I am a pathetic whiner

Since my first comment about the Ottawa transit strike, I’ve studiously avoided ranting any further about it. But I would like to vent a bit on my life the last few weeks without public transit.

I’m home today because I couldn’t get a ride to work. I have 3 commute options I’ve been juggling since the strike started – rather, and more to the point — they’ve been juggling me.

My workplace has very flexible work hours and the work doesn’t always take place in the office. So, my work hours are now dependant on whoever is going to be in the office most of the day. I’ve been starting anywhere between 6:30 and 9:30.  Depending on when we’re travelling, the drive can last anywhere from the 15 minutes it should take to an hour if we have to be on the road during peak times.

When I wake up in the morning, I usually (not always) know  when I have to be ready to meet my ride, but I never know when I’ll be getting home. A good part of my day is spent organizing a ride for the next day.

I can’t plan anything about my day. I can’t arrange anything for after work because I never know when that’s going to be. I can’t even organize anything for when I’m at work. I’ve missed things because my ride needs to leave on short notice. 

I could walk, but I reckon it would take about 90 minutes in the snow. And it’s freakin’ cold.

Sometimes my ride has an early appointment out of the office so I have to leave after being at work only a few hours. Today, one person is off on training; one person has appointments all day; and my last resort is off sick.  So I’m staying home.

I don’t know if I can adequately describe to you how pathetic I feel. I made a choice to live without a vehicle – partly for economical reasons, partly because I felt the world didn’t need me on the road adding to global warming and accident statistics, partly because I live in an urban area served by a transit system so I figured I didn’t really need a vehicle.

Boy, do I feel foolish now. Outside of work, I can sort of manage without transit. I’ve missed a few appointments – medical and social and the only shopping/errands I’ve done is for necessities. But this getting to and from work thing is demoralizing.

I know  I’m very lucky my employer is flexible and I’m very lucky I have 3 different options for rides and I’m very, very lucky that everywhere my daughter needs to be is within easy walking distance for her.  And I’m incredibly grateful to the people who are upsetting their own schedules to drive me around.  And I certainly know there are worse things that could befall me.

But right now this is really sucking something essential out of my life.  This might not even be a big deal to a lot of people, but my weekdays are tightly scheduled and organized so that I get done all the things I need to get done during the week. Yes, I thrive on routine. When I have no routine, I don’t thrive.

I don’t want to feel beg for rides and be beholden to everyone.  And, despite how fortunate I am with my commute and workplace situation, I don’t feel lucky at all. I feel angry. I feel stressed. I feel helpless, irritable and a little nauseous all the time.[1] 

That being said, I know the frustration and upheaval I’m experiencing can’t compare to what life must be like these days for people who have to get their kids to school or daycare; whose employers aren’t as understanding; who have few or no commute options; and who aren’t within walking distance of a grocery store.

There’s a 74-year-old man in my neighbourhood. Very nice guy. Very active. He swims every day, walks every day, but has no family or close friends anymore. He’s been out walking an extra few minutes every day for the last couple of weeks he tells me because he’s “in training”. On February 4th he has a medical appointment and it’s a 2 hour walk there and a 2 hour walk back, so he figures he’d better get into extra good shape. He’s hoping the weather will cooperate.

I don’t know or care anymore who’s to blame for this strike. I’m pretty sure the blame can be distributed evenly to both sides. I only know it shouldn’t be allowed to go on this long and probably shouldn’t have been allowed to happen in the first place. The issues do not warrant wreaking this kind of havoc.

Strikes are supposed to be against management. They’re supposed to hurt (financially or otherwise) the employer — not the public at large, many of whom are struggling in worse conditions than the strikers; many of whom are losing their livelihoods; their independence and their minds because of this strike. Management, meanwhile is laughing all the way to the bank, to the tune of $3 million per week in not having to pay wages.

I’m thinking of buying a car.


[1] And, worst of all I find myself totally uninspired when it comes to the blog. You may have noticed that my posts recently are kind of lacklustre.  They pretty much reflect my state of mind.


