There are times when harried Torontonian commuters just can't let sleeping transit employees lie.
Thursday, apparently, was one of them.
The Toronto Transit Commission is investigating after a rider posted a photo of what appears to be a ticket collector asleep in his booth. The photo depicts a mustachioed man in navy blue TTC vest and red tie, leaning back in his chair, eyes closed and mouth open.
This was the first sight that confronted Jason Wieler as he headed home around 9:30 p.m. Jan. 9 when he reached the top of the escalator at McCowan station.
"If his mouth wasn't open as much as it was and he was wiggling around, hey, I would've thought he had some life to him," Mr. Wieler said. "But this guy was out cold."
So he pulled out his iPhone and snapped a shot.
After a bout of sickness, Mr. Wieler finally got around to posting the photo on his Twitter feed Thursday, hoping his friends would get a kick out of it. The photo awoke a slumbering, discontented giant among the city's transit-riding masses, however, as it garnered dozens of amused and angry comments from riders.
TTC spokesman Brad Ross said Thursday evening the transit commission is looking into the photo, emphasizing it's not clear yet what the context was.
"There could be extenuating circumstances that we're not aware of, such as fatigue. And if he was fatigued, that's fine. And if he was unwell, and was unable to continue work, he needs to let his supervisor know," Mr. Ross said.
"And I'm being speculative - we just don't know all the circumstances at this point. Clearly, the photo is concerning."
The president of the union that represents TTC workers said it is discouraging that Mr. Wieler and other passers-by didn't check to see if there was anything wrong with the ticket collector.
"A simple knock on the glass might have determined if the collector was, in fact, asleep, or whether he was unconscious as a result of some medical problem," Bob Kinnear said in a statement.
"The reports that passengers were laughing at him as they passed by the booth makes this even more disturbing."
The photographic kerfuffle comes at an awkward time for the transit commission, which has been beset by accusations its customer service has fallen asleep on the job.
The transit commission has been bombarded with 20 per cent more complaints compared to last year, and the commission voted Wednesday to appoint a blue-ribbon panel to teach the transit system's employees how to better serve riders.
Two more customer service-focused motions are going before city council next week: Councillor Paul Ainslie is requesting the TTC establish a "citizen advisory committee" and add citizen representatives to the commission itself.
Mr. Wieler, an interactive designer, insists he never meant to get the unnamed TTC employee in trouble, although he hopes consternation surrounding the picture draws attention to rider frustration with the latest fare increase - 25 cents more as of Jan. 3 - that many argue is coming without a marked improvement in service.
"I really think that this probably will raise the question as to how well the money is being spent," he said. "For people spending their hard-earned $120 for their monthly bus pass, seeing a photo like this obviously struck a chord."