Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Because he said they sell shoes at Bass Pro

Recently I gained access to an old blog site of mine and was able to download all of my posts. I'd figure I'd share a few of them on here. This story was originally published online on October 22, 2007 and was a favourite among many of my readers at that time.
Yesterday afternoon Chad and I paid a visit to Bass Pro in Vaughan on our way back to Highway 401 after visiting family near Alliston. And only because Chad said something to me once we were just south of Highway 9, “They sell shoes at Bass Pro.”

Those who have not been following the shoes for Chad saga should know that this is a sad state of affairs in our marriage. Chad hates, hates, hates to shop for shoes.

I said if I take you to Bass Pro you will look at shoes? He said yes and added that since we were out here anyway, he wouldn’t mind researching some marine GPS units.

My hands gripped the steering wheel - tighter. Here we go again, I thought. Chad’s wanted a GPS unit for eons. I’ve been trying to convince Chad that maybe we should take a vacation this coming March break as a family and go somewhere warm – like Cuba. And, take Jayde and my mom, too. Seeing an opportunity so that he’d have some kind of bargaining power, he suggested that myself, my mother and Jayde go and he would stay home so we could save some money. And he could buy himself a GPS unit with the money we’d save. Yes … please think about that logic. I’ll wait.

We parked. I was only going in for one purpose and that was to get my man some shoes as he was not, over my dead body, going to wear rotting and moldy sneakers for another winter.

I hate Bass Pro. I hate everything that Bass Pro represents - specifically the hunting part. We have supermarkets. And since we all live in relatively civilized parts of Canada, we have no reason to hunt for tonight’s dinner. Chad is way into fishing. If Chad could quit his job and fish all day, he would. I don’t like fishing. If I was to quit my job and fish with Chad, I would be the one bleeding from the eyes because of the forks I stuck in them – that’s how much I love to fish.

Once in Bass Pro, Chad hung a right and headed towards the Fishing section. Did I mention I was wearing an Ottawa Senators Jersey ... in Bass Pro ... in the GTA ... in a store that sells weapons?

I dragged my feet around the aisles while Chad browsed the GPS units appearing very interested in what he was seeing unlike an earlier shopping experience I had written about. While Chad browsed, I walked around Bass Pro in my Sens Jersey completely aware of what a deer feels like in an open field and I waited.

And I waited and I waited for Chad to finish his “research” and join me so we could look at some shoes for him. I eventually headed back to the GPS display kiosk and to my horror, the salesperson was DEMONSTRATING map software to Chad on a device priced at $2995.00. Before I could say anything, Chad was quick to point out that he was only testing the map software and not to “shit a brick”.

I proceed to wander about the store some more. Did I mention how bored I was? When I looked up again from perusing a display bin of grey woolen socks that claimed to offer "18 hours of non-stop warmth", Chad was fingering this small GPS unit - testing its weight in his hands. I walk over. He went to open his mouth but I shut it for him by simply asking the salesperson how much and how much more for the map card? I get an answer. I do the math in my head. Chad is standing next to me. I can tell he’s holding his breath.

I sigh. I think about all the fishing stuff Chad has and I think back to when in the car earlier - as a joke - I suggested we use the fireplace to keep us warm this winter and we go ahead and replace the motor in the furnace next winter if he wanted a GPS so bad. Chad actually agreed this wasn’t a bad idea. I was kidding

I agree to the purchase of the GPS unit. The salesperson begins to point out other features the unit has. I give him the look. He stops talking. Chad tries to contain his excitement by telling me that because we are buying the GPS no one has to buy him anything for Christmas. I said, this Christmas? Don’t you mean Christmases? Of course no one is buying him anything for Christmas, they’re going to give me the money.

Chad always acts very different after he gets something he wants. He practically skipped over to the Footwear department. This is Bass Pro, they know their clientele. They would never use the word 'shoe'

Scanning the display of shoes, I avoided anything with laces. If there is one thing I have learned about my husband is that the less labor involved with putting on shoes, the more likely he is to wear them. I learned this from his current obsession with his Crocs. See, Chad gets up at abnormal hours throughout the year because his job literally revolves around what time the sun is going to rise. The less time Chad has to spend getting ready for work in the morning, the longer it means he gets to sleep. Considering laces take 8 seconds per foot, Chad gets 16 extra seconds of sleep if I buy him a shoe that slips on. This is not my logic. No, I don’t understand it, but I have never had to get out of bed at 4:30 in the morning and actually go somewhere. Feed a baby, yes. But that’s beside the point...

I notice a nice, leather, clog-style shoe on the display shelf and show it to Chad. Knowing that he better play along seeing as we have not paid for the GPS unit yet, Chad slaps a smile on his face and comments that the shoe is nice. I ask him, do you mean nice as in I’ll wear it nice or, nice as in the color is a nice shade of mocha-nice or, nice as in I better say I like it or else this bitch isn’t going to go ahead with buying this GPS unit - that right now - no one is prying from my hands unless I am dead and cold nice?

He says, I mean nice as in I like them. So Chad skips over to the inventory end-cap and hunts himself down a size 12. A size that is NO WHERE to be seen. Because I have learned about what kind of window of opportunity I have with Chad when it comes to buying shoes, I practically attack the first salesperson I see and shove the display shoe under his nose and beg for a 12 – stat. He flees. I think he has been through this before.

As we are waiting - which seems to take an eternity - I ask Chad again if he will wear the shoes. This was met with a reassuring smile but he asks me if he really should be wearing them to work. Chad doesn’t go anywhere else other than work and he definitely isn’t fishing in these shoes. Where did he think he was going to wear the shoes? Church? I grab a fishing boot and hit myself repeatedly on the head with it. Chad relents and says ok, I will wear the shoes. He knows why this is important to me. Back in the day, when I used to date, the first thing I would notice about a man was his shoes. Seeing as Chad was wearing new sandals when I first met him, he got off easy.

