Bitching & Moaning · Places I've Lived · Toronto

To Mr. Adam Giambrone, Chairman of the Toronto Transit Commission

Dear Mr. Giambrone,

I’m a regular and loyal TTC passenger who was just involved in a frightening incident on the Spadina streetcar line, and I am writing to question the judgement and training of your TTC drivers, as the driver’s response was utterly inadequate.

An intoxicated white male carrying a German flag began to insult loudly and with the worst language imaginable, several of women travelling on the TCC, including me. In my case, he not only used all sorts of offensive racist and sexist language, but was also physically intimitadating.

This incident happened between 12:35 and 1 pm on the streetcar line.

The reason I’m writing is because I just called Customer Service to complain about the TTC driver’s confused judgement in the situation, and was met by a response that was far from sympathetic. While I tried to explain my circumstances, the Customer Service Representative, Ana (ID #24) repeatedly interrupted me to tell me that the driver followed procedure without hearing what I had to say in its entirety, and questioning my account of the incident.

I’m sorry, but when I called the TTC’s Customer Service line, I was not calling to complain about a faulty bottle opener. I was calling to complain about what I found to be a racist, sexist, verbally abusive, and physically threatening situation that made me fear for my safety, and about which nothing was done. You can also appreciate that I am in an excitable and vulnerable frame of mind having just been exposed to the first racist experience I’ve ever had in Canada.

Here’s what happened: the man pushed a black woman who politely asked him if she was in his way, at which he began to furiously and loudly insult her, calling her the worst things that you can possibly imagine, both racist and sexist. She moved away. He started loudly harrassing her for moving away. When another blonde white woman intervened to tell him to calm down (he was still going on), he turned on her, and the same thing ensued.

At this point, the TTC driver (whose ID I do not know) picks up this phone, and THIS is what he says: “You guys need to stop acting like kids.”

Like KIDS? I find it absurd that a man who is so enragingly offensive is admonished as if he were a child — and that the women he is abusing are reduced to also being called childish. At this point, I shouted to the TTC driver that this “a**hole” needed to be removed from the streetcar immediately. So of course, the flag-bearing drunkard turned on me. At this point, not only did he shout all sorts of names, but he actually came up to my seat, leaned in and started asking me what my name was, telling me “I’ll see you, I’ll see you.” He was loud, repetitive and belligerent, and said several racist and sexist things to me at full volume.

The streetcar driver finally stopped (this had been going on for about five to ten minutes now) near Spadina and Harbord (or Sussex, I’m not sure. As you can well imagine, I was in no frame of mind to notice). He opened the back doors and asked the man to get off. The man refused and challenged him to call the police instead. The driver looked around at all of us, and some of the passengers even said to call the police, others to get the man off the car. At this, the streetcar driver got back into the streetcar AND CONTINUED ON INTO to the subway station! When we arrived, this man got out and stood by the doors waiting for me to exit. If it were not for another male passenger who insisted on getting out with me, I would have feared for my safety.

The streetcar driver walks up to him and tells him security has been called. He gave the driver the middle finger and ran away. A TTC officer — I’m quite sure not a security officer, as he was not even in security uniform, STROLLED in a few minutes later, by which point the man has disappeared. The driver then told me that he had wanted to keep the streetcar stopped on the road, but he “thought” everyone wanted him to continue into the station.

WHAT?!?! Did he really need to rely on our approval to make that judgement call? In what book is it okay for a TTC driver to stop a streetcar in the middle of the road if someone hasn’t paid a fare, but to continue driving when there’s a passenger who is threatening the safety of another passenger on the streetcar? The driver should not have moved the streetcar one inch until the police showed up there.

When I mentioned this to Ana at Customer Service, she said that the man would have gotten off on the street anyway if the police were being called, since the doors had to be kept open. I tried to tell her that was beside the point — that the driver should not have continued on the streetcar until the man had been voluntarily or involuntarily ejected, but she persisted in trying to tell me her point of view, which is that streetcars have to keep their doors open, and the man would have run off anyway, on the street or in the subway.

I’m sorry, but when does the Customer Service representative’s job description include fortune telling? How DARE she tell me that the man running away would have been an inevitability? How does that even matter when I’m calling to complain about procedure and not hypothetical situations. Clearly, the issue at stake here is not whether he would have run away or not, but that bad judgement was used in this situation even if some procedure was followed.

I think TTC drivers really need more training in security and safety, because I for one, did not feel that the driver had my safety in mind. I don’t know if he was intimidated, but he certainly looked it, and I certainly don’t know what his logic was to continue driving that streetcar into the subway and unleashing this lunatic on the trains when he could have simply stayed put and had the police drive up to us on the street.

