Photo of Wellesley station by David Topping from the 69 Stations project.
On Tuesday afternoon rush hour, as I emerged from the stairs linking the southbound subway platform of Wellesley station to its fare and bus area on the street-adjoining ground level. A man with long-ish ponytail walked by, and then another man shuffled up to him. His friend catching up, I supposed. But then the second man took out a wallet-like case and presented a badge. Oh my. Drug dealer? What could he possibly have done? Another plainclothes police officer (or TTC constable – they were, after all not in uniform) ran up and joined them.
I was of course more than a bit curious. But I was also embarrassed for the suddenly-cornered ponytail guy. I caught pieces of the exchange:
“Did you come through that door there?”
“I was just going out for a cigarette!”
Perhaps for enhanced confidentiality, they whisked him into a little room with a door marked “TTC Janitor.”
The man had been confused, frustrated, and perhaps a bit frightened. What a nightmarish situation, I thought, being confronted by police (or transit constables) for evidently having accidentally done something that is apparently against some sort of law of which you were unaware. Also that, while minding your own business, the authorities can appear from the shadows and sweep you away to a secret prison.
I paced in front of the closed door imagining what could be going on behind it and hoping that the guy was making out better than Evey in V for Vendetta. It’s always awkward and disconcerting to witness an authority’s reaction to an infraction that you have yourself not witnessed and which may or may not have taken place.
Through the doors exiting out onto the platform for the westbound Wellesley bus, entered into the station three people, two guys and a girl, probably all in their mid-twenties. In a moment, they too were headed off by a couple of Toronto’s/the TTC’s finest and spirited away into my imagined Gulag.
While its door was open this time, I made sure to take a peek: the ponytailed man was sitting at a long table in a somewhat sterile chamber of a room, looking expectedly sullen. The first two cops were there as well. It sure didn’t look like a janitor’s closet. The door again closed.
As I exchanged somewhat-nervous glances with my fellow riders waiting for the bus. One man remarked, “Those’re the third ones in three minutes.”
“I guess I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt,” I stammered, “but maybe what they did was unintentional.”
“Oh no, they knew what they were doing. You see, they came right through the doors and were heading straight for the stairs to the subway. And the guy before, he came through those doors…” He indicated the doors to the bus platform that were closest to the street. “It’s a $500 fine.”
I thought back to a couple of years ago, when my best friend had a Metropass, and I was still using tokens. I convinced her to let me squeeze into the automatic turnstile with her at Bathurst station’s unstaffed Markham Street entrance. She swiped her card, and just as we started pushing on the revolving door, it suddenly stiffened, as though a wrench had been wedged into it. “One at a time, please,” a voice boomed over a previously-unnoticed loudspeaker. That was the last time I ever thought of defrauding the TTC.
As I boarded the 94 on Tuesday, I found myself admiring the efficiency with which the Commission had been carrying out its sting operation – but that didn’t mean I wasn’t also, rationally or irrationally, still a bit chilled by it.