46 responses to “I am a pathetic whiner

  1. I think at this point, whining is in order. Everyone is on edge. Time for both side to admit they messed up and it’s get the busses back on the road.

    There was a really good piece on the CBC’s All in Day yesterday with the STO bosses in Quebec. Not sure if it’s still up but it’s worth a listen.

  2. i’m sorry the strike is having such an effect on you. it’s driving me crazy, and i have a car at my disposal. but, i’m paying through the nose for parking (btwn $9-10 a day) and can’t find anyone to share the costs with. i leave the house at 6:15 and leave the downtown core at 3:00. if i don’t keep these hours, i will get stuck in traffic and will have very little quality family time. i feel for you, i really do. it’s a horrible situation, affecting some many people, and many of these people don’t have a voice (see the last part of my last blog entry).
    i hope it ends soon, i wish i lived close by to you, i’d offer you a lift. and, keep in mind, I always have to pick up edie, so if you are ever really stuck getting home, let me know.

  3. I have a spreadsheet set up now to track who I’m pooling with and when. As a college student my class times are hardly 9-5, and there are days when I am forced to accept a ride to college that is 5 hours before my classes, because getting there ridiculously early beats not getting there at all.

    I’m still not sure about how I’m getting home some days this week.

    All day Sunday I was sick to my stomach because I had not yet secured a ride to school. Luckily I ranted about it on my blog and a friend offered to help out, ’cause the frustration and rage at being so paralyzed was making me really unpleasant to be around.

    You’re not a pathetic whiner. We have good cause to complain bitterly… not that it will do us any good whatsoever.

  4. Oh Xup. I’m sorry to hear that you’re feeling like this lately. I wish I could help. What about vurtue car? Would something like that be a good option for a time like now?

  5. Nat – I know. I don’t think there’s a single person in the city who hasn’t been adversely affected (except maybe the key players on either side)

    Meanie – Thanks. I’ve been to your blog, too. It’s all very nice for the mayor to open up a few parking spaces and allow shuttles on the transitway, but that doesn’t solve most of the really big problems

    Susan – I know exactly how you feel. Exactly. It’s so maddening that this stupid thing is totally messing up lives.

    A&J – I don’t think Virtucar is an option for 24/7 usuage for weeks and weeks on end. Plus I imagine they’re pretty booked up these days. I appreciate your good thoughts.

  6. That really sucks.

    Though we do not live in an area where there is public transportation, I can imagine that what a real pain it must be.

    Except for the first three or four months that we were married, we’ve always had a vehicle. For those months, we lived in places that had good public transportation or where everything necessary was close enough to walk — at first an area north of Chicago along Lake Michigan and after that in Vallejo, California. Since then, we’ve lived in locations where cars were necessary, though there have been periods where I’ve been able to car-pool.

  7. You’re not a pathetic whiner. This strike is awful. Although I drive to work so have just had to deal with the extra traffic, there are many I work with that depend on PT and are spending their days wages on taxis in order to make appts and whatnot.

    I can’t believe that it’s gone on this long.

  8. Your neighbour can’t walk two hours to and from his medical appointment. That’s not right. Can you put me in touch with him? I have a car and can probably drive him.

  9. I’ve always wondered about strikes that involve transit or other public services. They aren’t hurting the bosses, only the people who have no power to fix the problem. Which is sort of stupid when you think of it…

    In Montreal – land of the transit strike every 2 years (if it isn’t the drivers it’s the mechanics or something and drivers won’t cross the picket lines) – they’re obliged to offer essential services. Morning and evening rush hours (6-9 and 4-7 more or less), Monday to Friday. Don’t they have that in Ottawa?

  10. The citizens in Ottawa need to get as organized as the union and the council. You should start a phone in campaign and be sure that the councilors and union brass are getting hundreds if not thousands of calls every single day till this is solved. There should be masses at the council meetings that stop any city business until it deals with the transit strike. It’s almost like it’s time for personal political non violent action that brings it home to the nabobs on both sides that don’t care about the populace that they need to care about the populace if they wish to get on with their own lives. Good luck getting anything like that going in Ottawa, or for that matter anywhere in Canada now.
    Up the revolution and power to the people.

