From the bus

I had to go into Toronto yesterday. On the way home I was fortunate enough to get the first seat on the right side of the vehicle, which gave me a chance to observe things that looking out a side window might have been missed.

I’ve previously railed against people who will stand at a bus stop for ten minutes and wait until they are on the bus to fumble around to find their electronic pass. I discovered yesterday these are the same people who will wait until they are at the exit to fumble around to find that pass so they can “tap off”. The system in the Greater Toronto Area works on zones, so on the intercity coaches it is necessary to tap on when you board, and tap off when you leave, otherwise, you’ll pay to the end of the line. Why people, why do you do this? You know you need the pass to both get on and get off, so why can’t you have it handy?

In the far east of Toronto, I noticed a sign I’ve never seen before on a lamp post, so naturally I had to read it. Doing so didn’t clear things up one bit. The sign read “monolith sidewalk begins”. It didn’t look any different from 100 other sidewalks I’ve seen both in Toronto and the area I live, so what the hell is a “monolith sidewalk”? It can’t be referring to some archeologic site for it was next to an empty field at an interchange from Highway 401. And there was no huge black rectangular monolith anywhere is sight either as described by Arthur C Clarke.

Finally, when did chrome bumpers on vehicles become a thing of the past? My trip covered about 20 miles during the early part of rush hour so I got to see many vehicles of various makes, models and years. Of the fifty or so vehicles I noted, exactly two – both of them Ram pickups – had chrome bumpers. The rest all had the current molded, coloured body panels. Is it for safety reasons, or aesthetics?

Okay, now that I’ve given you some questions to ponder, enjoy your weekend and remember to hug an artist, we need love (and answers) too.

Cat.

Please explain your statement

Yesterday there was a murder on the Toronto subway. According to both news reports and interviews with the investigating officer, a man deliberately pushed another individual in front of an oncoming subway train. Based upon video evidence provided by the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) and statements from witnesses, the police have charged this man with first degree murder, but the investigation is still active.

As is usual in cases such as this, the media has interviewed people who were either on the platform at the time, or were affected by the closure of the station. Naturally people were upset with having to use shuttle buses, or walk a block to the nearest open station, but their upset usually subsided when they learned the reason for the closure. One man however, had a different view. His comment was “it’s the TTC’s fault.”

Pardon me. Would you kindly explain how you figure it is the TTC’s fault that one person deliberately killing another on TTC property is the fault of the transit service? I readily admit that there are times I’m not a fan of the service provided, but generally I find the service to be efficient. And what was the TTC’s fault? Was it that they let a person onto the system who may have been angry at the world? Or that they had to close the Bloor/Yonge station for the police investigation, which caused you some inconvenience? Granted yesterday was hot (92F, feeling like 109F [33C and 43C]) but a one block walk to an open station wouldn’t have been too uncomfortable.

City Hall has conducted a study on the feasibility of installing barriers such as Tokyo uses to prevent passengers from falling/jumping/being pushed in front of trains. The cost of upgrading stations and installing these barriers is currently estimated at over a billion dollars. Would our man who blames the TTC be willing to see a fare increase to help offset this cost? I doubt it.

Blaming the TTC for the actions of one individual, not an employee of the system, for something beyond the control of the TTC is childish. The ease with which he made that statement makes me suspect he is one of those people who constantly blames others for any inconvenience he encounters. About time he learned the world isn’t out to get him.

My sympathies to out to the family and friends of the man who died.

Cat.

Why go?

Today is the final event in Toronto’s Pride Month, the Pride Parade. Yesterday was the Dyke March and Friday evening was the Trans March.

It’s the Trans March I want to discuss here. A friend of mine raised an interesting point when she said the following (and I’m probably paraphrasing): I thought the aim and goal of trans people was to fit in – to be indistinguishable from regular men and women. It that’s the case, why would you want to out yourself by taking part in the Trans March?

Good question, isn’t it? Now, I can see activists and those who claim to speak for the trans community taking part because they are visible anyway. (As an aside, there is at least one group claiming to speak for all trans people throughout the Greater Toronto Area [GTA], which includes the municipality where I reside. No, they don’t speak for me. I’m quite capable of looking after myself, thank you very much.) But, if a person is fully accepted as the gender in which they present, why would they risk being spotted by a co-worker or neighbour?

