Impolite. Distasteful. Disrespectful. All three of these words can be used to describe some of the personnel working in the Montreal Metro system. Since starting at Concordia, the metro system has become a part of my daily life, and I have come to notice a common thread among the people who work in the metros – most of them are just downright unpleasant.
At first I just thought maybe it was me that I was expecting too much from people who work in the public sector but this last month I realized we as a city don’t expect enough from these people. When I take public transit I don’t necessarily want to be greeted by “Miss Pollyanna”, but a smile would be nice. Even a word or two would be appreciated, instead of a grunt or a nod, which in most cases is even pushing it nowadays. In the past month out of the three times that I have had to deal directly with people working in the ticket booths, two of those times the employees were too busy talking on their cell phones to even make eye contact with me for more than two seconds. This does not include all of the other times where I have seen metro employees be outwardly mean to other people in the metro. A prime example of this was last Monday when I was on my way home after a class that let out around 8 p.m. I was at the Guy-Concordia metro stop, and as I was passing through the turnstiles I saw an elderly gentleman trying to talk to the metro employee. He was trying to tell the worker that the escalator to get into the metro was broken and that he had trouble going down the stairs due to the fact that he had a cane. Not only was the metro employee on his cell phone, he didn’t even acknowledge the man’s complaint. He just pointed to the other side of the turnstile to tell the gentleman to pass through. I was enraged. How dare he just point the man through as if he were a stray dog going through a garbage can?
I think that we would all profit if the STM gave their metro employees some basic sensitivity training. It can’t be all that difficult, after all, STM bus drivers are able to say hello, good-bye and have a nice day. What is the point of having people in the ticket booths if they are not polite? At least a machine in place of a person can be programmed to be polite. At a time when everything is becoming increasingly automated should we not insist on excellent customer service or at least common decency from the few humans we do encounter?