Thursday, January 14, 2010

TTC vs. The Hobo

Last night I saw the classic David vs. Goliath story play out in front of me on the streetcar. I do enjoy good public theater, but this incident made me sad.

It was late at night, and I was riding the street car home from a seminar, when a man of limited means tried to get a ride. He put some money in the toll box and began to make his way down the aisle when the TTC driver called him back. Yelled was more like it. The driver accused the man of not putting enough money in the toll box, and before the man could get a chance to explain himself, the driver started yelling in his face about common courtesy. The driver's issue was that if the homeless man had made a point of telling the TTC driver that he didn't have enough to cover the fare, and then had asked permission to ride the streetcar, the driver would not have cared, but since the man only paid what he could WITHOUT notifying the driver, the driver was inclined to kick him off the streetcar for not having "common courtesy".

There was a 14 year-old kid standing in line behind the homeless man and he spoke up. "How much does he owe?" the kid asked, gesturing to the man. "I'll cover the difference." As soon as this kid made the fare look like not a big deal, the TTC driver backed off, he even looked embarrassed. The homeless man went to sit in the back and the streetcar continued its ride. But where before there was chatter between fellow passengers and friends, silence fell... it seemed like everyone was lost in thought over what they had just seen.

At the time I wasn't sure how I should act in this situation: get involved or stay out of it? I chose to stay out of it, but now regret my decision. I wish I had stood up and told the TTC driver he was being a hypocrite. How dare he lecture this man about "common courtesy" when he wasn't willing to do the same. If you're going to preach you might as well practice your own word. I would have also declared that I didn't realize the TTC was so hard up! They must need the money pretty bad if they're willing to harass patrons over a couple of cents. Maybe their lack of funds explains their horrible service and poorly kept stations. I would also have said that this city has turned into a sad place when we're not willing to let a couple cents slide on a night as cold as it was. I'm sure this homeless man would have chosen to walk if he knew he was going to be lectured, branded and embarrassed if he tried to get a ride.

I've had my problems with the TTC in the past, but I've never made a fuss. Last night pushed me to my brink, so from now on, when I have a problem with the TTC I'm going to stand up and say so. Please do the same. Nothing is going to change if we don't make it clear to this large commission that their bad attitudes, poor service and expensive fare's are not appreciated.

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