ONTD Political

"Remembering George Robitaille: the conductor who became a TTC pariah has passed away".

2:53 pm - 11/28/2010
George Robitaille is dead.

The name won’t mean anything to most, but he was the so-called “sleepy conductor” caught snoozing on the job in that famous TTC ticket taker fiasco that blew up around this time last year. Read NOW's take at the time.

The incident was a watershed moment for the TTC and, arguably, the city [of Toronto]. The shot of Robitaille catching flies in his booth went viral, as they say in the online biz, and unleashed a firestorm of criticism against the TTC that eventually prompted an independent review of customer service

The resulting public backlash bordered on the insane. Anti-TTC websites popped up and for weeks afterward newsrooms were swamped with cell phone camera shots and reports of all manner of supposed transgressions on the part of TTC employees. Remember the bus driver who got called out for taking a coffee break?

Of course, lost completely in the news back then was the fact that Robitaille was in fact seriously ill with a heart condition and on new medication when he was “caught” copping a few zzzs on the job. The Sun is reporting that Robitaille died following a stroke Thursday.
 

Amalgamated Transit Union president Bob Kinnear tried to explain Robitaille had health issues back then, but the only reaction that elicited from the media was sneers. The wave of public anger was too much. Not even the TTC’s staunchest defenders could summon the courage to offer much-needed perspective. Soon the TTC union was embarking on town halls across the city to listen to rider complaints. It’s too bad, really. 

In some ways, the incident was a turning point for the city, a spark for the anger that mayor-elect Rob Ford’s team so spectacularly seized upon to ride into office. And to think part of the trigger for all that public nastiness was predicated on a bullshit story. 

As Robitaille told the Star a couple of weeks after the fury, “When you knock Haiti off the front page, you know something’s wrong.” Indeed. Robitaille’s tabloid notoriety turned him, the TTC and city into a punch line for comedians the world over, even Jay Leno.

The Sun, the paper that put that famous shot of Robitaille on the front page (and had some great fun whipping up the hysteria over it), is this morning calling Robitaille’s death “ironic.” 

That’s because Robitaille was no poster boy for lazy TTC employees. In fact, he was a hero, winning a commendation for saving the life of a Wheel-Trans rider many years back. Funny, that.  

Now that he’s gone to the great big gig in the sky, can’t help thinking that a little piece of Toronto has died with him. 

As TTC union prez Kinnear said when the shit storm hit the fan last January, “It is very discouraging that the picture taker and, apparently, other customers, made no attempt to see if there was anything wrong with this TTC employee. A simple knock on the glass might have determined if the collector was, in fact, asleep or whether he was unconscious as a result of some medical problem. The reports that passengers were laughing at him as they passed by the booth makes this even more disturbing.” 
To think a simple knock might have changed everything. Now that would be really ironic. R.I.P. George Robitaille.

Source: NOW magazine
ladypolitik 28th-Nov-2010 07:58 pm (UTC)
I'll admit to finding the original news of the "scandal" funny, though then, as based--like most people--on sheer misinformation and sensationalism that drove the story of "the sleeping conductor" into into a media frenzy. It quickly became obvious that there was more to the story than a presumably lazy TTC (stands for the "Toronto Transit Commission", btw) employee.

The fact that Robitaille was falsely referred as a "CONDUCTOR", rather than what he really was--a ticket-taker--speaks to how out-of-control the game of "Broken Telephone" got.

And for as much as I HATE the TTC's primitive services/infrastructure (envy the extensive subway systems of Mexico City, NYC and Chicago tbh), it was really shitty that this guy was turned into a meaningless scapegoat in ways that didnt really resolve the still exciting problems of Toronto's shitty public transit system.

Uninformed internet hysteria FTL. RIP, Mr. Robitaille.
poetic_pixie_13 28th-Nov-2010 08:02 pm (UTC)
All of this. The TTC has lots of issues but he should not have become some kind of focal point for them. The TTC needs a major overhaul, not to criticize a ticket taker on new heart meds who saved the life of a rider in the past.
poetic_pixie_13 28th-Nov-2010 07:58 pm (UTC)
Of course, lost completely in the news back then was the fact that Robitaille was in fact seriously ill with a heart condition and on new medication when he was “caught” copping a few zzzs on the job

As Robitaille told the Star a couple of weeks after the fury, “When you knock Haiti off the front page, you know something’s wrong.

In fact, he was a hero, winning a commendation for saving the life of a Wheel-Trans rider many years back. Funny, that.


Jfc. I did not know any of that. TTC employees get so much shit but, honestly, it's not the easiest job.
ladypolitik 28th-Nov-2010 08:01 pm (UTC)
ikr. :/


And you know, I've always found that there's a freaking SWEET and amazing TTC employer for every bus driver who's having a bad day and acting like an asshole. idk, after a while, there's no sense taking things out on them. They cant stand the shoddy system anymore than we do.
poetic_pixie_13 28th-Nov-2010 08:06 pm (UTC)
Friday night I was the only person on my bus so I ended up having a really nice conversation with my driver. She's a single mom who's raised three kids, the youngest of whom is at George Brown now studying to be a paramedic. She's been working as a driver for three years and won't get weekends off until she's been working seven more years. She barely has a life, just go to work, come back, sleep and then do it all over again. She mentioned she won't have time to date for a long while, since it's hard to fit it into her schedule and she doesn't see her kids that often either. But she was still friendly and nice and gave me advice about how I should stick with uni and all of that. As I got off the bus I told her how amazing I think she is for being able to raise three kids by herself like that, honestly.

I don't get why everyone shits on the drivers. People treat them like crap, and everyone has a bad day and just, idk, it's not the easiest job. Most of them are really nice. Some are surprised when people are polite to them, which makes me really sad.
cecilia_weasley 29th-Nov-2010 04:48 am (UTC)
Actually I also had a very good conversation with a driver, who realized I was on the wrong bus but since I was the only person on that bus, took me as close as was possible to home. This driver, who was female, explained to me that the rougher the route is, the rougher the drivers, because of the routes.

So it made sense to me why the drivers around Steeles are a bit rude. (not all but a lot of them) The drivers in Scarborough aren't that bad though, but I went in the supposedly ~good part~ of Scarborough.
yami_no_hoshi 28th-Nov-2010 07:59 pm (UTC)
I remember that story. The response was ridiculous.
"WHARRGARBLEEE UNION EMPLOYEES ARE SO LAZY~~~" and such. Like only unionized employees ever get caught sleeping on the job. And then no one ever acknowledged that he was in fact, ill. I'm glad that the Sun's article on this seems to right the wrong re: their reporting of this "scandal."
R.I.P.
ladypolitik 28th-Nov-2010 08:02 pm (UTC)
LOL THE ANTI-UNION BANDWAGON RHETORIC WAS SOOO PREDICTABLE.
yami_no_hoshi 28th-Nov-2010 08:08 pm (UTC)
IKR? It was laughable!
poetic_pixie_13 28th-Nov-2010 08:07 pm (UTC)
IKR? Jfc. All the anti-union bullshit that happened after this was ridiculous.
yami_no_hoshi 28th-Nov-2010 08:10 pm (UTC)
It made so mad because I grew up in a union-friendly household and I just can't stand the "yeah, they're so lazy~" BS. My parents are hard workers, damn it. As are millions of union employees. ARGH!
cecilia_weasley 28th-Nov-2010 10:49 pm (UTC)
Every time something goes wrong with the TTC the union gets blamed. EVERY. TIME.
cecilia_weasley 28th-Nov-2010 10:48 pm (UTC)
I thought he suffered from sleep apnea, and that's why he was asleep. I would have hoped that it could be treated.
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