Can anyone offer any ideas, suggestions or reasons for this?

Enjoy your long weekend and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat.

Some random thoughts

Riding the bus today, my mind wandered and touched on various items.

1 – The Region of Durham is doing some serious road work at a major intersection. This of course is causing massive traffic backups and pretty much throws bus schedules out the window. The irony in that is the construction is they are installing “bus only” lanes to speed up public transit.

2 – If you were to ask Canadians the origin of Canadian English, no doubt most, if not all, would say “England”. According to a documentary I watched, they would be indirectly correct. The documentary stated that the major influence on “Canadian English” actually came from the United States, which was settled in large part by the British. Pronunciation, definitions and some nuances are all courtesy of our friends south of the 49th parallel. Spelling is a different matter. In the 1870’s, Sir John A. Macdonald, the Prime Minister at the time was the head of the government that passed a bill that made the use of “u” in words such as colour the only official spelling. So when I use that spelling for neighbour and honour for example, I’m only following Canadian law.

3 – Watching some programmes on Germany before and during WWII. Am I the only one who sees irony in the fact that the Nazis ideal was a tall, blond, blue-eyed physical specimen while neither Hitler nor his inner circle were anywhere near that ideal?

4- This isn’t exactly a random thought, but was a private Facebook message regarding a string I was involved with, and thought about during my bus ride. I think it bears repeating here:

I am horrified by some of the postings I read from my American friends regarding their troubles with housing, medical care and employment. Granted I lost a job when I came out, but someone through church told me that if I could get my Pickering taxi licence, he’d hire me. I did and he did and I drove for seven years until I was injured. Perhaps it’s the Canadian psyche, but except for the young drunk men on Friday and Saturday nights in the cab, I’ve never had a problem. As an example of what appears to be the general view (and yes I know generalities can turn and bite me in the butt), during the last provincial election campaign, not one candidate; not one reporter from any media, nor any member of the public brought up the fact that Kathleen Wynne, the Premier of Ontario, is lesbian. Everyone stuck to the issues. I think that had this been an American election campaign, her sexuality would have overshadowed the actual issues. By the way, she won and now heads a majority government. Based on my experiences over the past twenty years, I sometimes think that my brothers and sisters in the United States would consider Canada, specifically Ontario, a trans Utopia.

Not quite, but we’re working on it.

Since it’s Friday, enjoy your weekend and remember to hug an artist, we need love too.

Cat.

From the buses

At the end of June, Durham Regional Transit started a new service called “Pulse”, offering a direct service from downtown Oshawa to the University of Toronto’s Scarborough Campus.  I’ve used this service several times and am always struck by the number of radio reports from drivers reporting a late trip.  On one occasion, the bus I was on reported being five minutes late after having travelled three blocks.  The reason was a large number of passengers at that third stop.

It occurs to me that if so many late trips are happening, the problem isn’t the drivers, but the schedule.  I have long suspected that those who plan schedules have never driven anything larger than a Honda Civic and have never ridden a bus or they would realize buses don’t handle or respond the way that Civic does.  I also suspect that if they’ve actually driven that route, it was in their Civic at three in the morning when there is very little traffic.  It seems the one thing those who plan these bus schedules fail to do is talk with the drivers – those whom they are trying to schedule.  Nah, couldn’t do that because it might set a precedent.

I had occasion to use this route today and as usual I noticed that most passengers pay very little attention to things such as route and destination signs.  The destination sign (the one on the front of the bus) clearly states “Highway 2 to U of T Scarborough”.  Seems clear enough, doesn’t it?  The coach travels along Highway 2, ending at the University of Toronto in Scarborough.  Why then do people insist upon asking if the bus goes to Scarborough Town Centre, a large shopping centre several miles beyond U of T?

Another thing I’ll never understand is this: People usually arrive at a bus stop with several minutes to wait for the coach to arrive.  Wouldn’t you think it a good idea to use those few minutes to get your fare out of your wallet, or get your pass out before you board the bus?  Rarely happens.  Usually people stand at the farebox and fish through their wallets or pockets looking for the correct change, or they search through their pockets or purses looking for their pass.  C’mon people.  Show a little initiative and have that stuff ready before the driver opens the door for you.  It won’t hurt to try it and it might make the difference between getting a seat and standing.