The sales guy comes back with a size 12 - in the exact same style and color I sent him to fetch. Chad tries them on, walks around, casually sneaks a glance to make sure I have not run off to bring the GPS unit and map card back to the kiosk, and proudly announces that the shoes are indeed, nice, and that he will buy them. I nearly weep.

In the end it cost us $689.00 to buy a $40 pair of shoes. And yes, we will be using the fireplace this winter. And yes, I will continue to look at a white kitchen floor that I absolutely have come to hate but at least Chad will know how to navigate himself around Lake Simcoe come January.

There was a point to this story aside from me finally having found a new pair of shoes for Chad. Chad prides himself as being a “Mike Holmes” kind of guy. If it’s not done right, bought right, or purchased for the right amount, then just don’t bother doing/buying it in the first place. Last weekend, I asked Chad to install a cat door into the furnace room door so I can keep Jayde away from the cat litter boxes and her insistence on needing to watch, and helping, the cats poo/pee - which results in accidents elsewhere in the house - because the cats refuse to pinch anything out while a two-year-old is holding them down in the litter box yelling at them to pee now! You pee now! Ok! Poo! Make poo poo cat!

Chad eventually grew tired of me asking him to install the cat door and finally dragged himself down to the basement to do it.

The result? Last time I checked, I do not own circus cats. I have never trained any of them to jump through a hoop. So there is no way in hell any of them, especially Nala - who is as coordinated as a bull in a china shop - are going to jump through a cat door to take a dump.

Chad installed the cat door incorrectly. I don’t know if he did it on purpose to piss me off. But in the end, it will come down to him having to cut a hole out so the cats can walk through it - which is what I suggested in the first place. It was his idea to buy a cat door so it looked “nice”. See pic.

I realize in the picture on the actual product, it shows a cat happily stepping through the door. Two of our cats are old and lazy - hence the circus cats remark. Chad should have known better. Below is how it should have been installed (through the power of Photoshop) ... so the cats just slide through which all three would be very good at since they all dive quite well under the couch when they see Jayde coming.
To solve the problem, Chad ripped out the door, cut the door off from the bottom, and left a large, rectangle-shaped hole.

The cats love it.

Well here's something you don't see everyday

Monday, December 30, 2013

Who's back to work?

We're supposed to be in Las Vegas but alas, we are here. My husband is in a great deal of discomfort with kidney stones so we decided it be best that we stay here in Canada close to healthcare facilities we can deal with without hassle and paperwork. We didn't want to end up in the papers, where people shake their heads at us, if you know what I mean... "And they still traveled anyway!? Tsk"... while Jayde and I stand together, looking forlornly at a photographer's lens in some Vegas hospital parking lot, holding piles of paper and a bill for $175,000.00 for Chad's emergency surgery.

Okay, I may be exaggerating but still... travel insurance is tricky when a condition is pre-existing. Better safe than sorry.

I'm off til Thursday and then off again on Friday. Chad and I have tickets to see John Pinette at Casino Rama Friday night. I'm praying for good weather. Driving to Orillia in a blizzard is not something I want to do a second time. The first time back in 2008 was enough. A freak snowstorm took us by surprise. We had no reason to suspect the weather would be a bitch. Dolly made it, unlike Huey Lewis back in 2003 - something, something - blackout. Bastard still could have gone acoustic and used candles. The parking lot was well lit.

I'm still not over it.

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas. I took in a good haul - alcohol ... chocolate ... alcohol. My husband knows me well.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Bummed - my gift for you all was sabotaged by the ice storm

I finally got a hold of the songwriter and singer who had offered to help me with your Christmas gift after approaching me with an idea. She lives in an area of Scarborough that is affected by an on-going power outage as a result of Saturday's ice storm. Everything *was* going smoothly until then.

Here in Courtice we were out for most of Sunday and Monday. Power has been steady since. I think those of us who bore the brunt of this storm have quickly learned how grateful we should be for hydro when we have it.

Rebecca and I have agreed that we will work on the gift for next year. Some of you figured out what it was on Twitter. It's only another 364 days.

It will be here before you know it!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

He's not as clever as he thinks. Mr. Hear No Evil-See No Evil is rude

from: NH
to: "C.J. Smith"
date: Thu, Dec 19, 2013 at 9:14 AM
subject: Don't be fooled!

Hey CJ,

Got to call out this repeat offender.  Mr. Hear no Evil, Speak no Evil, See no Evil here has been up to the same ole evil day after day.  Every morning around 9:00 I get on the crowded express LSE to Union and this a**hole ALWAYS sits with his backpack on the seat beside him and his legs stretched infront of him.  But you can't politely say "excuse" me to squeeze  Cause he can't see, hear or respond.  So let this a**hole know I will continue to kick him in his designer jean shins with my snowy salted boots each morning because I refuse to stand like the others who are too polite to disturb him.  


Happy Holidays!  


Sunday, December 22, 2013

T'is the season to be jolly...

Staying home - bunkering down

I had every intention of going to work Monday.
Tuesday was set up to be a half-day connecting remotely until noon.

Monday is now a day where I will be connecting remotely.

I'm lucky my job allows me to function from home. I suspect some folks won't be happy I didn't make it in, but with rolling blackouts expected throughout Durham Region tomorrow, GO expecting significant delays due to malfunctioning signals, tree branches landing on buses, tree branches landing on tracks and power disruptions to signals and stations, I'd rather avoid any possible shit-show and just stay here and spend my time working than commuting.

