Transit Lullabye: TTC Blames Customers For Sleeping Employee

22 Jan

I’m not usually one to beat a dead horse, but this one just got up and kicked the people of this city in the collective junk, so I’m pulling out the Louisville Slugger to finish this fucker off once and for all.

This morning, a photo taken by TTC customer Jason Wieler (who has since become a personal hero of mine) went viral the world over.  In case you haven’t already seen it, here’s the picture:

This enrages me from the start.  Hot on the heels of a considerable and controversial fare hike, not to mention a fiscal year featuring an 18% rise in logged complaints (most of which dealt with rude employees) now we’ve got commuters snapping photos of TTC employees (who happen to be union members as well) sleeping on the job?  Bad enough this guy fills the role of a glorified, overpaid cashier who could probably be replaced by a machine, now we have to deal with the fact that the raise in fares is paying for him to catch some zees at ten o’clock at night in the least taxing job in the goddamn world?

Not on my fucking watch it doesn’t.

What shocked me to start with was the number of people coming to this guy’s defence.  Okay, I’ll concede that maybe he has a good reason to be tired – a comment I read on one of the myriad articles I’ve seen on this topic today suggested that perhaps he’s caring for a sick mother or the like.  Fine, I can sympathize with the fatigue that comes from those kinds of responsibilities.  You know what I do when I’m too tired to go to work?  I don’t go to work.  And I don’t even work a job that affords me paid sick days, which this guy does.

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t blame this particular employee for all the wrongdoings of his union and I’m not misdirecting my anger.  I am, however, paying his salary, and if you live in Toronto so are you, so why aren’t we all as angry as I am that he’s sleeping on our hard-earned dollar?  What would happen if you decided to sneak a nap in the stock room of your store, or more appropriately, at the counter of your Starbucks job in plain view of your customers?  You would be shit-canned so fast your head would spin.

Actually, I suppose that’s a bad analogy – it doesn’t make any sense to compare the rules of a union job with those of the real world.

Thanks to the wonders of the internet and Wieler’s quick thinking, the TTC can’t sweep this one under the rug and make it go away, and I wouldn’t think they’d want to – how many precious three-dollar fares did they lose thanks to this guy’s little “break”?  Given how hard-up for money they keep saying they are, you’d figure they would be ready to tar and feather this employee as a warning to the rest of them to stay the hell awake and collect that cash.  It’s not like they have any fucking thing else to do.

But no, despite their assertions to “launching an investigation” (the results of which, predictably, won’t be made public), the TTC issued this statement in response to today’s huge media backlash.  Normally I don’t post external content in its entirety, but you just have to read this:

“Whatever the outcome of the enquiry, it is very discouraging that the picture taker and, apparently, other customers, made no attempt to determine if there was anything wrong with this TTC employee. A simple knock on the glass might have determined if the Collector was, in fact, asleep, or whether he was unconscious as a result of some medical problem. The reports that passengers were laughing at him as they passed by the booth makes this even more disturbing.  The union will comment further at an appropriate time.”

This statement comes to us courtesy of union president Bob Kinnear, who wins this week’s Unmitigated Gall award for spinning the argument around and blaming his customers for his employee’s misconduct.

You know, I wasn’t even going to write about this when it was just the viral photo – it pissed me off, sure, but I didn’t want to wear you out, my loyal readers, with all my anti-TTC ranting.  But then I read that inexcusably pretentious rebuttal and my blood pressure rocketed heavenward.

Seriously Bob?  You’re going to turn around and tell me, despite the fact that my transit fees and my taxes pay for your whole operation and your employee decided to hit the hay on my dime, that somehow I should feel guilty because I didn’t stop to see if he was okay?  Have you completely taken leave of your senses, Bob?  “Unconscious as a result of some medical problem”?  I have several friends in the medical field, and according to them, shy of dying in your sleep, there are precious few medical conditions that manifest “unconsciousness” as “leaning back with your hands folded over your gut”.  That had to be it, Bob – he must have had an aneurism.  A comfy, comfy aneurism.  You dullard.  Nice haircut, by the way – The Fonz just called, though, and he wants it back when you’re done.

This employee is lucky it wasn’t me who found him.  After taking a picture – actually several pictures from several angles – I would have crept up to the little microphone thing, pulled in a nice deep breath, and screamed as loud as I could directly into the feed.  It might have been gratifying enough to see the guy soil himself in apoplectic panic that I might have considered deleting the incriminating photographs.  Maybe.  Or, contrarily, he could have died of a heart attack and then Bob Kinnear could try preaching from the mount about my responsibility as a private citizen to check and see if his comatose employees have a boo-boo.

How dare the TTC presume to do anything, anything other than immediately and in public view canning their narcoleptic collector and issuing a public apology to the people of this city?  I know it probably sounds like I’m overreacting, but I have had just about all I can take of union politics in this city.  I know exactly what’s going to happen here – the guy will get a token reprimand (something like a two week paid suspension – the adult equivalent of disciplining your child by telling him to go to his room, where he proceeds to play X Box and forget all about whatever he did wrong) and the whole thing will be quietly dropped.  He certainly won’t lose his job – he’s a good Union man, after all, and he’ll have the full support of that union if they did try to fire him.

