Friday, October 27, 2006

Troubles at VIVA continue

This morning on my way into work, while waiting for 9 minutes to transfer buses between VIVA Purple to VIVA Orange, I decided to purchase my November monthly pass.

I used the automated fare machine to purchase the pass. However, nothing came out after the machine's screen finished saying "please wait, I'm printing your tickets." I looked in and saw the problem. There was a gap between where the ticket is dispensed from and the receptacle. There was a white piece of paper in it. It was my receipt. I managed to fish that out of the machine. Next, I searched for the pass in that same hole no wider than your pinky. I nudged the piece of paper in the gap and it fell lower out of reach. This pass cost me $120.00!

While my hands and knees were getting acquainted with the concrete sidewalk, I copied down the Location# (9715) and Device # (0802) from the tag at the bottom left hand corner of the machine. I then reported it to the VIVA Orange bus driver on bus # 5132. He called it into transit control who said I had to call customer service instead.

So, I got to work and called customer service. I listened to their two minutes of pre-recorded information and was told that now my call was being transferred to the customer service agent. The phone rang four times and then I got nothing except dead air. I waited a minute and then nothing.

So I dialed the number again and waited through the two minutes of pre-recorded information (including for more information please visit our website! ARGH!). Then, I had to wait in the usual que for a customer service agent to pick up. This call occurred shortly after 8 A.M. and there isn't enough customer service agents to handle the calls? Perhaps more agents need to be hired or perhaps the bus system is receiving so many questions and complaints that communication with the customers need to be thought out.

Elsie picked up and I explained what happened. She said that I should expect a response to my query sometime next week.

I pointed out November started next Wednesday and what was I supposed to do then, get a $150.00 ticket from VIVA/YRT's Rent a Cops because I didn't have a monthly pass and the receipt would not suffice? I asked why one of the supervisors who always seem to be hiding in their cars sleeping instead of assisting the passengars, might be able to deliver me the monthly pass in question. I pointed out that I did work really close to one of their major terminals (Downsview Station) and perhaps they could deliver one there sometime by Wednesday.

Elsie said she would transfer me to someone, she said I had to lose the sarcasm though.

I thought to myself, I'm out $120.00 right now, I believe I've paid for the right to be sarcastic.

Elsie noted that person is not working yet as this person starts work at 8:30, so I should leave a voicemail.

I was transferred to another line and someone picked up. She said Elsie had transferred me to the wrong person. This person transferred me to Vanessa.

Vanessa was awesome! I gave her all my information of where, when, and how I lost the pass. She said she would call dispatch to see if a technician could visit the VIVA vending machine in question and figure out when I could get the pass. She called back in five minutes to say a technician was en route to the machine.

In fifteen Vanessa called back to say the technician would visit me at the office in under an hour. She apologized profusely about the situation. She also noted that the technician said there were two problems at this machine.

Apparently, there was a report of another Michael Suddard who had his debit card stuck in the machine as well as Vanessa's request to retrieve a pass for Michael Suddard. I said to Vanessa that I never said I had my debit card stuck in the machine. In fact, I noted, I have my debit cards on me and their perfectly fine. Elsie hadn't been listening to my story about losing the pass. But at least Vanessa did. She noted she was going into a meeting later that day and would bring up the problem I ran into. I also pointed out that the VIVA Orange to Downsview and the VIVA Purple to Martin Grove miss each other every day by one minute, yet I just get the runaround that "VIVA operates like the subway." I pointed out to Vanessa that perhaps VIVA should run the Toronto subway and have the TTC Subway trains operate every fifteen minutes! We both laughed at this, but she got my point and would pass it on.

Within the hour, Wade had dropped off the pass and again apologized for the confusion.

So BRAVO to Wade and Vanessa for quickly fixing the problem. I was imagining a possibly bureaucratic nightmare. I'm ecstatic that didn't happen.

JEERS to Elsie for screwing this up and the customer service line where you have to wait for two minutes and cannot press "0" to speak to a human.