My condo complex was hit pretty hard. There are trees down everywhere blocking driveways, damaging roofs and pulling down metres of eavestroughs. It's a mess. My husband was excited to finally have a use for his chainsaw operator's licence. He was out there like the villain from the Chainsaw Massacre.

I spent $300 on groceries today in preparation of my Christmas dinner bonanza of 14 people. I don't know how many times I've yelled at the kid and husband to shut the damn fridge during our rolling brown-outs.

I know this could be worse. We haven't reached a crisis of Walking Dead proportions or filling up the bath tub with cold water so we can brush our teeth for a month, but losing hydro for 12 hours can really take its toll on some folks.

Thank god for pillar candles is all I can say.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Please keep quiet on the train

You know you failed at science when...

... a transformer blow-out resulting in a fire on top of a hydro pole carrying enough kilowatts of electricity to send our bus back to 1985 is now leaning dangerously at a 40-degree angle, threatening to pull down live wire upon live wire of hydro lines onto Oshawa's Bloor Street - slick with rain, puddles and sleet - and you ask the bus driver if he could let you off so you can walk to the GO station, which is so close, yet so far.

This despite Durham Regional Police shutting down the road. This despite the light show happening in front of us that could rival the Symphony of Fire firework competition I used to watch at Ontario Place as a kid. This despite three Oshawa PUC hydro trucks and a crew of 10 scrambling to identify "you-won't-die-here-if-you-step-here" safe zones for walking. This despite firefighters asking people in cars to turn around and head to Whitby GO because letting them into the parking lot risks putting them directly under live wires and poles that could topple like dominoes onto cars and people and cause possible death and injury. I'm pretty sure I needed a few commas in that last sentence.

Yes, some of you folks on the bus with me, angry that the driver wouldn't let you off and walk. This is why you failed at science.

This is why our driver, after negotiating our release with police, drove into the parking lot and tried to get us away from any puddles that could become electrified while workers scrambled to contain the situation and get close enough to cut power, only to realize that the parking lot was too narrow for him to negotiate. Yelling at him breaks his concentration. Pressuring him to let you off and not allowing him to assess the situation like he's trained to do is wrong of you to do. The safest place for us to be was on that bus. Sorry you missed not just one, but two trains, and sorry you were late for work, but some of you really need to calm your tits.

After determining it was safe to exit (both traffic-wise and potential electrocution-wise) and the bus couldn't stay where it was, the driver reluctantly allowed me to get off and direct him from the rear of the bus so he could reverse without shearing off the bumpers of cars. I was wearing a white coat. It was dark and he would be able to see me. It takes a village sometimes...

The bus driver successfully backed out of the lot, I was escorted towards the station by a lovely GO Transit customer service station attendant, and everyone made it to the Kiss and Ride, safe and sound, and able to catch the 7:53 am train.

I agree the driver should not have tried to negotiate the parking lot with the bus. However, he was already rattled by the situation - people yelling at him and with no clear direction from bus operations on what drivers should do who were already at the station, does it surprise you he made a wrong turn?

Right now, you're at work - probably late... but at least you're not "walking the mile" waiting for some "fried chicken".

Such a pretty light show. All that was missing was chestnuts and marshmallows.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Are you dead? On vacation? Given up? Been sued?

No, no and no and most importantly, no.

Life is crazy at the moment - you know, being the march towards Christmas. As much as I try to blog from the train, the signal is crap through many stretches and I get frustrated and give up.

I'm working on the mother of all footrider stories and I want those who have taken the time to send me pictures over the past several months to know that I do not purposely ignore your photos. I collect them and then post them randomly. Even I would get tired of seeing footriders all the time on my site.

I know it makes some folks bang their keyboards in frustration when I don't post content everyday - just let me believe this as truth, I have blogs that are part of my daily distraction routine and I get disappointed when there hasn't been an update in more than a day. This blog has been delayed with no communication as to what's wrong.

A bit hypocritical of me, I know.

I bet at the Metrolinx office right now, a few of the folks in Communications are probably pointing at the monitor, jumping up and down, and screaming, "In your face, bitch!" a la Jessie Pinkman.

Sit your asses back down. Apparently there's this huge PRESTO upgrade happening in January. I've learned that for many customers, the autoload feature is kaput. Will this be addressed in the upgrade?

Speaking of PRESTO, Frank E. Futor's recent Crazy Train contribution, in which Mr. Futor also emailed his concerns to GO Transit, with respect to the insidious travel window, received a reply.

from: MH 

date: Wed, Dec 18, 2013 at 1:57 PM
subject: GO Transit, A Division of Metrolinx

Reference No. 201306XXXXX
I certainly understand how crucial it is that our representatives provide the correct information to our customers. Unfortunately, our social media agent was mistaken when he mentioned that the 3 hour PRESTO travel window extends every time the PRESTO card is tapped.
The PRESTO travel window is a single 3 hour period which starts when a customer initially taps on to the GO system. It does not extend when customers tap again to transfer. The agent that tweeted this information has been addressed and we have provided him with the appropriate coaching.
I’ve also investigated your December 8th transactions, detailed in the attachment that you sent.  When you tapped your PRESTO card on the bus at Burlington to start the next leg of your journey, this opened a new trip. Normally, you would tap off at your destination, the system would recognize that you took this trip within the transfer window and a transfer credit would be applied. 
Unfortunately, when the Station Attendant loaded your $80.00 after you had tapped on the bus, it closed this trip since the PRESTO system cannot load funds to the card when there is an open trip. Since this trip technically closed without receiving a tap off, an underpayment of $6.65 was charged.
Because of this, your tap off at St. Catharines was considered a tap on and another new trip was opened. You were charged $4.85 for the base fare and the next time you tap your card on the GO system, an additional $0.30 will be charged for this underpayment. A trip from the Mimico GO Station to St. Catharines with a transfer at Burlington should have only have cost $11.99 on a PRESTO card. Due to these two underpayments, you were charged a sum of $24.31 for this trip and so, overcharged by a total of $12.32.
If you could provide me with your mailing address, I would be more than happy to send you a coupon for the amount that you’ve been overcharged. Please let me know at your earliest convenience.
Thank you for bringing this matter to my attention.

