Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Today's rant has been brought to you by the letters 'T' and 'C' and the number 6

More blatantly, it's been brought to you by the letters T, T, and C and the number 6 repeated a few times. *grumble*

You know, I've lived in this city for the better part of 33 years. I've always tried to give the TTC the benefit of the doubt... I've had surprisingly few issues with the service or the staff... I've been a little distressed by the slamming they've been taking in the media and at 'town hall' meetings held by the union recently.

Suddenly it has all become very very clear.

To set the stage, thanks to my new job, I travel from downtown (near the Art Gallery of Ontario) to Kennedy Subway station daily. Most days, there's car travel involved on the Kennedy end of things as well in the form of me getting a ride from someone. For the trip home, I can (and generally do) ride North 3 stops, then East, or I can ride south, around the loop at Union, and back up the other side to Bloor and then East. For the sake of convenience, it's best if I'm at the back of the subway when I get to Kennedy (as exits to the parking lots and the passenger pick-up are at that end of the platform)... I tend to prefer that anyway ever since the train I was on hit someone pulling into Kennedy and failed to kill them instantly (knowing they hit someone was bad enough without hearing the weakening wails of pain after walking through 9 cars to get off the train... not that I'd wish anyone actually dead, but it might have been better for them if their goal when jumping in front of a subway had been accomplished :( ).

So, I get to the subway station closest to work, reach platform level and it is painfully obvious that there hasn't been a Northbound train in quite some time. There is, however, a Southbound train pulling in. So I figure "Hey, I'll hop the Southbound and if I get to a station where there's no crowd on the platform before I get to Union, then I'll hop off and head back North". Odd, you might think, but part of the logic is that I can't get onto a train going North unless I get on it before all the people who have it jam packed before it gets to my regular station, and part is that I absolutely hate Yonge-Bloor station. With a passion that defies description do I hate that station. So I try my damndest not to change trains there.

First station South... nope, lots of people on the other side.... second station South "attention subway passengers, upon arrival at this station, this train will be out of service... there is another train right behind us that will pick you up". Yeah. Right. Super. Off we all pile (I, of course, was right by the doors, so first off... and pushed furthest from the subway). The "out of service" train sits there for several minutes with the doors closed. The other side of the platform is also crowded with people. The train finally pulls out... I figure "ok, whichever train comes first, I'm gonna try to get on". Turns out, several minutes later, to be another Southbound train. Looks like I'm riding the loop and changing at Bloor *sigh*. Of course, this next train is well filled when it arrives... and now there's another trainload of people to get on. But I manage to squeeze in... and at the next station (Union, where the subway and GO Transit intersect) the crowd clears a bit and, good passenger that I am, I move further into the car.

Several more stations. Pushing. Shoving. Bloor. And nobody wants to let me off the damn subway. Many "excuse me"s. A little irate shoving. I finally manage to leave the train. Only to discover that I'm at entirely the wrong end of the platform to switch lines. Of course. Trudge, trudge, trudge... fight my way down the stairs... discover that I'm now at the FRONT of the Eastbound train. Not where I want to be for the two reasons mentioned earlier. BUT... it's rush hour, it's crowded, a train has just pulled in, and I'm not a very good salmon. For some reason, tiny people in the subway system just won't move for 6' of me bearing down on them. Boggles the mind. ;)

Anyway, fight my way on to the train. Again, no seats. In case you were wondering, chivalry is on life support and the prognosis is not good.

Ok... leaving Bloor... only 11 stops 'til I'm out of this nightmare and into a car! Alas, nothing so easy for me. 5 stops later.... "attention passengers, upon arrival at this station, this train will be out of service". Seriously? Seriously! Gah! 33 years with ONE "this train ain't goin' any further" (and that was a train changing lines... to go in a direction I wanted to go anyway, so I didn't have to leave it), and now TWICE IN ONE TRIP????? Yeesh. And during Rush Hour, at that! So, the jam-packed train disgorged us onto the also quite crowded platform. I figured "Hey! Excellent opportunity to get my butt to the back of the train for arrival at Kennedy" and off I set. Weaving in and out of people who generally were leaving enough space for a person or two to travel along the platform.

