The Commission (Toronto Transit)

ttc torontoThe operators are downright rude, the collectors outright insulting, the communication overtly condescending, the unions with absolute impunity, the bigwigs holding politicians and judges in their back pocket, and the behaviour plain and simple: We don’t need you, you need us for protection. Period. So move along.

If it sounds like the Chicago mob during Al Capone’s time, you guessed it right. I’m talking about the TTC – The Toronto Transit Commission.

Hyperbole aside, I am rather astonished to discover what a mob-like organization the TTC really is. Having been dependent on the subway and connecting land routes, it feels even more intimidating – no, the word is fearful – to talk about the TTC in public.

True cases in point as witnessed by your intrepid blogger:

Case One: Don Operatore – The Driver

Two Chinese-origin women, whose English not something to write home about, get on the bus. They deposit their tickets into the ticket receptacle and then one of them points to the Transfer slips hanging by the driver’s side, obviously requiring a Transfer, for which they’re legally entitled.

They say nothing (probably too shy to reveal their heavy chinese accent) and simply point a finger.

At this gesture, the driver simply explodes: “You are in Canada! Say ‘Transfer, please!‘… This is rude, okay?”

Obviously, the women don’t really understand what he’s blabbering about, so they just stand there waiting for him to yank the Transfer slips out and hand it to them. And, they stare into the driver’s face, which ignites the driver’s anger even more (how dare a couple of ‘foreigners’ look straight into a caporegime’s eyes, eh?).

The driver’s fit doubles, now with pronounced gestures: he throws his arms up in the air, as if asking Lord almighty what did he ever do to deserve such disrespect.

The bus is standing still at the stop. Yours truly and the rest of the passengers are watching this ongoing saga, too timidly to invite the wrath of Don Operatore.

The women stand firm. Not because they are brave souls on a mission to encounter the Mighty TTC, but simply because they have no clue what the fuss is all about. The caporegime then hesitantly tears out two Transfer slips, hands it to them and hits the accelerator.


Case Two: Don Collettore – The Collector

This happened at the Subway collector’s booth, where you could either pass through the turnstiles using tokens or passes, or via the collector’s booth window if you need to buy tickets or pay in cash.

A passenger got his turn in the queue to face the honourable Don Collettore and gave the Collector some cash to buy a pass. I don’t know what the exact amount was, but let’s say the pass was for 32 dollars. The rider gave Don Collector a $50 bill plus a toonie (a two-dollar coin) so that either one whole $20 or two $10 bills is returned. No “rocket” science there, ahem.

But Don Collettore kept staring at this $50 bill + toonie with utter shock as if the poor customer had just deposited a live scorpion in front of him.

“What is this? What is this? What is this?” The Collector kept repeating out loud, obviously so that his “supervising” fellow-Don Supervisor sitting behind could hear him.

Indeed, the big huge Don Soprintendente heard it and rose like a majestic monarch and approached his friend Don Collettore, who was now acting as if a gun had just been pointed at his temple by the TTC-rider.

“Why are you confusing me? Can’t you read? Learn to read! Why are you confusing me?” The Collector repeated under extreme duress.

“I just wanted whole bills back in return, sir, nothing to confuse.” The flustered customer sounded like a little girl surrounded by scary looking bully-boys about to pounce on her.

“Read and look behind you. Just read and move along.” A thunderous voice commanded, the voice of Don Soprintendente, without any explanation as to what exactly was there to read and what was behind.

The about-to-faint customer quickly took his toonie back and pushed the $50 bill towards Don Collector. “Can I have a pass, please, sir? Sorry for your trouble.” He sounded like a man about to be hanged.

Don Collettore snatched the $50 bill, then returned a pass, a few bills and some loose change (which took more time than if he’d only given the buyer a $20.)

The queue moved along. The customer, however, was thrown on the rail-track and he died of fatal wounds in hospital later (just kidding! But I wouldn’t have been surprised had that actually happened.)

Don’t mess with the Commission, I whispered to myself and obediently bought myself a few tokens and moved along.

First Published: April 1st, 2008


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