Customer Service Representative

Cc.       Greg Percy, President, GO Transit

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

GO's über communication strategy

by D.H. PhD

So yesterday, I get to Union Station to catch the 5:35 milk run to Oshawa.  But what to my eyes did appear, but my train missing from signage here:

I actually got there before that, but didn't notice my train missing from the sign 'til about 5:34, when I snapped yonder picture.

It's about this time that GO started hollering (albeit enunciated quite well for once) that the delayed 5:10 train is now on TRACK 13 and passengers should proceed there.  Except for the hearing impaired, they're stranded.

My train finally made the cut at 5:37.

5:40: Someone at GO Transit HQ finally READS what they posted, or enough people at Union Station concourse complained: I was in the York Teamway and out of cell phone service.  Yet, it didn't stop an old lady screaming into her phone, because you know, that makes the signal stronger, able to pierce several feet of concrete, but I digress.

Note the sudden time change for the 5:35 - them express people hijacked my Friday-to-Monday* train.

Not sure what happened here: Oh yeah, GO HQ clued into the fact that platform info for the 5:10 was missing: it was given in the previous auditory announcement, if you recall.

Waiting . . . waiting . . . oh goodie, the express people leaving AFTER us get trains.  Truth of the matter, this did nothing but piss off the non-express people, because BOTH trains left at the same time as the 5:35 (delayed) train and the 5:53 express.  We separated somewhere around Danforth - it was a tearful goodbye.  Pissing people off for no apparent reason, GO Transit?

Alas, my train has arrived.   People were in utter shock when this happened, I got off a couple of pictures before the hoard started to move.

Also, note the lack of signage alignment: that's quality folks, with a capital K.

Got your own story of inGOmpetence?  Share it, let GO Transit KNOW they're screwing up and how they're screwing up.  Maybe we can fix this mess, even if the people in charge don't seem to want to and/or are incapable.

Also, thanks to my night-time reading buddy, the ROAR, no CORR, no CROR, oh yeah, the CROR (Canadian Railroad Operations Rules) I know that in fact it is a RULE to be synchronized to rail time, which ought to be synchronized to the RTC.  Too bad that doesn't apply to signage, or the computers that run them.  It's hard to synchronize the time across a bunch of computers, it's not like there's a network time protocol (NTP) that was invented prior to 1985.

*Snakes on a plane reference

People suck. GO Bus drivers rock.

GO now runs a Double Decker bus on my evening bus route.

I can only imagine that the driver training for these things is something akin to qualifying to be a stunt driver for the Fast and the Furious movie franchise. It has to be. My bus driver probably heads up the department.

Things were running smoothly until Wilson Road and King Street in Oshawa's east end. It's a one-way thoroughfare with three lanes: left, middle and curb. Buses drive in the curb lane. Curb lanes are also used for right hand turns. So if you want to turn right, what lane should you be in ... ?

The left lane! Correct! At least this was the logic according to one driver, who just as the light moved from yellow to red, drove from the left lane all the way to the right lane, crossed the center lane and cut off our bus driver as he or she zoomed in front of the bus and completed her turn.

My heart stopped, but Mr. Bus Driver? He was like, "Girl, please. I got this." Okay, he didn't really say that, but I'm sure that's what he would have said.

Keep in mind, we are in a Double Decker bus - a top-heavy tall vessel of glass and plastic and no seatbelts.

Mr. Bus Driver responded to this donkey's dangerous move by deploying a serious of braking and steering maneuvers, sliding us into the center lane, avoiding other motorists and stopping that bus on a dime right before the solid white line of the intersection.

Thankfully, those waiting on the green light saw what was happening and did not proceed until our bus was stopped. The roads were slick. The bus slipped as the wheels struggled to grip. Mr. Bus Driver didn't even break a sweat.

When we arrived in Courtice, I had to tell him how impressed I was at his collision avoidance skills.

He was modest. He shouldn't be. My life. His life. All of the passengers - this is the kind of drivers we want - attentive, defensive, reactive, professional and skilled.

He deserves an award. It was a close call. He handled it like a boss.

How nice of the maintenance folks to create a pen to protect the Union Station pigeons from the crowds. They even provided water and entertainment

Monday, December 16, 2013

GO adds a 7:50 am train leaving from Whitby starting January 6th

This post has been updated to address a comment; a very valid and warranted comment.

Oshawa has two express trains that leave close together and Whitby will have the same in the new year.

GO is adding a train that will depart at 7:50 am. If you miss it, the 7:59 am train will be ready and waiting for you.

This additional train should lessen the crowding at Ajax and provide more seats when the new "from Whitby" train pulls in at 7:59 am.

Our fare increase at work! Good.

But what about the Barrie, Kitchener, Stouffville and Richmond Hill people? Where are their service improvements? Bad.

Does the ridership on those corridors not justify more trains, or maybe a train in the middle of the afternoon? Is there no demand for more trains, longer trains, additional trains or all-day service?

I've written about this before, how if you live out where these trains service, if you want to leave work in the middle of the afternoon, you're held to a bus schedule or you drive in.