  11. Mike – I’ve usually always managed to arrange things so that everything we absolutely have to get to is within walking distance. Ottawa just isn’t set up that way for the most part. I would love to live downtown and work downtown and there’s the possibility that that’s arrangeable; but then there’s no school. So we live close to the school, my daughter’s recreational activities, work, friends. And I have to commute to work.

    Sky girl – I know. I can’t believe it ever happened in the first place. I can’t believe people who are paid with tax dollars are even allowed to strike. I can’t believe there are people losing their jobs; people having to work for a pittance in horrible conditions (yes, in this country) who have no union representation and in who unions have no interest in representing, yet they get all on their high “labour rights” horse over over-paid bus drivers and cause a whole bunch of people to lose their jobs over some some scheduling thing that they should be able to work out like grown-ups at a board table.

    Megan – I hope he doesn’t attempt it, too, though he is very spry for his age. In fact he’s in better shape than some people half his age. I suggested to him that there were shuttles and taxi chits available for things like this, but he poo-pooed the idea. He said that’s for single mums and old people who can’t get around. So, I don’t think he’d take you up on the offer. But it’s very good of you to offer. I’ll talk to him again, though. He’s sensible and if it’s too cold or nasty out I’m sure he won’t go.

    Jazz – No, we do not. Ottawa is stupid cubed. There hasn’t been a single solitary bus running since December 10th. And thanks for the empathy, but I really do feel pathetic.

  12. Bandobras – Ya, it’s really difficult to organize stuff like this because NO ONE CAN GET AROUND!!! City business and council meetings take place downtown which is a nightmare hellhole of parking, driving chaos. And those most affected by the strike (i.e. transit users) can barely get to work, let alone council meetings. It’s taking all our time and energy to get to and from work and find a way to get groceries. We’re only loosely organized on the web. And even if we were organized who would care? We could yell and complain all we want, but to what end? Mayor Larry doesn’t have a hope in hell of getting re-elected anyway, so it’s not skin off his back if the entire city hates him. Unions sure as hell don’t give a crap. When and if this gets settled, the people who need to will get back on the buses and those who don’t need to won’t. And so what? As you pointed out on your blog, if ridership goes down, they’ll just cut the service and lay off more employees. Transit doesn’t bring in money anyway so good riddance.

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  14. Oh I wish I could give that guy a ride to his medical appointment.

    I know how you feel, sort of. My partner and I share a car, which is fine, most of the time. His work is time consuming and requires the car, so in the evenings and weekends I am dependent on public transit (which is pretty much non-existent evenings and weekends) or perhaps friends. It doesn’t help that we live in a sort of unsafe area, so being out alone at night is not wise.

    I feel like such a mooch. Most of my friends instantly expect to have to pick me up, and though I am sure they are glad to get me and know I would do the same, I still feel somehow weak or useless having to rely on them. It is my (our) choice to only have 1 car, but my friends pick up the slack for the limitations of that choice, which drives me bananas with guilt.

    Sometimes my partner gets really busy and we start to run out of groceries or necessities, or errands that cannot be done by bus or bike sit and sit and sit. Oh cat litter- why must you be so heavy!

    We think about a second car during bad weeks, but the reality is our budget is more relaxed without one.

    Hang in there! I am impressed by your ability to live sans car and the strike is out of your hands. I hope that they resolve it soon. I hope that they are working on some sort of resolution, I don’t know the details being an outsider.

  15. MisssyM – Ha ha. A moped. I’d love to own and drive a moped. In my more desperate hours I’ve actually considered it. But then I think of minus 30 degree temperatures, driving snow and wind, icy, slushy, snowy roads, irate drivers, traffic snarls I decide against it. I’d never make it to work. I don’t think they make snow tires for mopeds. I’d either wipe out, get blown over, run over or freeze (literally) to death before I got there. But it’s definitely on my list for as soon as spring arrives.