JEERS again to customer service centre and the VIVA Rent a Cops for not ensuring the Ontario Smoke Free Act and the YRT Customer Code of Conduct (Region of York By-law # R-415-2005-028 section 3.21) at Richmond Hill Centre Terminal is enforced. People smoke at this transit terminal despite the no smoking signs being posted at the station,. the above customer code of conduct posted on the York Region Transit website and a report by myself that smoking is an ongoing issue. The terminal is also littered with cigrette butts and yet enforcement never seems to be around! Even BIGGER JEERS and a BIGGER SHAME! to the transit supervisor at Richmond Hill Centre Termianl who, every morning, stands next to a VIVA driver on break and lets this said DRIVER SMOKE! So why go about posting the signs on every single window at the station and post it on your website if your own enforcement refuses to even enforce it? SHAME ON YRT!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Chapter 9: Union Station

In case you are wonderin' what is going on with this post....click here.

In chapter 9 Joe Fiorito investigates Toronto's Seaton House. Seaton House is a homeless shelter for men located near downtown Toronto. The homeless that attend this shelter usually have lost their jobs, have an alchohol addiction, and/or are mentally unstable.

Heres the question I have always had about my experience between Toronto and New York City: Why are the homeless more noticeable in Downtown Toronto as opposed to Manhatten Island?

I have several theories for this:

1. New York City has quite a few subway lines that operate twenty four hours a day. New York's Subway system provides the homeless great spots to curl up in warm and dry locations in trains, passages stairwells and stations for the day and night. Heck, even the homeless advocates go from train car to train car handing out free sandwiches and other nutritious meals.

Whereas Toronto's subway system shuts down around one or two in the morning which means the homeless are forced out onto the streets as the trains go out of service for the evening. So the homeless would rather lay on heating grates an sleep

2. The New York City Police Department (NYPD) enforces the loitering laws far better than Toronto's Police force. This is particularly true considering that the homeless in Toronto can be found throughout the downtown sprawled out on street corners or begging for spare change. Whereas, in New York City, the homeless are barely seen and if they are seen, you can bet they are not sitting around begging for change. Perhaps this is because New York's finest ensure the sidewalks are not obstructed by anything or anyone.

3. Better housing services are offered by the New York City than Toronto. I have no proof on this one, but the fewer homeless on Manhatten's streets would indicate there are fewer homeless. Manhatten, considered the "downtown" of New York City would theoretically have more homeless in this city of over ten million than Downtown Toronto would with a population of just over 2 million. Yet I can find more homeless in Downtown Toronto than in my extensive adventures throughout Manhattan. Could this be because the homeless in New York city are routed towards programs that encourage them to find "geared to income housing" and away from the street corner?

These are just theories of why I believe the homeless are more noticable in Toronto than New York City.

I'd like to finish up with an anecdote though. When I was going to the University of Ottawa, I used to walk over the Mackenzie King Bridge behind the Rideau Centre there was always a pandhandler. This spot, you would think would be a prime location for a person down on his luck to gain quite a few sheckles in order to purchase some food and clothing. Or you would think shyster could do pretty well here if he played the part. Well, there was a shyster playing the part. Except the shyster had one problem: Why would a homeless person down on his luck have a brand spanking new leather jacket and winter toque on?

Naps & Colds

Late this past week I came down with a cold. Not a full blown runny nose cold, but a soar throat and slight headache cold. The nose, on Saturday, tried to start running, but that was short lived.

Now here I am Sunday afternoon feeling fit as a fiddle. How did that happen considering Thursday the symptoms were only just beginning?