Something for Metrolinx to start thinking a little harder about.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Well somebody was drunk

This Crazy Train's Presto Chronicles, Chapter 25: The Insidious Travel Window

In this chapter of the Presto Chronicles, This Crazy Train guest contributor, Frank E. Futor, provides a closer look at the insidious Travel Window.

My trip cost how much?
By Frank E. Futor

On Nov. 26 and 27, @GlobalTom, @GOtransit, and @GOvoygr had the following exchange on Twitter:

1. @GlobalTom: @GOtransit Travel window with @prestocard is 3hrs. If my GO trip is longer than that, what happens when I transfer to local transit system?
2. @GOtransit: @GlobalTom It will depend on your regular trip; do you have defaults or just tap on/tap off; we can help; ^JA
3. @GlobalTom: @GOtransit No defaults - tap on/off
4. @GOtransit: @GlobalTom Each time you tap your card, ie: when transferring from GO to GO, or GO to local trans, the 3 hour window is extended. :) ^JK
5. @GlobalTom: @GOtransit Website says "There is a 3 hour travel window to complete your GO trip" - can you fix this please?
6. @GOtransit: @GlobalTom Sorry for the confusion; we'll look into this; thank you for bringing it to our attention; ^JA
7. @GOvoygr: @GOtransit Had @GlobalTom answered that his PRESTO card has a default trip, what would your answer re Travel Window & local transit be?
8. @GOtransit did not respond to the last question.

My Presto card has a default trip between Burlington and Pickering.  I tested the Travel Window last Friday afternoon.  With reference to the Presto transaction history below, there were two transfers, namely, GO to GO at Burlington and GO to DRT in Pickering.  Neither of these transfers extended the Travel Window, since the DRT co-fare of $0.65 was not applied after 3:11:00 of travel; rather, I was charged the discounted adult fare.  When I first started using Presto, CSR ^RA in Customer Relations told me the only way to guarantee being charged the co-fare is to purchase a paper ticket with Presto and carry $0.65 in cash.  I almost fell off my chair when I heard those words.  Isn’t that an admission of failure and that the old monthly passes and 10/2-trip tickets were a better solution?

GO Transit, it’s time to fess up.  What’s the story with this Travel Window “extension”?  Fact or fiction? And why is tapping all the way versus a default trip significant vis-à-vis the Travel Window?

This trip cost me how much?

The reverse trip on Sunday afternoon was uneventful until I got to Burlington; again, reference the Presto transaction history below. After I tapped on the bus, I asked our driver if there was enough time to rush to the washroom.  She said there was.  On my way back to the bus, I realized my Presto balance was low, so I stopped at the ticket booth and loaded $80 to the card, or so I thought. The transaction receipt shows an “Underpayment Value” deduction of $6.65, so my account was credited with only $73.35.


Upon closer examination of the Presto transaction log, the tap off at St. Catharines cost another $4.85; the amount should have been $3.91.  Instead of being charged $8.76 for the bus trip, I was dinged $4.85x2 + $6.65 = $16.35 (regular adult cash fare is $9.60).  And was exiting the bus at St. Catharines really a tap off? What is the state of my card for the next trip?

GO Transit, you got some ‘splainin’ to do!  Your $700,000,000+ “solution” is NOT enhancing my travel experience.  I never had these problems with 10-ride tickets.  I never had to inspect my receipts for transaction irregularities.  I never had to logon into a website to conduct accounting audits of my travel history.  Presto leaves much, far too much, to be desired.

Thursday, December 12, 2013


The world of autism is still very new to me. I've only been digesting my daughter's recent diagnosis since the summer. Learning she has Autism Spectrum Disorder helped my husband and I to finally make sense of all of her quirks, quarks, obsessions, anxieties and compulsions.

Recently I've been communicating with Jayde (it feels strange to write her name on here after nearly four years of not writing it) in text messages. During the last meeting at her school, when my husband and I sat down with the resource staff, Jayde's teacher and support teacher, the principal and the occupational therapist, it was suggested to us after we stressed the difficulty we have in encouraging Jayde to open up to us, or just talk to us about how she feels, that I set her up with a text messaging app on her tablet and encourage her to text me.

When Jayde writes, especially about anything bothering her, or something that makes her happy, or anything that is emotionally upsetting, it unlocks a part of her brain she doesn't share verbally.

After weeks of begging her to put a Christmas list together and giving up all hope that my child, now 8, will ever understand what Christmas is all about, if you know anything about Autism, you can imagine how speechless I was when I spotted this book on the wall outside her classroom tonight while we waited for her Christmas concert to start.

I opened it up.

And then I opened it up some more.

I stood there for a few moments just taking it all in, struggling real hard to keep it together. My heart felt like it was going to burst.

It was the first page that got me.

The first line, referring to a My Little Pony character, reads: "I really, really want a glittering wing nightmare moon. I think I deserve this because I try so hard at school for math".


Try so hard.

The words blurred on the page and I realized she understood.

Recovering quickly, I cracked a few jokes to my husband who was with me, about the soft theme dinosaur cover, and how she repeated it. I referenced the movie A Christmas Story, and Ralphie, with his specific description of the model of BB gun he wanted for Christmas, often repeated numerous times throughout the film.

But man, it's the "try so hard". It hit me right in the feels. Right... There.

Even in -14C weather, nothing stops these barefoot riders it seems

Time for the truth about transit in the GTA

new report prepared for the Neptis Foundation by transportation consultant Michael Schabas of London-based FCP raises some timely but awkward issues about the regional transit agency, Metrolinx, and how it, the city and province have managed to make a total hash of transit planning in Toronto and the surrounding municipalities.

Read more of Hume's column at the

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

While on the hunt for a trespasser at Danforth, we lost a CSA

The 5:53 pm (17:53) train ride was almost a no-go for myself and my co-worker as we raced through the Union Station concourse and made Olympic-worthy sprints up the stairs to Track 12 to catch it.