Reached the first TTC Employee on the platform. Not enough space to pass. "Excuse me, please"... no response. "Excuse me"... no response. "I'm trying to get past, could you please move? Thank you". *grumble* Second TTC Employee on the platform... same drill. Third TTC Employee on the platform saw me coming... made eye contact... I figured this'd be easier. Nope, not so much. He actually stepped out in front of me and turned his back. Asshat.

Anyway, finally made it to the other end of the platform just in time for a train to pull in... a full train... into which anther full train was trying to crowd. See previous comment on chivalry. I didn't make it. Awesome, I'm now a half-hour later than I should be, with a list of things to do before dinner that'd have me eating at 8:30 at the earliest. Perfect! *grumble*

Finally manage to squeeze onto the next train. Standing all the way to Warden. Not a whole lot of point in sitting down from Warden to Kennedy. My knees, which are not great to start with, are killing me. My ankles have locked up. My back is killing me. And then, at the end of it all, when I finally get to Kennedy, there are people standing at the top of the stairs, blocking my exit, who won't move... because they want to go down the stairs... on the left-hand side. The cherry on top of a frustrating trip home at the end of a long day.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Is professional baseball dead in Toronto? And if so... whose fault is it?

As a change of pace from my usual weighty or irate posting, today I'm going to wax philosophical about a question I saw on the front page of a local paper recently. I'm going to pretend I have a knowledge of marketing beyond mere common sense. I'm going to pretend that anyone reading gives a flying rat's ass about my thoughts on the subject, too ;)

Question: Is professional baseball dead in Toronto

Answer: It certainly looks that way. The Jays played a sold out Home Opener (because, let's face it, it's been months without baseball... people have forgotten how painfully mediocre (at best) the team usually is... and hope springs eternal). But then drew barely 10,000 - 11,000 for their next 2 games. A drop in the bucket at the SkyDome... sorry, Rogers Centre... with a capacity for baseball of nearly 50,000.

So, assuming that the answer to the first question is 'yes'... it sparks another question: Whose fault is it?

Answer: I'd say it's the fault of the Blue Jays organization. Not the team, per se. The marketing department and the folks who set prices.

I'll be the first to admit that the team hasn't done a whole lot for the fans in the city since, oh, the back-to-back World Series'... but it's been more than 15 years since that (damn I feel old *laugh*). I'll be the first to admit that I find the sport of baseball more boring than watching grass grow, and that my opinion of both the sport and the team was not helped by the last time I went to a game... I showed up 15 minutes after the opening pitch was due to be thrown only to find them at the bottom of the 2nd already... and the watched the designated hitter strike out in 3 at-bats. Wow... and that's the designated 'hitter'? Not good. I have no love for the sport or the team.

But sports teams in this city seem to labour under the mistaken impression that just because the Leafs are (incomprehensibly) adored, ALL the sports teams will be adored regardless of how poorly they perform. The folks who set ticket prices seem to believe that just because the Leafs manage to be the most expensive team in the league to watch and still manage to sell out, that they can charge whatever they like and people will pay it. Not so, my friends. This is Canada... as we've all been told a zillion times, hockey's not a sport here, it's a religion.

When was the last time you saw an ad for the Blue Jays or for an event at one of ther games? No, wait, before you answer that, let me clarify... NOT an ad for ONE player... an ad for the team, for the organization, or for a 'deal'. Frankly, I can't remember. All I remember seeing for the past years beyond count (mostly, I'll admit, because I can't be bothered to count) is ads featuring a particular player. Hmm... ok, if you can GUARANTEE that I'll see THAT player when I go to a game, then it's a worthwhile ad-spend. I'm thinking, though, when the featured player is a pitcher and you've got 3 in standard rotation, you can't make that guarantee... so... no, I'll keep my money and catch the highlights on the news. I remember when "nose bleed seats" used to be cheap. $13 to sit high enough to suffer from being in the smog layer and watch ants run around a patch of pseudo-grass doesn't seem like much of a deal to me. $5 for a 500-level seat, I could maybe see... if there was something to draw me in... some give-away... some small chance of catching a ball... or a t-shirt... or anything other than a cold and the ash from indoor fireworks (assuming they do that still... and assuming if they do, that there's a home-run to prompt it).