    Jobthingy – The man is kind of a stubborn, tough old goat, as I said to Megan. He’s not insane though, so he won’t go if it’s too cold. And maybe, just maybe he’ll swallow his pride enough to hook up with one of those shuttle/taxi chit dealies. And yes, let’s have a big pathetic, whiney party. Oh ya, we can’t get around….

  16. you have correctly pointed out that there is nobody in ottawa (at the very least) who this strike has no affected to some degree or another.

    yes. you are fortunate to have options available when others do not, but, i believe that you still have a right to be annoyed by what has happened and also the right to be able to count on public transit.

    in my mind the worst thing that can ever happen to someone is the loss of freedom and this is exactly what has happened to you and many others.

    personally, it has affected me in such small ways that i feel embarrased to even talk about it, especially when, as you say, there are people who have lost their jobs, who cannot get to serious, some life saving medical appointments or to school to write their exams etc.

    you are not pathetic, this strike is!

    you can write to me off line but if there is anyway that i can help you out with the commute i will. i don’t know where you live but i am usually heading through the ottawa area around 9 and heading back through ottawa around 5. maybe i can swing by and pick you up, even if i have to leave earlier. let me know.

  17. I feel your pain. I was car-less until my late 20’s and it got tiring bumming rides and what not. And I recently gave up my truck when we moved.

  18. Followed a link from David Reevely’s blog post.

    Had to post a comment to get my own little vent out. It’s been rough, hasn’t it. We’re a one car family, and while it has been stressful, we’ve have been able to manage and carpool and I’m thankful for that. I hope thinks get settled soon … but considering the two parties involved I don’t have faith.

  19. i would never consider you a pathetic whiner, you seem to be a strong independent woman with many admiral qualities.

    having said that, i would most likely experience the same range of emotions if i were without a car. i dislike having to rely on other humans b/c they don’t do things the way that i would do them, so i rarely ask for a hand (even to my detriment at times).

    what about a http://www.vespacanada.com/ vespa thing? would it work in tons of snow?

    i think it’s cool that you live off the grid like that, not having a car. it’s smart, it’s healthy, saves money, lots of benefits to it. pro/con list might be in order?

  20. Also followed the link from Reevely’s post.

    If I knew you I would give you a hug because I know exactly how you’re feeling.

    I very much appreciate this post because it’s one of the few public comments that has said exactly what I am going through.

    Everything has been reduced to finding ways of getting to and from work. Nothing else. If the weather’s not too bad, I can walk half an hour for groceries and to the library. Other than that, I am stuck at home and feeling lonely and isolated. I too feel tired, stressed, upset and have been slipping up at work because of it.

    I don’t expect the general public to understand but being blown off by some family, friends and colleagues has just made it worse. Accoridng to some of them, it’s my civic duty to own a car. I just wish someone had warned me before I moved to this *@%^&* city.

  21. I work in a TV newsroom, and we get tons of phone calls and emails about the strike. Some are just crazy, others tragic.
    Last night, I took a call from a shut-in who said she hasn’t been outside her apartment since before the strike started five weeks ago. She just wanted to thank our station for airing Whose Line Is It Anyway at 5:30, right before the news. She says it makes her laugh when she needs it most.

  22. Living in the far outposts of Ottawa, I drive to and from work every day. My commute has lengthened considerably, but compared to people who don’t have access to a car, it’s merely an inconvenience. Having lived through transit strikes in Toronto, where I didn’t own a car, I can remember what it’s like and empathize.

    I hope that it ends soon, so everyone’s routine is back to normal.

  23. ZUP,
    I guess we are all pathetic and tired of this subject..
    I envy the people who actually get to go home at night.
    I sent a comment to Zoom about trying to dress for work
    out of a backpack.
    I was in tears before Christmas just trying to get groceries
    and presents for my children & Family.
    Next week I may have to take my poor cat with me,wherever
    I am going next week
    Who knows at this point.
    Good luck through the rest of this fiasco

  24. Raino – Thanks. I do have great people at work who usually get me to and from work. 3 options ought to be enough, but today the stars all just misaligned, I guess. And it is exactly the loss of freedom and independence that is so demoralizing and depressing and maddening. I appreciate your kind words and offer of support.

