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Feel good TTC stories (an antidote to the recent spree of bad press)

24 Feb

The TTC hasn’t had it easy – public relations wise – over the last few weeks.  Even before the the sleeping TTC collector and the break-taking bus driver, they had to contend with the realization there were 31,000 complaints in 2009, a 15% increase over 2008.  In response to this spike in general dissatisfaction, the TTC has recruited a customer service panel with private sector advisors in other sectors such as the hotel industry to give them tips on how to improve.  This panel is still underway so it remains to be seen exactly how its recommendations will be rolled out.

Many of us are familiar with the frustration involved in using public transit everyday, so few of us are surprised to hear about the high number of complaints.  But while most of these are legitimate, we should remember that where there are complaints about service on the TTC, there are compliments.  And those compliments are voiced much less often.

So this blog post is about the memorable exceptions.  Everyone has at least one or two feel good stories about riding the TTC.  Here are a few of mine.

Streetcar Entertainment

This was years ago.  I lived by Bathurst & Lakeshore and took the 511 Bathurst Streetcar on a daily basis.  Long before the automated stop announcements were in place, there was one driver who had this route who would call out the names of each stop, as I believe they were required to do.   But he had a little twist: he would say the names of the stops– BACKWARDS.  That’s right SDRAWKCAB.

So we would pass Tecumseth – but it would be Htesmucet.  I think it was this same driver who would announce his own “guide to the city” as we went along.  “Toronto Western Hospital is next, Toronto Western Hospital.  Let’s hope you don’t have to end up there.”

The Irresistible Pout

While still living lakeside, I was once attempting to catch a southbound streetcar at the corner of College and Spadina.  Here the streetcar stop is located on the south side of the intersection. I was waiting at the south east corner of the street and saw the streetcar as it rushed past me.  I pouted in the streetcar driver’s general direction, making a little puppy dog face.  I was going to miss my ride because the traffic light looked as though it would not change in time for me to cross safely and run to the stop.  Surprisingly, the driver happened to catch my sad little face as he passed the intersection and waited for me a whole minute until I could safely cross and run to meet it.  When I got on, I thanked him.  He replied: “But of course.  Who could resist such a pout?”

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A block in ruins

24 Feb

The February 21 front page of the Toronto Star had some arresting images of the fire that all but razed a full quarter of the 600 block of Queen West between Bathurst and Spadina this past Wednesday. I think what got me even more though, was the language in a sidebar describing the damage sustained by each affected business: from “water damage,” to “gutted,” to “collapsed”. There’s something about the word “gutted” that’s especially heartwrenching.

Made a point of passing by the scene of the fire yesterday afternoon. Four and a half days after it broke out, the flames have been extinguished and demolition has begun. The area remains blocked to traffic and yellow “Fire Line — Do Not Cross” tape still sections off a vast portion of the street. My curiosity and need to see these ruins in person turned out to be far from unique: dozens of people and their cameras took a moment this weekend to gape at what remains of the strip of Queen West framed by Pizzaiolio and Organized by Design.

Gutted really is the right word for the state of many of these structures. What’s left of them is just a shell, if that. The former buildings’ insides and outsides are spewed on the sidewalk and street in chunks and shards.

The most incongruous thing in all this mess is the presence of a small rack of relatively undisturbed clothing in what used to be the back of preloved. About ten ‘nouveau vintage’ sweaters are just hanging there in a tidy row. Lightly sprinkled with ash, perhaps; maybe a few frozen threads, but essentially fine— probably still with the price tags on. There’s something ostentatious about the intactness of the stuff. If those sweaters were people, they’d be naive, oblivious, blissfully unaware of everything that has crumbled around them.

But there’s beauty here too (well captured by the Star and countless citizen photographers). Elegant icicles hang from charred bits of structure; what used to be walls or doors and are now pieces of brick, wood and glass fall into interesting arrangements… the odd office chair is visible under the rubble, turned on its side. The scene, moved indoors, could be an installation at the Power Plant. Only it’s a lost slice of T dot (not to mention a few homes and livelihoods). It will be interesting to see what pops up in the next couple of years in this spot, and to follow the displaced businesses to their new homes.