Proud of ourselves for making it on-board with seconds to spare considering the office Christmas party ran into overtime, and both of us were hoping to be home at a decent hour to fit in some exercise, not even three minutes outside of Union did we come to a grinding halt.

CSA Daniel took to the airwaves to tell us that trespassers had been spotted on the tracks near Danforth, that it had been reported a man and a small child were sleeping near the tracks. This was of great concern to all of us on Coach 2819 as "sleeping" could be code for un-moving. It was unnerving to say the least and although there were groans of, "Oh no, not again," because of service disruptions during the past week, we all waited patiently to learn more.

At 6:10 pm or so, CSA Daniel told us Toronto Police had asked that all rail traffic be shut down so they could locate the trespasser(s). Three Transit Safety Officers came through our coach very shortly after. Their poker faces gave away nothing.

At 6:21 pm, our train lurched forward and an announcement was made to tell us service had been reinstated and CSA Daniel had been replaced with CSA for-the-life-of-me-I-can't-remember-the-name. I actually asked out loud, "The hell? What happened to Daniel?!" Everyone on the coach chuckled.

I waited with baited breath for CSA for-the-life-of-me-I-can't-remember-the-name to update us on what happened to Daniel, but he remained silent for the rest of the ride until we got to Oshawa where he told us that Daniel would be back tomorrow and hopefully our journey would be smooth sailing.

For God's sake, can someone please tell me what happened to Daniel? Did he have an appointment to get to? Did the Transit Safety Officers take him away? Did he head off to the locomotive to do double duty as an engineer? Did he join in the hunt for the trespassers?

If I didn't have to run to catch the bus, I would have jaunted down one coach and asked CSA for-the-life-of-me-I-can't-remember-the-name if Daniel was okay. Also, we were never told if there really was a trespasser or if someone saw a discarded sleeping bag and took it for a person. Hey, I'm all about let's be safe rather than sorry and I understand how a police investigation has to be conducted safely, so the service shut down, although annoying, had to happen. But why not tell us if police were able to resolve the matter and that everyone (including Daniel) is safe? I guess there are reasons I don't need to know but you can't help but think about it for the rest of the night.

Here's hoping the trespasser reports were false.

Why is it so hard to keep one's feet on the floor?

from: MS
to: CJ Smith
date: Tue, Dec 10, 2013 at 6:08 AM
subject: Donkeys on the weekend

It seems the donkeys are not just riding during the week. This was taken Saturday. This guy besides having his feet in various positions on the seat, had a full on, top of his lungs phone conversation for about half the ride in.

It took me a few tries to find a clean seat. Lots of footprints.  Le sigh.

On a side note, the Whitby This Week paper had an ad about the charging stations at the GO lot. You can be passing through and if you need a charge, can stop in and charge up. So you don't even need to be a GO customer.

- M

How hard is it, really? To park? In a straight line between two lines?

This is a perfect opportunity for one of these cards.

I think I should have a foot rider of the week contest

But I have no prize to offer other than real estate on the site which makes it a contest that has no incentive, unless I set it up so you guys can vote on photos and the winner just has to be satisfied with the pride that comes from being number one.

Here's one from last week.

She's more important than her seat mate, apparently, who managed to keep his lower limbs on the floor.

You know that fare increase? Yeah... so ... can we have heated bus shelters at Oshawa GO station? How about it, Metrolinx?

Metrolinx (GO Transit) does the right thing and responds to D.H.'s email, doesn't send a boilerplate reply

It's a start...

December 10, 2013
Reference No.  20130XXXXX
Mr. D.H.
Email address withheld by request

Dear Mr. H.

Thank you for your email to our President Mr. Greg Percy regarding the service disruptions on December 4th.  Please allow me to respond on his behalf.

I'm so sorry you had this unfortunate experience and appreciate the impact and inconvenience it caused our customers. I understand the frustration of being so close to Union and not having the train back up to allow passengers to deboard. The challenge was that all trains during that time were impacted by an investigation involving a VIA Rail train which brought all rail traffic to a halt and prevented us from being able to reverse your train.

GO has since debriefed the events and service recovery of that day with rail traffic control to review how we could have managed this differently to reduce the impact to customers. Your comments are very valid and I can assure you the same questions were raised during the debrief. A second debrief is scheduled to review the communications from that day to ensure we make improvements in the case of future events.

Further, we have received your recent email regarding yesterday’s pedestrian incident. I am looking into the concerns you’ve raised and I will contact you again by end of day tomorrow.

Once again please accept my apologies for the inconvenience you experienced that day. I appreciate you taking the time to give us your feedback.


Paula Edwards
Director, Customer Care, GO Transit

Cc.          Greg Percy, President, GO Transit
                Bruce McCuaig, President & CEO, Metrolinx
                Mary Proc, Vice President, Customer Service, GO Transit

                CJ Smith, This Crazy Train

Why these emails are important to you as a GO Transit customer and an Ontario taxpayer

It's not enough to take out a twitter handle and conduct some armchair activism from the comfort of your smartphone to pass the time between commercials while you wait for your favourite television show to start. Banging out 140 characters doesn't make you an advocate. In the same breath, you could easily say that neither does a blog, but I disagree. This is work. What I do is not a hobby. I do it so that you have a medium to communicate through. If you don't think this blog is your voice, you haven't been reading long enough to understand what I do here. I can't remember who said it, but I was called a GO Transit passenger lobbyist. I am flattered - thank you.

It's also not enough to bang out a complaint on Facebook and hope your valiant effort at mastering the basics of QWERTY causes change to happen. All it does is demonstrate you learned a thing or two in Mrs. Ma's keyboarding class in high school about sentence structure.