    Dr. Monkey – Living car free in a major city ought to be a good thing all around. Unfortunately, I never reckoned with the city being so stupid.

    Olivia – Thanks for stopping by. It’s been stressful for everyone; worse for some than others. I’ve heard stories of people sleeping in coffee shops downtown because they’re afraid if they go home they won’t be able to get to work on time the next day and they’ll get fired. I have no faith left, either

    DP – See my comment to MisssyM above regarding the vespa/moped solution. I am seriously considering buying a vehicle now. The pro and con list is being formulated as we speak.

    Mama Zen – It’s beyond a hassle. It’s soul sucking. If this were an unavoidable emergency of some sort, I could rally and would be happy to meet the challenge. But it’s all so ridiculous and pointless.

    Cee – I’d hug you back. And I totally understand how you’re feeling. I think people really do believe there’s something wrong with me because I don’t have a car and it’s my own stupid fault for not being able to get to and from work without others driving me around. I’m beginning to think they might be right. I’m not sure I can actually afford a car though. I’m totally pissed off with the city as well. Send me an email. Maybe we live close enough to each other to walk and get together on the weekend?? (urbanpedestrian@gmail.com)

    Bob – Oh my god. That’s awful. And what’s even more awful is that for everyone who calls in with a sad story like that, I’ll bet there are 10 others who haven’t called in.

  25. Alison – That seems to be a faint hope at this point. And even if the strike is ever over it will take a week or more to get the buses rolling again. Insanity.

    Bandobras – Ya. Thanks. I’ve had lots of practice.

    Rita – I don’t know your story, but I’m going to go check it out — living out of a backpack? not going home at night? You don’t know where you’re going next week? This sounds horrendous so far. Makes my little whine really pale by comparison.

  26. Even though I am in a union, I detest unions. They were once necessary, but now they are just counter-productive. Completely! Transit should be considered essential service, and it should be legislated back to work. And a transit strike in winter, in the nation’s capital? Well, there are no words…

    What you should find out is how many people have died, either as a direct result or indirect result of this strike. And some of those may not show up for a few months yet.

    You are being held hostage. There is no excuse!

  27. I’m sorry you’re having to deal with this! I can only imagine how difficult your life is now.

    I wish we had more public transportation around here, and sadly what we have is laughable. In fact, I think if we ever had a strike, I’m not sure anyone would notice.

    Still…good luck! Hope things change for the better soon!!

  28. Me too and me too. Any union that goes on strike and harms or inconveniences anyone but the members’ management/employer has no business being on strike. When it’s a public service like this, the management/employer actually gains from the members going on strike. They have no reason to negotiate. It’s ludicrous

  29. And here I was, wondering if Ottawa’s transit strike was still on, because it’s not much in the Vancouver media lately. Now I know – and I am appalled that it is still happening! I lived without a car for a month this past summer, and it was frustrating. But if I had to go somewhere that I couldn’t walk to, I COULD take the bus or train. You don’t have that option right now, and I cannot begin to imagine how much more frustrated you and a lot of other people are – well, after reading this post, I actually can begin to imagine it. And you’re not a pathetic whiner at all, either. You deserve to be right pissed off!

  30. Ach. Don’t give in, don’t buy a car, hang in there. This is a great post – so thoughtful and well-written. Send it to your local newspaper……….

  31. Oh XUP, don’t buy a car! Step awaaaaaay from the dealership! Cheer up! There’re always the laughing babies! This too shall pass.

  32. Newsguy Bob’s comment went straight to my gut.

    Ugh. I’m sorry to read all this. As someone who lives in practically the car capital of the world, I think we sometimes take our freedom to come and go as we please whenever we want slightly for granted. On days when I have my car in for service – one day only mind you – I feel slightly helpless when I have to depend on a friend for taxi service. ONE DAY. I just cannot even imagine. I hope things get better for everyone soon.