NO one asked me if I wanted to press charges — they all sort of stood about — even the supposed security personnel. Furthermore, I was shaken and upset, and had an important appointment to keep. As soon as I was finished and I returned to the office, I called TTC Customer Service to follow up on the incident and find out if the man in question had been found, as well as to complain about the driver’s judgement. In the course of our conversation, Ana (ID#24) tells me that I called “too late”; the incident happened 3 hours ago and if I had called then, they could have done something about it, but I had called too late. What does that even MEAN?

I’m flabbergasted, Mr. Giambrone. I’m shocked and hurt and utterly horrified about what happened today. I know this may be minor compared to some of the more pressing problems you deal with, but to have a TTC driver use such bad judgement and then to be treated with such apathy by the customer service rep makes me feel hopeless and frustrated. I can’t believe that another PASSENGER had to protect me when I got out of the streetcar instead of the TTC driver himself, who got out of the front door, and didn’t even bother to come towards me when he saw me there.

I would like a response to this email, and I would like to know if that man was apprehended. I NEED to know if that man was caught. I need to know that something was done in response to the way he humiliated me and the other women on the streetcar. I need to know that the next time something like this happens, the TTC driver is going to be a hero to me, not some befuddled driver who’s intimidated by a drunk bully. And I certainly need to know that I will be treated with some sympathy by the TTC’s customer service. I do not expect to be threatened and endangered on the TTC, and I hope you can appreciate how doubly difficult it is for me as a woman who reads about all your safety initiatives for women travellers at night, and then gets harrassed in broad daylight with zero back up from the driver. You can listen to my entire conversation with Ana (ID#24) as it was recorded today, and if you like, I can tell you the exact time I was travelling and describe my shift driver to you. Anyway, since “security” showed up, I’m sure they have something on their records as well. I’m still amazed that no one asked me what happened, if I was okay, or if I wanted to press charges.

My apologies for this long missive, but I’m looking for some answers, and I hope you can give these to me as soon as possible. I’ve cc’d Mr. Ed Drass at Metro newspapers about this, and I hope to follow up by forwarding them a suitable response from your organization.


6 thoughts on “To Mr. Adam Giambrone, Chairman of the Toronto Transit Commission

  1. Argh. That sounds horrible. And Adam Giambrone is the Chairman of the Toronto Transit Commission? How did that happen.I hope you get a response. And quick.


  2. Unfreakinbelievable. My jaw is on the floor right now. You know, the TTC vehicles on the road all have that gigantic yield sign on the back of the cars, and it’s illegal to not let them out. I think that has given the drivers this crazy power trip and they all drive like bloody maniacs half the time, and their social skills… well, your missive pretty much summed up what I think about those. My daughter’s daycare is near a busy intersection. A streetcar passes by it constantly, and without fail, when the light is red, the streetcar driver (and it’s not just one, there are many) will inevitably stop right in front of me, one inch off the rear fender of the person in front of him. I have never had one leave space and wave me through to let me turn left, which I have to do. One morning my husband thought the streetcar driver was slowing down, because he seemed to be coming to an abrupt stop and leaving a lot of space between him and car in front of him. (My silly husband.) So he pulled his car out to turn left, and the streetcar driver leaned on the horn. Just leaned on it. He leaned out the window and called my husband a “fucking asshole” and told him he had no right to pull out in front of him. My husband said he was all but stopped, and the guy said, “You are a total asshole who should learn how to drive.” ??? So nice. I’m sad to see that when faced with a serious situation like yours, they act similarly like buffoons.I once was parked at a red light beside a TTC bus, and I was right beside him. Not with a car in front of him, but the driver and I were side by side. The light turned green, and just before it did, the driver jumped the light. He then edged into my lane, even though we were side by side, and forced me into the oncoming traffic! I have no idea what kind of training these drivers have, but your post pretty much backs up everything I think about them. Please post the response when you get it! I’m so sorry this happened to you.


  3. This is a crazy story, Kulsum, maddening and disturbing, worse for how you were dealt with on the phone by the so-called customer service rep. Have you thought about writing a letter on the Facts and Arguments page of the Globe? Or the Opinion page in the Star? I think people would want to read this because you are not the only one this has happened to. I’ve had a similar experience, actually, but at the time I didn’t have the guts or the foresight to deal with it in the way you are.


  4. I heard back from Ed Drass at Metro, he’s the transit columnist there. He told me to keep him posted on what happens, so it should be interesting to see the response I get. I found Adam Giambrone’s email on Facebook, and I’ve emailed him there as well. If I don’t get a response, you ladies GOT to know the Buffy in me’s going to get out all bad-ass and shit-kicking, let me tell you. Not literally, of course. 🙂 But you’re right, Lauren. I’m going to wait and see what they say, and if I’m not satisfied, I’m sure as the sun shines that this will not be the end of it. (Picture me, as Mel Gibson in Braveheart, running into battle for Nikki, Rob, Lauren, and myself.)


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