me if I'm "retarded" is fine! Sure, go right ahead and snap your fingers at me from across a crowded restaurant, then leave me a fifty cent tip.

Or, don't. How about for five seconds you stop, take a deep breath, and recognize how entitled and rude your behaviour is and how disgusting it is to take out your problems out on somebody who is doing their job and who has nothing to do with your crankiness. How about this little thing called "respect"? Or "basic, human dignity"?

It SUCKS having to wait 40 minutes for a street car. It blows beyond belief. But guess what also sucks? Driving in heavy traffic, in a vehicle STUCK ON TRACKS. Streetcars are literally stuck on tracks, people. That means you can't pass or take detours, you are at the mercy of traffic. This "clash" happened on the Bathurst Streetcar. Uhhh... the Bathurst streetcar is a mess. It doesn't have a dedicated lane, the traffic moves slower than molasses, and here are a billion traffic lights. Any time I have ever taken the Bathurst streetcar I've been late. It's not the driver's fault, it's that there isn't proper transit infrastructure that prioritizes their movement through traffic.

Street car and bus drivers don't just say to themselves "I know what will be awesome, making my passengers wait 40 minutes for me!" No. They understand that every minute they are late, somebody is waiting to screech at them for it and be rude to them. Some people spit on them, or hit them.

A TTC employee is assaulted in some way or another almost every day, that's why there's a zero tolerance on the TTC for behaviour that is in any way abusive. They have to be able to set boundaries and ground rules on the vehicles they drive, because it's the only way they can feel safe doing their job and also the only way the TTC can actually stay safe. The driver is the authority on the bus, and when you have an authority figure that noone respects? CHAOS!

You know who else boundaries protect? Passengers! I can't even count how many times I've been on the TTC and watched the driver kick someone off for doing something dangerous or threatening people. And every, single time that's happened I've breathed a sigh of relief that I didn't have to be the one dealing with that person and now I can enjoy the rest of my ride home without some crazy man screaming in my ear that he's going to kill me.

According to the Toronto Star's "coverage" of this particular news item, the woman in question "recalls" just politely asking the driver why he was late. Oh really? I have this sneaking suspicion that asking the driver a polite question doesn't get you tossed from the street car. The Star and the NatPo have also very selectively chosen their witnesses. According to our own sources, there were just as many people yelling at the woman to get off the streetcar and allow it to move as there were "defending her" and taking a stand against the evil driver.

I tend to believe that people were yelling at her to get off the street car. The majority of rush hour riders really do just want to get home, and they don't need any more stress than they've experienced during the day. I've never been in a situation where other passengers were like "hell yeah I'll wait here all day for this lady's right to be rude to the driver!" No. Generally, other passengers are uncomfortable with rude people and will eventually start yelling at the person to disembark.

In any case, it doesn't matter what she said because it's the drivers right to kick her off. It's like being at the airport-- they can bar you from getting on the plane for a lot of different reasons, and most of us think that's probably for the best. Like, I'm more comfortable if that super drunk dude who keeps staring at the children DOESN'T get on the plane. Or, in a bar--if you're being unruly they can toss you out, and most of us other patrons generally think this is also for the best because it helps us enjoy our evening and makes us feel safer. So, why is the TTC any different? Because the Toronto Star and National Post love to attack Unionized workers? Because they'll do anything to turn a little thing into a big news story that they don't actually have to do any real reporting on?

I just feel like TTC workers get a really shitty deal. All of this over a short break?? For all we know, this driver really had to pee. Maybe he hadn't had his break yet, and maybe he was stuck in traffic a really long time. Would we prefer that he pee in a jar whilst driving? If a driver peed in a jar, heaven knows someone would complain. They just can't win. Maybe the driver is diabetic and needed to eat something really quickly. Maybe he had a kidney stone. Maybe he has a urinary tract infection. Maybe he had diarrhea. There are a lot of really great reasons why it is mandatory that we get breaks during our work day. We don't expect Admin Assistants to sit at their desk all day without peeing or eating, so why should we expect the same of our TTC drivers? Sure, they aren't perfect but neither are you and neither am I and we are still entitled to breaks at work.

So how about this: next time the street car is late and your driver hops off to do whatever it is that he is legally entitled to do, just smile. Say hi. Ask if it's been a busy day. Lots of traffic today? It is actually amazing how much that kind of behaviour can alter the atmosphere on the TTC. Being rude to anyone while they are at work ruins their day. It ruins my day, it ruins your day, and it ruins the TTC driver's day as well.

If you have to vent your frustration then call your City Councillor or, better yet, call the Mayor. Tell them that the TTC infrastructure is not conducive to fast and efficient transit in this city. Tell them that you are frustrated with the thought of another fare increase when service is no better than it was last year, or the year before. You're waiting 40 minutes , it's making you cranky and frustrated -- so pick up your cell phone that you're texting angrily on and call the Office of the TTC Chair. Put your frustration to good use, instead of just being the prick who ruined somebody's day for no good reason.

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