Enjoy your day and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat

Why not wait for details?

We have heard, seen and read much about the unfortunate shooting of a young man on a Toronto streetcar this past weekend.

There has been a great outcry over this incident, based on a blurry cellphone video and news reports.  The problem is that this is still being investigated – we don’t really know what happened.  All the video shows (and this video did not capture the events from the beginning) is a young man standing on a streetcar wielding a knife near the front door and an officer on the street firing his weapon after orders to drop the knife were ignored.  What led to this point; a moment in time that affected not only the family of this young man, but the officer as well?

I’ve heard the question “why didn’t the police use a taser rather than shoot him?”  Why?  Simple.  Because the officers on the street don’t carry tasers.  According to my information, at any given time, there are perhaps 15 tasers on the street of Toronto, each in the possession of a patrol sergeant.   The reports state this young man was tasered after he was shot.  If so, the police obviously felt they had just cause.  The fact there are only 15 tasers on the street at any time naturally gives rise to the suggestion that all front-line officers be issued tasers.

I’ll admit I’m of two minds on this idea.  Granted, it would provide another level of deterrent when dealing with a situation before resorting to deadly force.  On the other hand, the case of
Robert Dziekan’ski at Vancouver International Airport does provide a good example of what can happen.  And there have been other cases where use of a taser has resulted in the death of someone.  Now from what I recall, some of these cases were the result of underlying medical causes aggravated by the voltage, but in the Robert Dziekan’ski case, his death was eventually ruled as homicide.

Now, I know all my readers are law-abiding citizens, but you may have a friend who isn’t.  Think for a moment: How would you feel if that friend were to die from a heart attack brought on by what is supposed to be a non-lethal way of subduing him?

Cat

Changes – real and fictional

I had to take a bus ride to a place a couple of towns over today.  Nice thing about being a passenger is that you get to see things you might otherwise miss and you can let your mind wander, which couldn’t be done while driving.

First I noticed the Hooter’s in Whitby is closed.  How many times do you hear of a place like that closing?   Not sure exactly what that means.  Should it be construed as a statement on the young women of Whitby?  Is it just a result of the state of the economy?  Or is it perhaps more a commentary on the male population of that town?

A little further west, I passed the local Ford dealer and noticed a row of bright shiny new Mustangs on display (dang- that new Shelby is really something.)  Seeing all the Mustangs, my mind jumped to “Spenser: For Hire”, the TV series with Robert Urich. (You don’t remember it?  You don’t? Just how old am I?)  In the series, the character drove a Mustang, wrecked it and got another ‘stang.  If you read the Robert B Parker stories, especially the older ones, Spenser doesn’t drive a Mustang – he drives a Subaru.  Makes sense when you think about it.  Being a private detective, at least as shown on television, sometimes involves surveillance.  What is going to blend into the scenery easier – a non-descript Subaru, or a flashy sports car?

From there, my mind made the leap to Bond, James Bond.  007 has become synonymous with Aston Martin.  Well, there was that brief excursion into BMW, but we’ll forget about that. In the novels, James didn’t drive an Aston Martin.  The first vehicle I can recall reading as James’s ride was a “Blower Bentley”, that is a Bentley with a supercharged engine.  I don’t know if Bentley has a supercharged model in their current lineup, but the cars themselves are beautiful and, from what I’ve read, fast and powerful.  Given that, isn’t it about time the movies considered putting James back in his proper set of wheels, perhaps a Continental GT or a Mulsanne?

Since it’s Easter, enjoy your long weekend, and remember to hug an artist – we need love  too (and a Bentley wouldn’t hurt either).

Cat.

Riding the rails

When I travel into Toronto, I frequently use the commuter train for the trip.  Granted the commuter train is a far cry from the golden age of rail travel but I still enjoy it.  Although the main Toronto – Montreal line is mostly welded rail, there are enough switches that the familiar “click clack” is there (and usually brings to mind Arlo Guthrie’s “City of New Orleans”.

