By Greg Clark, October 30, 1920
There are the Aggressively Efficient Kind, Who Regard Every Passenger as a Potential Trickster, and the Courteous Variety, Who Look After Everybody’s Comfort
Which would you rather have:
The street car conductor who stands just inside the door of the car (not the P.A.Y.E. kind), and who holds up the procession by taking fares as you enter, thus creating a jam on the back steps and causing several people to be left behind?
Or the one who lets all on board and then jams his way through collecting fares?
The first types becoming numerous on the Toronto cars. He is a sort of half-way Pay-As-You-Enter person. But the only difficulty is this that while on the regular P.A.Y.E. cars the car cannot start till the back door is closed, under this other system of collecting at the door to save hunting them up and down the car, the motorman starts the car as soon as he likes. And usually it means a terrific jam on the back platform, a dozen people left behind, while there is still plenty of room forward in the car.
It is a fine scheme for the conductor. It saves him struggling up and down the car, and it saves his voice. But it is a poor stunt as far as the passengers are concerned. And conductors are practicing it more and more.
Are conductors becoming more polite and human?
There is one little, knock-kneed big mustachioed fellow on a cross-town line, who creates more unrest than the Bolsheviki in the section of the city his car serves. It is impossible to ride a complete trip with him without at least one scene.
He sits at his Pay-As-You-Enter fare-box alert as a mink. His beady eyes gleam with distrust. To him, all men, women and children are sneaks and cheats. When a crowd gets on at a main transfer point, he works himself into a frenzy of worry. He frantically holds back the crowd while he scrutinizes each transfer. Unless you wave your ticket before his nose and place it ostentatiously in the box, he is liable to follow you up the car, after his doors are closed, and demand a fare from you, swearing you didn’t pay.
He may be efficient. Enormously efficient. But some day someone is likely to take a most efficient pass at him, on general principle.
Here is a sample of his manners:
A middle-aged lady, quietly dressed, with the kindly look of a homey mother, who only gets out once or twice a month, boarded the car.
She presented her transfer, and started to pass into the car.
“Hold on there,” snarled this conductor. “This thing’s no good!”
“I beg your pardon?” said the lady, nervously.
“Put a ticket in here,” said the conductor, with the knowing air of a martyr to human trickery. “You can’t get by with this.”
“What’s the matter with it?” asked the lady.
“What’s the matter with it! Why, you can’t travel all over the city on a transfer. Put in your fare.”
Meanwhile the car was lurching on its way. The lady was still standing. The passengers all staring.
“I don’t understand,” said the lady.
“Oh, don’t you! Well, this is punched from the same part of the city you are going to.”
The lady stated where she had got on.
“No, you got on at the west end of the line,” replied the conductor.
The lady, with tears of indignation in her eyes, paid another fare and entered the car.
A man sitting near the back rose and accosted the conductor.
“You would sooner believe,” said he, “that everybody is a liar, than that other conductor was careless? You believe that for five cents a lady would lie, rather than that a stupid or slipshod conductor would punch a wrong place on the transfer? I pity you, you runt! Now, you punch my transfer correctly!”
And the passenger pointed out an error in the transfer given him by this same conductor,
But it did no good, beyond relieving the feelings of everybody in the car. For a couple of afternoons later, this same fellow was raising trouble as usual. The railway company would do well to promote this old bear to be an inspector, as to save the public.
On the other hand, on the Queen line, is a stout, middle-aged conductor, who has been with the railway for years. It hasn’t soured his temper. If you pause to pay your fare to him as you enter, to save him following you up the car, he invariably says “thank you.” He never starts the car with women on the step, and always warns, even when crowds are thickest, that he starting. He helps old people off and on his car. When a crippled person, a soldier, for instance, boards the car, this conductor calls attention to the fact by asking people to sit closer, thus always getting a seat for the unfortunate one; for most people will give their places if they see that a person is crippled. He examines not only all the transfers he receives, but every transfer he issues. And there is no conductor in Toronto who gets more “good mornings” from his passengers. For his unfailing courtesy and consideration are noted and appreciated by public that is decent if given half a chance.
Editor’s Note: P.A.Y.E. (Pay-As-You-Enter), was a new type of streetcar introduced at this time, that would be common to all future bus riders. Rather than have passengers enter from any door, and requiring conductors to collect fares by walking up and down the aisle, these had only one entrance, with the rear door for exit only. This meant you had to pay as you got on, and allowed for fewer staff needed in streetcars, and allowed for faster trips.
“Bolsheviki” was the common plural used in English shortly after the Russian Revolution for Bolsheviks.