Simple. I have a plan when it comes to challenging colds to test me:

1. Increase the amount of milk or milk products that I consume. The invention of chocolate milk makes this even better.

2. Increase the amount of Orange Juice in order to ensure I am getting more Vitamin C than I know what I do with.

3. Soar throat and sinuses congested? Try chewing Wrigley's Excel Extreme Gum which will just kick the hell out of your soar throat and do a number on the sinuses all in a positive way. I learned this one day after trying a pack of the new Extreme Gum from Loblaws. When I first tried this particular product, I was healthy, and thought the gum was disgusting. But I did note that the gum had an intense menthal tasting action that might be good for getting rid of disgusting mucas tastes in my mouth like you have when a cold is in full swing. After my first cold, I will never leave without this gum! Its widely available at Shoppers Drug Mart, Loblaws and its affiliated stores (e.g. Real Canadian Superstore, Zehrs, etc.).

4. Chicken Noodle Soup. At least I learned something from my mother....when your sick, Chicken Noodle soap is for you!

5. Naps & Nyquil. er...Nyquil then nap. Nyquil, the night time cold and flu edition is will clean out your sinuses and runny nose. But be careful, after taking the recomended dose on the bottle, be sure to act fast in putting the cap back on and racing to bed. This is because you might fall asleep before your head even hits your pillow.

All of the above helped me kick some serious cold ass leave me feeling energized and ready for the world!

Naps are perhaps the best idea, even if you don't have a cold, to re-energize yourself. My sister explained naps in this post that is well worth reading. All though, I don't take setting the alarm part as necessary, I do enjoy a nice weekend nap out on your favourite futon or chesterfield. My favourite napping is usually on a Saturday afternoon on a dreary rainy day. I lay out on my futon with a "throw" on watching boring Saturday afternoon television and drift off to sleep. I have the knack of awakening from my 'power nap' feeling totally re-energized.

Usually I use naps to reward myself from a busy morning. Saturday mornings are usually the best times to get things done. The line ups at the local Canadian Tire are usually nice and short. This is great because I love going in, getting what I want in a store and getting out as fast as I can. Also, at the Candaian Tire I go to, there are usually free Toronto Sun editions right after the checkout counters. These free newspapers are gone pretty quickly though, so you have to be there early to get an edition! The bank on a Saturday morning at 9:30 A.M. is a ghost town! I can get in, see a teller, and get out in five minutes. Later on in the day I would be lucky to get in and out in under twenty minutes.

So with all this in mind, I love Saturday afternoon naps....especially when battling the evil Dr. Cold bug!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

An Autumn Walk in Aurora

Tonight, shortly after six p.m., I headed out towards Sheppard's Bush to enjoy the fall colours. Unfortunately, many of the pictures didn't turn out due to bad lighting within Sheppard's Bush. But at least I got out to enjoy a nice fall walk full of fresh air and rasque squirrels looking for food before winter.

Here are the pictures that did turn out though:

The parkette at the corner of Edward Street & Royal Road.

A look down Royal Road at sunset from Edward Street.

Sheppard's Bush entranceway from Industrial Parkway South.

A look down the fitness trail at Sheppard's Bush.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Chapter 8: Union Station

In case you are wonderin' what is going on with this post....click here.

In chapter 8, Joe Fiorito takes a look at entrepreneurs who have moved from Asia and try and make it in Toronto. These entrepreneurs open everything from restaurants, where Fiorito reminisces about good soup to vacuum dealers who had to struggle with unfair competition from next door and succeed.

Every single businessman who has struggled to make it big in Canada and, for some, the world. There are a couple of businesses in Aurora that have seen recent immigrants come to Canada and start their own small businesses.

First, the most famous person in Aurora to own a business is perhaps Frank Stronach who founded Magna Autoparts, and later, Magna Entertainment. Frank Stronach started it all in Sweden and gradually moved his operations to Toronto. Eventually Magna (after merging his with another company) got its first contract for autoparts from General Motors. Magna has emerged to become the leading autopart manufacturer in the world with companies ranging from Ford and General Motors to Honda and Mercedez Benz. The Magna Autoparts world headquarters is located in Aurora, on the former farm of Frank Stronach (who still lives there as well). More on Magna's history can be found on their website.