It's not enough. You have to write, and you have to write well. You also need to know who to write.

I get annoyed when people lampoon others, like D.H., for taking a more direct stand and compile thoughts in a letter (a dying art form I might add) where points are made and constructive criticism is given.

I applaud folks who do this and who include MPPs, the media, transit influencers and little ol' me in the communication.

I want to know what you think about transit and how when it doesn't work well, how that affects you as a customer. I want to know that you care as much as I do about how we get to work, when we get to work, how we get home, when we will get home and all of the logistics involved so that we can plan accordingly.

We don't ride GO Transit for free. We pay a significant amount of money to do so and it is absolutely fair of us to have expectations and seek answers when situations happen and poor communication methods are deployed.

Police, security and engineering investigations are disruptive, yet, no one at Metrolinx/GO Transit has ever taken the time to explain to us what the procedure is for rail traffic when these situations arise: why trains are left holding between stations, why trains even leave stations, why trains are cancelled and what prompts the decision to cancel.

Metrolinx, the machine behind GO Transit and god-awful PRESTO is accountable to taxpayers. We can and should ask what they do with our fare dollars and how they plan to use this money to improve service. We are entitled to ask that they funnel the money into improvements that we feel would benefit us.

Furthermore, what is an operational error? How does GO Transit lose a bus?

Don't you want to know?

I do.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

I'll just put this here

from: D.H.
 "C.J. Smith"
date: Tue, Dec 10, 2013 at 11:41 AM
subject: Re: Wednesday, December 4th east-bound delay

Dear Greg,

I'm not sure to what happened to the reply I was expecting, perhaps I set my expectations too high for GO Transit once more, much like last night, allow me to regale you with the details.

Last night was yet another example of a customer service disaster on behalf of GO Transit: I can only assume that the hamster that plans your train traffic fell of his wheel again and that your communications staff left early.

Sometime around early afternoon a "trespasser" wondered onto the tracks and between Guildwood and Pickering (what happened to Rouge Hill, are we no longer using that as point of reference).  I'm being purposefully intact with my comments, as whoever is in charge of your communications was as well.  Let me outline the difference, a "pedestrian fatality or pedestrian injury on a rail line" is a BAD and UNFORTUNATE thing, it elicits feelings of remorse and concern for the poor fellow/gal that wondered onto the tracks.  A "trespasser" is a person who has entered your property illegally, it evicts feelings of ANGER in people.  A "trespasser" can be forcefully or otherwise removed from the tracks and everyone else can then go on about their day.  A "trespasser" does not require a half-day police investigation.  See the difference?  Your communications person doesn't, perhaps you can use my next fair hike to buy a dictionary, or perhaps use one of the free online ones.  I think my wife said it best, "Trespasser is an insensitive term used do describe what happened, I'm sure the family of the person injured would be offended."

This now sets the MOOD for the rest of my story, seeing as from about 3:50 pm, all I kept hearing was that a "trespasser" has wondered on to the tracks.   Which to me means a delay of 30-60 min before service is fully restored, so all an all a happy rush-hour home.  Alas, such was not the case.  Luckily, I smelled a ruse, so I had the foresight to make arrangements to have my kids picked up from school.  Yes, amazingly some of your customers have concerns above and beyond their daily GO trip, which are often times severely messed up by the actions, ney INACTIONS, of GO Transit.

Carefully watching the departure, cancellation, delay, etc of trains using your website and my handy GO transit app I picked a time to depart when I thought the coast was clear.  I had to use my own judgement as there was no hint of a smoke signal from GO as to what was going on. It was after all after 5:00 pm which I assume is the official GO quitting time and the office subsequently clears out.

I packed my stuff, called my wife, and signalled that the coast was clear and that we should catch the 6:43 pm train home to Rouge Hill.  I kept checking my GO train app (the union station departure screen) on my way down to Union Station frequently in the hopes that some tidbit of useful information would be dropped, alas no. The walk was about a 25 min trek from where I work, so plenty of chances, and plenty of let down.  The net sum no cancellations, only a delay, no time limit on the delay as is the style of GO transit.  I arrived at union station at 6:36 pm, at which time the train was still in a date of unknown delay.

Let me briefly pause and ask you a question.  In a world of GPS tracking and package shipment with real-time status updates, JIT inventory systems, why does GO Transit not know WHERE its trains are by HOW MUCH they are delayed?  Seems preposterous right?  I'd think so.

I waited around Union station, reloaded my presto card . . . which I can't seem to do online via the Presto website ever since the sign-in procedure has change, nor can I trust the money to be there after a reload anyways within 24 H span. But I'll save that debacle for another email, as from an IT point of view Presto is a disaster.  Again, see ANY other form of electronic payment and do a compare and contrast and the pitfalls of Presto are startling!  BTW, military grade integrated circuits are guaranteed to operate down to -50C, industrial grade -40C.   I assume Presto cheaped out and used commercial ICs which are only rated down to -0C for their readers. Good call, we are after all in CANADA, where the temperatures dip below 0C 25% of the year.

Back to my story, I'm at union station, waiting patiently. 6:42 pm clicks, and lo and behold the train is CANCELLED.  GO TRANSIT LOST A TRAIN!!! That is the only possible explanation that I can accept for your inability to track and plan your train traffic!  See two paragraphs up about GPS.  Seriously, how can you not know more than 1 minute before departure that a train will be cancelled?  Was your traffic controller praying to some nameless deity hoping for a miracle train to show up?  You know how you groan when your flight is cancelled, limo driver is late, your late is made with 2% milk rather than skim?  Multiply that by about 200, that's what happend at Union station at 6:42 pm

Keep in mind, people were probably making arrangements with their loved ones to be picked up at their station, as the miracle unspecified-delay train will whisk home.  Only to have to call them back, make other arrangements, ask their baby sitters to stay late, wish good night to children they won't see before they go to sleep.  Yet the miracle train did not appear to the wishes of all.  Let me be crystal clear, you held your customers hostage in the Union concourse while they waited for a delayed train that was subsequently lost, and cancelled.