Concessions are over-priced. Tickets are over-priced. Events and features are under-publicized. Example, "girls night out" features... to encourage groups of women to go out, take in a game, get a few perks... meet a few players... ok, I heard about it because of a friend trying to organize a group and because I happened to be tuned in to a radio station on the one morning when they gave away one package. Other than that... if you don't haunt the Blue Jays website, there's not a whole lot of publicity going on. At least, not on non-baseball related locations. Not that I've seen. So, fewer ads, fewer draws to the stadium... means fewer butts in the seats. But, rather than take a risk on profit margin and buy into the Wal-Mart or Zeller's scheme of small return but more sales and drop the ticket price to get more butts into the seats and make it an experience they'll want to repeat, they seem to instead buy into the "OMG, nobody's buying tickets, we need to charge more to make up the difference" school of thinking... which is really one of those evil death-spiral ways of thinking. You don't give people a reason to buy tickets, so they don't buy tickets, so you increase the price, so the people who were kind of on the fence about the value fall off into the "I'm not paying that much for a mediocre team" side, so fewer people buy tickets, so you increase the price, so the people who were on the fence... you see where this is going? It's going to $25 nose-bleed seats and an empty stadium.

So... I say professional baseball's dead in this town, and the Blue Jays have no-one to blame but themselves for approving questionable ad campaigns and pricing themselves out of the market.

But that's just me ;)

Oh... and since I've just looked at the Jay's website. My bad... $14 for nose-bleed seats. No group discounts for less than 20 people, and even with 20 people, you only get a discount of $2 - 4 (based on nose-bleed seats) per ticket (depending on who they're playing and when). Wow. There are no words.

Monday, April 5, 2010

A Revelation (or a very dark place... tough call)

So yesterday was Easter. As per what has become 'tradition' for D and I, we trekked out to the KW area for 'brunch' with his extended family.

It was both a good and a bad day.

There are members of his extended family I truly love and enjoy spending time with. And then there are the ones who just make me feel awkward and uncomfortable. Meh. It's family, right?

Anyway, as most of you know, about 5 years ago we got on that Baby Train. And as all of you know, we have no children. There are a lot of kids, mostly under the age of 10 in D's extended family.

2 of these are the kids of two of the people I enjoy spending time with... they got married around the same time as us... they have the most adorable kids... two of them... under the age of 5. Yup, they have the kids we want. Same age, even. And it's both awesome and heartbreaking to watch them.

On the other end of the spectrum are several kids whose parents would quite happily let anyone else watch/raise them. These kids have no concept of boundaries. No concept of acceptable behaviour. No concept of respect for other people's belongings.

It breaks my heart to see kids of an age that would coincide with our hopping on the Baby Train. It breaks my heart to see kids the ages that ours should have been if I hadn't miscarried (either time). But more than that, it truly breaks my heart to see people who are so lucky and blessed to have these kids not appreciate what they have.

Last night I had a breakdown. Not the first. Probably not the last. And yes, on the usual subject... kids. Or more accurately, our lack of them. D said all the right things. He said it's not my fault (because, of course, I feel responsible because I couldn't keep them safe when I WAS pregnant). He said it'll happen. All the right things. But part of me has given up hoping. I thought I was ok with things. I thought I was doing well. Obviously I'm either a really good liar, insanely gullible, or quite possibly both.

I'm old. I don't feel old. I don't actually feel any older than I did in University. I don't see myself as old. But in the procreation game, I'm old. Time is running out. And that makes me sad beyond words or comfort. There is very little in this world of which I have been as sure, and nothing of which I have been more sure than this: I was meant to be a Mom. So, in the face of that sense of truth, how can I possibly give up on the dream? And yet, part of me has. And that realization is somehow a whole new level of devastating, more so than the loss of hope itself in a way.

So. In another 2 months I'll be off probation at the new job (that's been keeping me crazy busy, what with the 9-5 day and the 90 minute public transit commute at either end), hopefully with a fairly permanent employment situation. Which means that the involuntary hiatus we've been on in our quest while I was out of work is over in the foreseeable future. But now I find myself wondering... do we bother trying to pursue the same dream? Do we modify it to pursue the adoption option? Or do we give up, wave the white flag, and commit to living as D.I.N.Ks? ("Double Income, No Kids", for those unfamiliar with the term)

Ok... enough armchair philosophy and self-pity wallowing for one day. It's a gorgeous, sunny, warm Monday out there, and I have the day off (working for the Catholic Church has certain advantages ;) ). I'm off for a walk.