I spent many years working in transportation, including a couple of years with a rail forwarder.  I talked with the railwaymen and as a result have a (very) minor knowledge of some of the signage used both along the right of way and on the freight cars.

When you’re sitting at a level crossing, watching that mile long freight slowly pass, you may have noticed, usually on or near the lower left corner of the car – from either side – a box that contains mysterious letters and numbers.  Those are the physical characteristics of the car, things shippers who use the car need to know, such as interior dimensions and load limits.

The signs along the right of way are also very interesting.  Two in particular always catch my eye. If you’ve travelled by train, you may have noticed the circular signs, usually with  two sets of numbers, such as “80″, and under that “65″.  Those are speed limit signs and even in metric Canada, those figures are in miles per hour, not kilometres.  The “80″ would be the speed limit for passenger trains and the other number would be for freight trains.  The other sign that I usually notice is also a white circle.  This one has a capital “W” on it and is usually placed before level crossings.  These tell the engineers to blow the horn – the standard one long; one short, two long warning signal that there is a train coming.  Over the past few years though I’ve noticed that many of these whistle signs have a red circle and bar through them.  You know, the common “no” sign.

These are frequently found in urban areas and from that standpoint, I can understand it because people don’t want to be disturbed by the sound of train horns, especially if they live along the main line.  Now, most level crossings, at least in urban areas, are also protected by gates.  The horn is intended as an audible warning – a loud one – since many of the bells usually installed with the gates can be very hard to hear.  How many times have we seen people drive around the gates because they don’t see the train?  How many times have we seen lives lost by such stupidity?  The whistle signal is usually about a half-mile before the crossing.  Trains weigh hundreds, if not thousands, of tons and there is no way it could stop within that half-mile distance.  Which brings up the question: are the railroads better off to accede to the desire of nearby residents for quiet; should there be an exemption in noise bylaws for trains, or should the railways instead take into account the possibilities of killing someone at a level crossing and use that horn?

Cat.

Not very impressive

I have a Statutory Declaration that requires the services of a Commissioner of Oaths  before I can present it to the government of Ontario.  Not knowing where I might find one, I went onto Google and typed in my criteria “commissioner of oaths Ajax Ont” and clicked on “search”.

Among the results were two adverts for Red Seal Notaries.  The second one actually read “Red Seal Notaries – Commissioners of Oaths”.  Great.  The blurb said they had a local office, so “click”. Found the “locations” tab and that was when I decided that I wouldn’t be using Red Seal.  They showed four locations (actually 3 – one was a duplicate) in my area.  Unfortunately, the information left much to be desired.

The first was as far as it is possible to get from my home and still be in Ajax. And from what I can find from the bus schedules, if you’re using transit, you can’t get there from here.  There was no telephone number listed and only a street corner for an address.

The next two – the duplicates – were just as unhelpful. One showed “Pickering Village” for  a location, and the other “Kingston Road West”, again with no telephone number or street address. I live in Pickering Village and I’ve never seen anything resembling a sign advertising someone’s services as a Commissioner of Oaths.  And on the map for these two, someone, and this is probably the fault of Google maps, has Duffin’s Creek labelled as “Lake Ontario.”  Sorry, the lake is about two miles south of this location.

To my mind, the most blatant example of not checking for accuracy is the final location, which they have listed as “Old Kingston Road”.  In this case, they show the intersection as  “Kingston Road W and Brock Road, Ajax.  The real problem with that is that the intersection of Kingston and Brock, as shown on the map, is at least a mile inside the City of Pickering, not in the Town of Ajax.  And it is “Kingston Road”, not “Old Kingston Road” I live on OKR, and it is a relatively quiet side street.

When I look at the website I note a little box that says “call for an appointment” and an “888″ number.  I don’t think I’ll be calling.  If they can’t ensure their website is complete and accurate; if they aren’t willing to give potential clients sufficient information upon which to reach a decision, how can I be certain they are truly qualified to administer an oath swearing the information I’ve presented is correct?  Fortunately for me, the listings also showed that the Town of Ajax has on staff a Commissioner of Oaths.  And the Town gives its telephone number and address and  shows its prices as well. So Friday morning, I’ll be paying a visit to Town Hall.