Another recent immigrant making big, but not as big as Frank Stronach but could have if he had of left Aurora is Omar Khamissa. Recently, Omar passed away, which was a major blow to Aurora's business community considering he was in business for over 30 years and has seen several thousand pairs of feet that required shoes. In fact, I probably got my first pair of shoes fitted by either Omar himself or a member of his staff. An article on the difference Omar has made to Aurora can be found here.

Aurora, for what was a small town, has made it big both within small business in terms of Omar, but also big worldwide in terms of Frank. Fiorito's looking for the average small business owner left this out. However, Fiorito's book was more based around telling the stories that aren't usually told in the Toronto area.

But I do find, at least recently, that I find books on how entrepreneurs made it big to be very interesting. For example, I have recently read The Google Story which explores how Google has gone from a company run out of a dorm room and a garage to a multi billion dollar company. Perhaps one of the biggest people I look up to in business is my own uncle, Bob Young, who made it big in the field of Linux as founder of Red Hat Linux. His book, Under the Radar, formed the basis for the research I did for a paper for my Business History course at the University of Ottawa on the rise of Linux in the marketplace. This paper can be found here.

Who knows, perhaps down the road I will have my own successful business story.....

Sunday, October 08, 2006

A night out on the town...

I was out last night to visit a comedy club with a friend of mine at the Bad Dog Theatre. We were out to see "the Booby Benefit Deux". This comedy show's proceeds went to breast cancer research. The show starred five women doing improv in the style of "Whose Line is it Anyway?" from Television.

Following the show, my friend and I went to The Willow restaurant for after show drinks and snacks. Soon after the cast of the show came into the restaurant and invited us into the back of the restaurant to joined them. So we did. I helped the producer of the show, who my friend knew from doing improv classes at Second City in Toronto. We sat down next to each other with two seats across from us.

Two ladies, around my parents age, walked in and sat down accross from us. The producer recognized one of them immediately and struck up a conversation. I sat in awe at the lady sitting directly across the table from me.

She looked through the menu and looked at me and said "would you like to split some calimari?"

I was flabergasted, her was a person that most Canadian's admired (heck... a Juno and slab with your name on it on Canada's Walk a Fame with your name on it might make you famous) and she would choose the only seafood on the menu.

"I'm not one for seafood," I told her.

She offered the rest of the table to split Calimari.

I split my potato wedges with everyone else. I got asked by the lady sitting directly across the table if I had a nutritious dinner that night considering the potato wedges were high in calories.

I smiled and replied that I had a nice medium peporoni pizza.

The lady looked at me and asked "What would your mother think?"

I replied, with a smile "She would say: If you have the metabolism, why not?"

The lady laughed for a bit and the conversation continued on.

I left about 11:30 P.M. from the restaurant and took the subway and VIVA bus home. I was beaming the entire way thinking about who I had drinks with.

Who was it?

None other than Royal Canadian Air Farce's own Luba Goy.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Chapter 7: Union Station

In case you are wonderin' what is going on with this post....click here.

Chapter 7 of Union Station takes a look at the contributions the Italian community has made to Toronto as both city builders and as current residents. Joe Fiorito contends that Italians built most of Toronto by hand. Everything from the skyscrapers to the Yonge Street Subway Line.

The history of Toronto and its surrounding cities is quite vast. Take for example Aurora, and other cities between Aurora and Toronto. Aurora was founded as "Machell's Corners" and eventually was renamed Aurora when formed as a town. Aurora's growth was spurred by the founding of Yonge Street which stretched north from Lake Ontario from Downtown Toronto northward towards Lake Simcoe. Industrial growth was encouraged by the building of the railway and especially so considering Aurora was the 'end of the line' on Canada's first railway. But the real question is not who the 'movers and shakers' were who lead the creation and building of both Aurora and Toronto, but who were the everyday workers who did the grunt work? These are the people Fiorito tells the story about. The person who owned the local corner store, the person who is the matriarch of the local market and others like these are the true city builders. These are the people who history seems to forget.

Footnote: For a complete history of Aurora click here.

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