There’s got to be a ‘better way’

I enjoy taking the subway most of the time. It’s one of the things I like about Toronto and by the same ‘token’ one of the things that most disappoints me – as in how our politicians haven’t seen fit to expand the system to fit our city in many years.

Recently the TTC made me feel like a passenger in the fourth streetcar behind a Queen Street fender bender – frustrated, powerless and most of all resigned.

It started Wednesday morning. I arrived at my local station with $2.50 in change (it’s a $2.75 fare) and a $10 bill. It’s one of those entrances with no attendant and I planned to buy tokens. However, when I tried to put my money in the slot it wouldn’t take my bill.

I pushed the call button on the intercom and told my plight to the voice at the other end: machine not working, a quarter short of a ride, would he let me in? I promised to pay when I got off.

I had done this before when the token dispenser was broken so I was hopeful the resolution would be good.

He told me they were only selling single tokens (because of an upcoming price increase) and that I had to walk a (long) block to the main subway entrance and pay in person. I suggested I would also have to walk back. And while I enjoy a good perambulation as much as the next person, that didn’t seem right.

He wouldn’t relent. I was mad about what I perceived was poor customer service, not considering my point of view. I took a cab.

I vowed Thursday was going to be different. I armed myself with enough change for a couple of tokens and headed to the station. But the first machine was broken and ate $1.75. Frustrated, I went to the intercom and told the attendant (a different one) my plight. He gave me the same line as before: walk to the main station. Exasperated, I put some money in the second machine and lost another $2.25.

Token-less, I caught a cab again.

It seems to me that both attendants had two choices. They could have tried to help me (what I wanted) or sit back and do nothing (what they did). But helping requires work and a positive attitude and they just couldn’t bother.

Will I use the subway again? Of course. Will my experience be diminished? Absolutely. Will they ever be able to get my trust again? Maybe, but it’s going to take a long time.

So what’s the point? I think Julie Rusciolelli said it well in her post on the City. Great service makes you feel first class. Thanks to the TTC, I feel neither.



Joel Postman has written a insightful piece, which takes the blogging community to task for being ‘elitist’ (a virtual restricted membership club, with its own qualifications, rules and jargon) while purporting to be inclusive (hey come on, everybody join in the conversation and while we’re at it let’s all sing, ‘I think it’s so groovy now that people are finally gettin’ together’).

And it’s true, the PR/tech communications blog scene is a bit like an open-code-closed-culture with an underlying snob factor, where you’re either in or, as Joel says, too far out ‘in the hinterlands’ to get it. I remember when I first got started I felt overwhelmed by all the references till I learned the vocabulary and realized how small this world actually is.

I think that along with these in-crowd sentiments comes a mentality that combines equal doses of self-pity with self-aggrandizement. And this, in turn leads to in-fighting, petty feuds and hurt feelings.

Sometimes the blogosphere reminds me of country music…without the tune. It’s not a lot a lot of fun to listen to.

I say open the windows. Unlock the doors. Let some fresh air in. This is an amazing place to be. But we should try harder to speak in a language that anyone can understand.

Just imagine where (or how far) the conversation will take us.

And the beat goes on

I noticed there’s no such thing as stale-dated news in the blogosphere. Probably because most writing is from an individual’s perspective and not from the me-first-deadline-driven pace of MSM newsrooms.

In traditional media, stories have a finite arc with a clear beginning, middle and end. Once they’ve passed through the news cycle, the audience and reporters generally move on.

Stories get old fast.

Or at least that’s how it used to be.

Things seem to be different in the realm of social media. Here, an old story can come back to life over and over again.

Take the blogger’s union (please). The idea caught people’s attention around August 6, just over a month ago. There was considerable buzz around it. I did a Google search back then and another one recently and noticed most of the posts were from early August. However, there was a September 2 entry on Webomatica devoted to the union and one on September 9 from Technosailor.

Interesting. Especially when you consider that each of these blogs has its own community which may or may not have heard about the union. Their audiences could easily be reading about it as fresh news. This in turn could spawn other entries, more conversations and before you can say collective agreement, the story’s hot again.

That’s quite a change from the status quo. And it’s going to ‘post’ a major challenge to all of us in PR. When we plan our communications strategies, we’ll need to venture beyond the traditional news cycle to a world of never-ending stories. We’ll have to accept that ‘old news’ can rear its head at any moment in time, spread like wildfire from one network to the next and before you know it, become top of mind again.

And we’ll have to figure out new ways to manage that.

‘Everybody loves a clown…’

‘…So why don’t you?’ So sang Gary Lewis, live from Vegas, introduced by a father who was beaming with pride.

Yes, it’s that time of year again. The real end of summer (for as long as I can remember): the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon.

Where else can you see Norm Crosby deliver his malapropisms, Gary Lewis sell (this) diamond ring, a ventriloquist who uses Jerry as his dummy and of course, Ed MacMahon, a bit shaky though his voice is still booming, calling for a timp?

It’s a very worthwhile cause and has raised so much money and even more awareness for the debilitating disease and Jerry’s kids. They just hit $39,000,000 so far at 1:45 pm ET. And if you happen to be reading this, I hope you’ll think about giving.

But as a piece of entertainment, the Telethon is unsurpassed. It spawned the genre. Seamlessley blends big business and showbiz (on the same stage).

And it’s all we have left from the grand tradition of Vaudeville variety that was transformed to the early days of TV to Ed Sullivan and Johnny Carson to good old fashioned showbiz where pretty much anything goes. It’s my parent’s world: classy tuxedoed performers in nighclubs, good natured joshing and lots of maudlin sentimentality. Hey, it works for me and always takes me back.

So thanks Jerry. For all the good work. For keeping up the tradition. For carrying on.

Ahh segues…

..the foundation of stand-up comedy. The link that takes you from one joke to another before you’ve even had a chance to notice the comic’s moved on.

I’ve always liked segues (no, not the motorized two-wheel scooters). And since I haven’t written anything since my last post in early August, I wanted to offer a segue from then to now.

OK. I haven’t had a formal bloggervention, but I did find I answered yes to one too many of the signs. So I took a few days off. Then a few more. And before I knew it, the month was gone. And I have to admit I enjoyed being away from my post.

But it’s Labour Day weekend, the end of summer/beginning of fall and a time for fresh starts, first day of school and all that. So as they used to say on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson stay tuned, there’s “more to come”.