And as far as Bob Kinnear’s clever little rhetorical device (almost Catholic in its cunning use of guilt), I can absolutely guarantee you just from looking at his pompous, puffed-up face that he’s the same guy who will call for a waiter’s termination if he doesn’t bring his fried duck’s tongue with exactly the right amount of caviar spooned out just the way he wants it.  Perhaps you forgot, Bob, all the way up their in your tower of righteousness, the cardinal rule of the service industry (and don’t kid yourself – you are in the service industry) “the customer is always right”.  While that might not always be true, and since I’ve only worked non-union jobs I’m well aware of it, in this case it’s pretty clear-cut.  I haven’t seen such a fantastic flouting of criticism since Bill Clinton asked the definition of the word “relations”.

I’ll tell you something else: if the TTC even thinks about striking in the next eighteen months, if the people of this city get even a scent of a picket line, the backlash is going to make the L.A. Riots look like “We Are The World”.  Talk about track-level fires.

Anybody know where I can get a cheap car?  I’m done with this shit.

10 Responses to “Transit Lullabye: TTC Blames Customers For Sleeping Employee”

  1. Jo Fergus January 22, 2010 at 5:14 PM #

    K…You might not necessarily care about any collateral effect this article might have had, but I wanted to thank you for inspiring me to finally get off my ars, and start a Blog that’s been rattling around like a loose bearing in the back of my head for years now…

    So just like that last bracing moment just before you find out how wet and cold the lake really is…I thank you for being the guy who finally just pushed me in, Man ;-)

    In Gear

  2. Shayla January 22, 2010 at 6:19 PM #

    While I am pissed that this guy was sleeping on my money, I’m concerned that we’re putting a low-level individual’s face on a much larger issue. The problems with the TTC are so enormous, they can’t possibly be the result of an individual employee (or even dozens of individual employees) screwing up. The BIG problems with the TTC are in it’s organization at a higher level.

    What I’m trying to say is that although, yeah, that guys should be fired, the real problem is the system that won’t allow him to be fired, not the guy himself.

    Hmm, I guess I’m kind of reiterating what you said.

    PS. Yeah, whoa, someone should tell Bob Kinnear his hair looks that bad. Maybe he really doesn’t know.

  3. bob January 24, 2010 at 11:55 AM #

    I just missed 3 street cars directly following each other on queen, it took 40 minutes for the next one to arrive. We are all frustrated one way or another, I agree something needs to change.

  4. trainofthought January 25, 2010 at 12:12 PM #

    Everybody is throwing stones at this guy for taking a nap, I think I’d be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t fucked off a work at least once in her/his life. How many times at work have I seen someone surfing the web or talking to someone. The guys stuck in a fish bowl with no one to talk to except people who are paying fares that there not happy to be paying and no internet to surf, I’d be tempted to take a nap too. The real issue with the TTC is way bigger than some guy catching a few Zs on the job. There’s so many things that could be implemented to help public transit, here’s a few that are running through my head:

    1. Zoned fares. The person who commutes from St. George to Union station pays the same far as someone coming all the way from Keele Station to Union. What? Most other major cities transit system implement a zoning system so you pay for the distance you are traveling. Makes sense.

    2. Put a toll on the major highways running into the cities during working hours (DVP, Gardiner, Allen Expressway) use all the money to fund public transit. In addition something like London has done could be implemented []

    3. Increase the cost of advertising. From what I’ve heard advertising on the TTC is one of the cheapest in the cities.

    4. Electronic card system, what are we in the 90s still? I can’t believe we still don’t even have electronic cards we can put “transit money” on, hell we don’t even have token dispensing machines that take credit and debit cards!

  5. Alex James January 25, 2010 at 12:22 PM #

    Trainofthought: excellent points all around. While the negative response to the operator’s little nap is understandable from a certain perspective (yes, many people can be accused of the same behaviour, but as I said, those people would be unequivocally FIRED, to say nothing of the fact that those selfsame people probably make a fraction of what that guy makes in a year), I agree there are literally dozens of ways the TTC could be improved, most especially the electronic card system. I had a conversation with a lawyer friend the other day about that very thing – he used to spend a fair bit of time in England, and that’s how the entire British transit system operates. Makes a hell of a lot more sense to me than propping a bunch of people up in fishbowls all day and paying them for doing a whole lot of nothing. Thanks for your input.

    Alex James

  6. Wanda Hartot February 5, 2010 at 4:53 PM #

    I take pics of TTC employees. They make me sick most of the time. One streetcar driver stopped for laundry, another for flowers and another in front of the Gardens to buy tickets while we all waited (few years back).
    Here are my pics

  7. Pipey February 8, 2010 at 8:50 AM #

    A good rant and all points are well made. What amazes me, though, is no one – not the press, not the TTC, not the union – has touched on the fact that the guy is not just a fare collector, he’s supposed to be watching the SECURITY MONITORS that cover the station platforms! “Safety partner” indeed! You can bet your ass if someone had had a fainting spell and fallen on the tracks while this guy snoozed, the TTC would blame the victim. And remember, the TTC’s union is the same outfit that continually blocks the idea of PART TIME workers. Although, given how “exhausting” the full time shifts appear to be, they may have to rethink that strategy at their next contract bargaining round.

  8. bob November 29, 2010 at 2:55 PM #

    did we jump the gun on this story…. I kind of feel bad now.

  9. Jo Fergus November 29, 2010 at 4:02 PM #

    If he took a medical leave right after that public shaming, why was he on the job to begin with? Maybe someone his age, or in his condition should have been given a nice safe/cushy deskjob, rather than being left to monitor a subway station entrance…Dunno. Maybe that is the TTC equiv. of a cushy job…Sure as hell would bore ME to sleep/tears/death.
    Either way…RIP

    Ride On


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