The link below is to an article written about Pauline Tantost, who, along with her 2-year old son Xavier, was escorted off a Montreal City Bus for not being able to pay the fare with the exact change. It was 10:00 at night and she was taking her son home from a children’s hospital. She even offered to pay more than the requested fair, so that she could get her son home, but it was not accepted. Then, she was fined $219 for not paying the fare.
When I read through reports of what happened, I (along with many other people) felt compelled to comment. And I have to ask the question: Seriously!? How on earth can a transit company conscience doing this to a woman and a small child? Granted, a person’s entire life story and circumstances aren’t often apparent at first glance, but regardless of whether or not the child had been sick or just was released from the hospital emergency department – to leave a mother and her child out on the street at 10:00 at night is just unconscionable and socially irresponsible.
I can really sympathize with this woman: for if my son had been sick and I was finally able to take him home from the hospital, I would be tired, worried and I don’t think that I would be all that capable of organizing my life to ensure I had exact bus change. And, regarding the rest of my opinions on this matter, I feel I can speak from my own personal experience with my own metro transit system.
Once, many years ago, as a university student using public transit, I had the particularly unpleasant experience of witnessing a man (who obviously had some social & mental health issues) masturbate, only a few seats away from me, and ejaculate all over the floor in front of him. When I informed the bus driver of the incident, he acted completely ambivalent and said he’d make a report – however, he didn’t ask me any specific questions, or even for my name. And at the time, I was too young and shaken up over the whole scene to press the issue. Also, during my university years, I occasionally witnessed drunken, belligerent passengers on public transit, again, with bus drivers who did nothing. (I guess if you pay the fare with the correct change, then it’s OK to yell and frighten other passengers…)?
Later in my life, as a single mother who relied on public transit, I can remember rushing to catch the bus, seeing it stopped at the bus stop, running in a downpour of rain to catch it, (along with several bags and my 4-year-old son in tow), just to reach the bus door while the bus driver was in the process of shutting it. And in doing so, he glanced at us, shrugged his shoulders, and pulled away. I’m left standing there, in the pouring rain, with my young son crying and saying, “Mommy, why did he do that? Why did he leave us? He’s so mean!” For it was obvious, even to a 4-year-0ld that he had seen us, but because he was already in the process of shutting the door as we reached it, we got a shrug and a raised hand in the air, indicative of ‘you snooze, you lose, lady’. Later, in telling others and friends about ‘the mean bus driver’, I found out that things like this happened to many other people, too, every day.
Now you’re probably wondering whether or not I made a complaint. Unfortunately, I didn’t. Why? Well, because as a single mom trying to get a small child to daycare and get myself to work on time (while carrying multiple bags, in poor Maritime weather), I can’t say that I had much time to stop and write down all the details, such as the exact time of the incident, the route number, the code on the back of the bus, etc… And honestly, deep down, I didn’t have much faith that, even if I had the time to put that much effort into their complaint process, the transit system would actually do anything about it, anyway.
Personally, I’m a big girl. If you want to be mean to me, I have a pretty thick skin and I don’t care much about being rained upon… and at the end of it all, I recognize that anyone can have a bad day – especially bus drivers who are known to have to take a lot of crap from the public, as well as have to deal with mentally unstable and physically aggressive passengers, drunk passengers, belligerent passengers, etc… But bad day or not… it would still be nice if they remembered that they are performing a public service and representing a city – a community and their transportation system. I also recognize that the world isn’t always a ‘nice’ place, filled with nice people, like we’d like it to be. And sometimes there are people out there who are just plain, downright mean and ugly who enjoy putting in the extra effort to hurt and be mean to others for their own amusement… like making them wait for another bus while they get soaked to the skin. But to do that to a child??!! That’s a separate level of cruelty and meanness.
In my opinion, picking on a mother with her child, is a form of easy bullying. It’s not likely that a mom with a small child is someone who will become overly belligerent or physically aggressive, therefore, it’s someone who can either be ‘taught a lesson’ or ‘made an example of’ or even on whom they can take out their frustration or anger on a ‘bad day’ without fear of that person retaliating.
So I say, shame, shame, shame on Montreal Transit! To go through the drama of stopping the bus, making those on the bus wait, so that officials could board the bus to remove a mother and her small child at 10:00 at night – apparently just to prove a point, is more than disgusting. For the incomprehensible, socially irresponsible and potentially very dangerous act of abandoning a woman and her sick child out on the street late at night, they should not only cancel the fine but also apologize to her and her son and provide them with a bus pass for at least one year.
It’s always easier to pick on someone who doesn’t look like they will fight back or cause any trouble. But guess what? My life has changed in some ways. My child is older, my mornings (and evenings) are a little easier and now I have the time to make a complaint. I may not have a recent issue of my own to complain about right now, but I will send a complaint on behalf of Pauline Tantost, because I really have issues with how she and her son were treated.
If you would also like to voice how you feel about what happened to this woman and her child, here’s how to contact Montreal Transit: