The TTC doesn’t need to do drug testing on its drivers. For my money, I’d much prefer the Commission spend some time and capital on customer service training for its ticket booth collectors so that someday they may begin to treat customers — especially those who are young, brown or anglophonically-challenged — with a modicum of civility. While there are polite and professional ticket takers, riders for years have had to endure far too much surly or indifferent service from the members of the booth brigade, who always seem to be yakking on the phone or taking their sweet time making change. Isn’t it bad enough that a TTC ticket or token is perhaps the last commodity, other than dope, that can only be purchased with cash? Then there’s the culture of selective suspicion. Every teenager knows this story, and twas ever thus. But there’s no question that many ticket booth personnel save their most callous behaviour for non-English-speaking immigrants or tourists with the temerity to (gasp!) ask for directions. Sometimes, in fact, their behaviour verges on racist.
Exhibit A: I was in a ticket line at the St. George Street end of the St. George subway station last week. A university student was trying to make the automatic turnstile work but was losing the battle. She politely asks the ticket collector for help. He advises her to jostle it some more. She tries, to no avail, and then asks the man, quite reasonably, “Can I just go through?” He kind of rolls his eyes and mutters, “Well, I dunno.” He’s white, middle-aged, looking fed up. Was his reaction influenced by the fact that she had brown skin and wore a headscarf? Indeed, he only let her through when I and several others in line protested on her behalf, but not before interrogating us if we’d witnessed her inserting the token.
Exhibit B: Two TTC employees, also white-middle-aged males, were stationed at one of the portable ticket boxes at Union Station recently, grousing. One complained to the other that he’d just been assigned to Wheel Trans duty. The man pulls a face: “You know, it’s always, ‘Now, go pick up Mrs. Doodledypaddleypoo,'” he says in a mocking Indian accent. This, in a fully audible voice, at the entrance to the TTC’s busiest station. That such conduct continues to be tolerated defies belief.
The mayor is a self-described progressive who “gets” Toronto’s multi-culturalism. So, we’re told, is TTC chair Adam Giambrone. The commission itself services the most ethnically-diverse city in the world, and the face of the new Toronto is rarely more apparent than on the subway. Perhaps they’re all just afraid of taking on the union. In London, Tube attendants give directions and advise on fares without attitude, and they’ll even accept payment with those new fangled contraptions called bank or credit cards. Our tourism industry moans and groans about the homeless but I’d bet that curt and unhelpful replies from TTC personnel do way more to besmirch our reputation.Isn’t it time for the TTC to get serious about this embattled, unhelpful culture? Maybe the commission needs a bit of prodding. A few years back, Spacing asked our readers to submit their favourite streetcar driver stories. Today, we ask that you post your own ticket booth horror tales below.
photo from Toronto Archives