  33. As I said on Zoom!’s blog, I am totally mystified over how the story of the disabled seems to be missing, or added as an afterthought, to this transit strike. People on social assistance or disability who are given a transit allowance have to walk or totally rely on other to take care of their daily needs. Caregivers can’t get where they’re needed… low income workers unable to get to their jobs… when I was living in Ottawa it was twelve blocks and more to the food bank. Throw in negative temperatures and a single mom with no hope for babysitters and I don’t see how transit shouldn’t be considered an essential service.

  34. UP – I know. I can’t even bear to read the Ottawa newspapers anymore

    Friar – Thanks dude, your anger by proxy means a lot.

    Pinklea – Doesn’t Vancouver hold the record for the longest transit strike ever in Canada – 4 months? I think we’re trying to beat it. Were there other public transit options available during your strike? “cuz we got nuthin’

    Ellie – Thanks. I’ve been contacted by the local CBC station to do an interview on the 74-year old. I hope he’ll do it.

    Laura – I’m trying to maintain, I really am. It’s hard when everything is upside down.

    Lesley – I know. All those poor people without a voice who are isolated, suffering, even starving. And the next little while our temperatures are so low you can’t go outside without getting frostbite within 10 minutes, so walking is out completely. It’s cruel and horrible.

    Gabriel – I KNOW! They keep going on about extra parking and maybe opening the transit way and that’s all very nice for people with cars, but I’m guessing most people who take transit do it because it’s their ONLY way of getting around. Getting food – getting to appointments – having a social life. But hey, the poor and disabled are a drain on the system anyway and don’t contribute anything so why should we care about them, right?

    Geewits – Well, we do have cabs in Ottawa. They are not part of the transit system and they’re very expensive and at the moment there’s a 2-3 hour wait for a cab. People are cabbing though who have no other way to get to work. It’s costing them a full day’s pay to pay for the cab to and from work, but they’re doing it because they don’t want to lose their jobs. Nice place, eh? But you should know that not every city in Canada is this retarded.

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  36. I am in very much the same situation as you, transport-wise and emotionally. My fiance and I live downtown (we can walk to some groceries) and not only don’t have a car, we don’t have driver’s licenses. Since more than half our friends, especially the ones who live close by, also don’t drive at all, we’re utterly screwed for anything beyond walking distance during this strike.

    Jason’s work is within walking distance. My classes at Algonquin are not. A prolonged strike means that I risk losing the year or go into debt to pay cab fares. Almost half the household income is OSAP. I’m in a very small program and there is no classmate that can give me rides. Nobody has been publicly offering carpools that match my locations and schedules well enough to be worth contacting. Thankfully my mother stepped in. I stay with her during the week and she drives me to classes. Since a lot of my classes are near rush hour, the driving is miserable. This is a big sacrifice for her as she is very afraid of driving.

    I know I should be grateful under the circumstances that I can go to class and my fiance and I will not go broke, lose his job, starve, or get evicted. BUT I SHOULD NOT HAVE TO BE GRATEFUL. My future and solvency have been stomped on. My independence has been stolen. I am being *used* by both the union and city, both of whom think they can screw you and me as hard as they like until they get what they want. If either party *really* wanted to end this strike they could have done it long ago.

    Taking my mother’s help is very stressful for me. I am 30 years old today, and after having lived independently for over 9 years, I am being treated like a child again. We have to spend more hours a day together than we used to for an entire month. Her house is always too cold and I am not allowed to turn up the heat. I never get enough sleep even though I am doing less homework than last term, since I cannot sleep or do homework during the commute when my mother is constantly talking and the radio is on. It’s hard to arrange extra time at school to do homework without making the driving worse for them, but I have to do my drafting somewhere, and we don’t have a drafting table in Stittsville. It is difficult to get the colour or large-format assignments printed, too.

    Universe, I want transit to stop striking and go back to normal for my birthday present.

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