Enjoy your week and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat

Random thoughts from the weekend

Thanksgiving weekend is almost over.  Unfortunately the turkey will continue.

1 – Two for one.  In Toronto, and probably other jurisdictions as well, over the past year there has been an outcry by cycling groups for trucks to have some form of anti-underride bars on the trailers.  This really became an issue  when a young pregnant lady was hit and killed by a truck – I don’t recall if it was a tractor-trailer or not – making a right turn, when she somehow came in contact with the truck and fell under the rear wheels.  Perhaps you’ve noticed, while on the highway or perhaps just watching traffic flow by, that many tractor-trailers now have what appear to be sails hanging from the bottom of the trailer.  These are slightly curved at the front, fitting under the trailer, and then extend, even with the side of the trailer, to the rear wheels.  The main purpose is to reduce the amount of air that gets under the trailer.  Air under the trailer at highway speeds significantly increases drag, which increases fuel consumption.  These “sails” are a way to combat that added air resistance.

There is this hue and cry for some form of protection for cyclists to be mounted on trucks,  but governments are reluctant to legislate such protection. My thought on this is that since many companies are now using these wind reduction panels anyway, why not just make them mandatory? That way, the transport companies get the reduced fuel consumption they want and the cyclists get the anti-underride protection they want.  Makes sense to me.

2 – It’s supposed to be used.  There was an item in one of the Saturday papers, which of course I didn’t bookmark, about some Honda models that have rolled away, even after the driver has turned the engine off and removed the key.  Apparently the problem is that something in the ignition switch breaks or wears with use that will allow the key to be removed without the transmission being placed in “Park”. And, since the key could be removed, the drivers never checked to make sure the transmission was indeed in “Park”. As I said, I didn’t bookmark the item, so have to rely on my memory, but one man broke his leg when his vehicle ran over him.  He tried to chase it and the open door knocked him down.  There is a lever between the seats, or a small pedal at the left side of the driver’s footwell.  That controls what is variously called an emergency brake; parking brake, or in the case of the lever, a hand brake.  Note that second name – “parking brake”.  Activating this feature, either by pulling the lever, or stepping on the pedal, causes a cable to apply the rear brakes.

One benefit I can think of off-hand is that if you’re parked on an incline,  using this takes a lot of stress off the pawls in the “Park” position of the transmission. No more fighting to get the transmission into gear when you want to leave wherever you’ve been.  I usually drove vehicles with manual transmissions, so to me use of the “parking brake” became second nature.  Even when I drove taxi (all automatic transmissions) I’d use that brake whenever I parked the cab at the end of my shift. In the US the feds are looking at issuing a recall for these particular vehicles, but a bit of common sense and making use of the equipment in cars as standard equipment would prevent this happening.  That brake isn’t for decoration – it’s meant to be used.

3 – That isn’t correct.  I freely admit I’m something of a fanatic when it comes to grammar, composition and spelling.  I’ll also admit that there may be times when I don’t get it right either – I’m only human and prone to error.  One place I do expect to see proper usage though is in advertising or other signage in stores.  I’ve previously ranted about the sign in a coffee shop in a mall that asks patrons not to remove trays from the premise, so I’ll just leave that one alone.

I spent yesterday in Toronto with friends and came home today on the commuter train.  These trains have some advertising – where isn’t there advertising today? – and just before I left the train, I noticed an advertising placard.  I couldn’t see who the company was, but they need to have a talk with their ad agency.  The largest lettering on this placard was the following: Be your boss’ boss.

Notice anything wrong with that statement?  What about that incorrect possessive – “boss’”?  It should have read “boss’s”.  People just don’t seem to understand how to use possessives any longer.  Much like algebra, that seems to be one of the first things forgotten once they leave school  But then again, people seem to have forgotten the proper use of an apostrophe in general. They seem to have forgotten, or never learned, that it is used for contractions and to indicate possession.  Instead they sprinkle it everywhere and yes, on occasion they do get it right.  But the handwritten sign on a door admonishing people to “mind you’re step” certainly isn’t one of those occasions.

Ah well.  I’ve resigned myself to the idea that when it comes to proper English usage, as my tagline reads, I’m a lone voice calling in the wilderness.  Still, it would be nice if one person listened.

Enjoy your week and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat.