TOO MUCH PUBLIC SERVICE ISN'T
It's the middle of the night. Very cold. Very empty. Not the setting for a nice story.
My son Mark, who lives and works in China, is home having a late beer with an old friend, Gord Weiske, the noted film maker and Ryerson legend. who lives at the end of the Bloor subway when it is running.
As the pub closes, they start to head home, Mark by foot, Gord by the TTC. A bus comes along and Gord, not being at the stop, ignores it, but Mark waves at it, trusting from his experience as a world traveller that anything is possible, even a TTC bus stopping in mid block.
The bus does stop. Pleasant driver, who tells Gord, who can only find a $10 bill in change, to pay extra the next time. Gord rides home, full of good will, Mark walks home, quick to tell me because he was with me the last time I exchanged pleasantries with a subway guard.
We were headed to a TSO concert when I limped up to the last car on the University line, using a hiking stick because of all the gawddamnsnowice left humped like an Himalayan obstacle course along our curbs because the city and business no longer even pretend to clear the snow.
The doors shut in our face, there was a long, long pause, and then the train departed, slowly, giving me plenty of opportunity to tell the TTC employee peering out the last window what I thought of his lack of courtesy when things were quiet. He sassed me right back and smirked. Apparently I made his day. I must think up more cutting profanities.
So there you have the polar opposites, which seems suitable considering the weather, of public employees in Toronto. A driver going above and beyond because it really wasn't a busy time. And some TTC jerk who couldn't have cared less. Two weeks later, Mark and Gord flagged down another TTC bus in the middle of the night in between official stops. Must be catching!
I have a mixed reaction when I consider the annual report of city ombudsman Fiona Crean that she found in 2013 an unacceptable level of rudeness towards the public by city workers is becoming a worrisome trend. I find it's a crap shoot, helpful or pleasant service maybe 45% of the time, indifference verging on incomprehensibility the rest of the time.
The useful 311 city information number is a great aid for routine stuff but if it gets difficult, then you're info a boundless wilderness of confusion. No wonder aides to councillors have special numbers.
The agencies which are supposed to regularly provide us with power, and don't, don't really believe in answering phones and if by some miracle, someone does answer, they become unhelpful and then stupid, stubborn and inane.
Since there are some friends and family who consider me a titch belligerent when it comes to dealing with what is supposed to be service, let me assure you that my golden rule is never to be rude to anyone first.
But heaven help anyone who is rude to me first because then I feel free to bring down the wrath of warrior gods upon their heads and pursue them with verbal swords until they are fired.
Since they say a soft answer turneth away wrath, occasionally I do respond to rudeness in a whisper which I am happy to escalate to a bellow if nothing thaws with the jerks.
Recently I asked for senior tickets at the Royal York subway station and the guy threw adult tokens at me. I repeated my request. He yelled I had to tell him what I wanted. I said I had. He said I hadn't and refused to serve me. So I walked through the turnstile and thanked him for the free ride. It would have been an interesting confrontation if he had been stupid enough to call for assistance since I last looked like I was under 65 about a century ago.
What Mary and I find as we age into decrepitude is that many pedestrians are quick to offer help if the footing is really tricky. Torontonians are even more kindly at the sight of a cane or walker. When we use the subway because parking and traffic downtown has become a hell run by the socialists, other passengers, particularly young women, quickly spring to their feet to offer seats. Occasionally there are louts lounging in the seats reserved for the elderly and disabled but fortunately someone offers me a seat first as I lumber towards them intending to impale them on my hiking pole.
Crean, the ombudswoman, has a popular cause when she tackles rudeness, which is generally more indifference than boorishness Yet there are a growing number of older people who don't really give a damn when younger people, particularly the oblivious packs of teenagers, dismiss them as cranky old farts.
You bet they're cantankerous after a lifetime of over paying in taxes because of TTC and municipal unions, the general obscene wastage of all government, and the feeling by too many workers living off taxpayers that they don't intend to be bothered about anyone or anything as they relax in what they feel is their job for life.
They had better be careful around pensioners, especially now when we're multiplying like rabbits force-fed Viagra.
.Several years ago, Mary and I were in the wonderful Hermitage Museum in Russia and some drunken Russian youths rudely pushed her aside at an elevator. She shoved her cane between the legs of this punk and as he staggered and glared, she looked innocently away. But he knew.
Beware the sleeping giants even if they're only five foot two.