With dreams crushed, and all HOPE forlorn in GO Transit, as there's NO GUARANTEE that the follow up 7:17 pm will not be cancelled (albeit it wasn't delayed, yet) my wife and I resorted to the TTC to get home.

So let me recap:
- 3 hours of waiting for the "trespasser" to be escorted off the tracks - tho both you and I know it wasn't a trespasser
- 25 min walk to Union station in vain
- 1.5H ride home via TTC to get home as I do NOT trust you or your ability to get me home
- 4H of baby sitting for 2 kids

Alas, this debacle will NOT qualify for a GO Transit guarantee either, as I did not want to tap my card on (in vain) before the platform was announced.  In fact, I knew (with the limited information I had access to) to already start making plans to use the TTC instead.  My wife did tap on, yet cancelled her ride after the 6:42 pm letdown.

Now, I don't have all of the answers, but allow me to describe to you how I would have handled the situation.

Disaster strikes.  I have at least 2 trains east of pickering, probably more.  Those can easily service Pickering, Ajax, Whitby, and Oshawa in back-and-forth service every 30min.  I have shuttle busses (which I'm sure there weren't many) offering service between Guildwood and Pickering, obviously because Rouge Hill has fallen off the map now.

Seriously, why skip Rouge Hill, is there are lack of switches between Pickering-Rouge Hill and Rouge Hill-Guildwood, I think not.  Was the "trespassing" incident at Rouge Hill? If so, why not just say that? Why stay vague.  Vagueness is DEATH in the communication department for a customer service company.  Instead, be precise and factual.   Are you this vague when it comes to board meetings? Would you accept vagueness from your underlings in their reports?  Why should your customers expect less?

Alright, back to my plan.  I have 2 trains running all-stops, because there's no point in express trains in service crunch, between Guildwood (Rouge-Hill if possible) and Union every 30 min as well.  Let me draw your attention to the fact that not ALL your customers call points east of Pickering their terminal stops.   I would have LOVED to be even able to make it to Guildwood last night on a regular schedule.  Every once-in-a-while you might be able to squeeze a train in-between the disaster zone. I'd have one train start at Guldwood (to relive the shuttle bus overload) and run run all stops to Oshawa. I'd alternate that with an express train from Union to Rouge Hill, and then all stops thereafter.  Returning trains past the disaster zone can pick up the non-rush hour traffic between Pickering, Rouge Hill and Union.

Notice how I'm able to satisfy passengers travelling between Guildwood and Union with regular service, as well as passengers traveling between Pickering and Oshawa with regular service?  Notice how the limited traffic restrictions between the disaster zone is handled?

Compare that to the GO transits plan: shove as many trains past the disaster zone, maintaing the illusion of a regular schedule including express trains.  Then cancel trains at Guildwood due to shortage of trains at Union Station to service other lines.  Thereby stranding passengers at Guildwood, overloading the shuttle busses.

Again, all of this can be optimized.  There are algorithms known to man, but not to GO Transit, that plan this all out.  Remember JIT inventory systems, I wonder what algorithms they use?

I hope, sincerely hope with all of my little heart, that a true disaster never strikes Toronto in my lifetime.  I cannot imagine the unorganized pandemonium that would occur at Union Station while GO transit misplaces trains in a real emergency situation all in the name of keeping an unachievable schedule.

Which brings me back to your communication system.  The public address system at Union Station is a joke. The place is loud, the speakers are crap, the person making the announcements mumbles and does NOT annunciate (sic), nor even repeat the announcement in case someone missed a key piece of information.  Addresses cannot be heard, comprehended, and are thus useless at platform levels: you use diesel trains, NOT silent electric trains.  Auditory addresses CANNOT and SHOULD NOT be used at platform level!  The screens, seem to be frozen on the departure schedule.  Why, only the upper 3 lines are, on average, displaying useful information critical to the people looking for their train platform.  Why are these screens not used as public address systems as well?  What are the hearing impaired customers to do?  Your corporate communication strategy sucks, there's no nice way of putting it.

Again.  There's no reason for this.  It's not like there aren't other transit systems in the world that you can't steal best practices from.  It is sad, but every other place I have traveled has a better customer information system and better coordination than our own.  Are you as an agency happy with being the worse of the lot?  I mean you're better than the TTC, but that's a pretty narrow vision, and a crippled competitor at that.

I have tried to keep keep a cool head while composing this email, but it's hard.  As a GO Transit user for 15+ years, I'm fed up.  I can only count on one thing in any kind of non-standard operating situation: GO transit will mess it up, I will not get home on time or possibly not even via a train.  And, at the end of the day, I will be fed up and angry at your organization for its ineptitude.  Not because you can't plan (which you haven't learned how to in the 15 years I've been riding GO), but solely because you cannot communicate effectively, clearly, and TRUTHFULLY with your customers.

I'm (CC'ing) more people in your organization, and more external influences in the hopes that I will get a response, including members of Parliament as you are a public agency that is not being accountable.  Maybe my last response was being carried by the lost 6:43 train?

I suggest you spend the next fare increase to institute a system to schedule your trains around an emergency, again, based on traffic patterns, usage patterns, and blockages.  Use that system to provide accurate and real-time estimates to your customers.  Fire the hamster you've had at the wheel for the last 15+ years.

D.H., PhD