Public enterprise can be as cumbersome as Peter MacKay in a speedo, but that doesn’t mean it’s all bad all the time. On Tuesday, for example, the Toronto Transit Commission gave Canada’s largest city (!) a reason to support a public transport agency. It drew attention to a phallic-looking sign at its Downsview subway station. Toronto hasn’t experienced so much debate over the removal of a dick from a public place since the 2014 mayoral election.
To be fair, the TTC wasn’t the first to draw attention to the sign. Authorities only removed the map because riders had circulated photographs of it on the internet. Although no one had issued a formal complaint, a TTC spokesperson said that the TTC had removed the sign because it “[did not] want any of [its] maps to be misconstrued.” How obvious was the phallic comparison?
The Toronto Sun reported that the first thing that came to people’s minds upon being show the picture was that the shape was definitely that of a penis. Many expressed surprise that it survived scrutiny in the design process. Despite near universal acceptance that the sign depicted a giant wang, one woman wasn’t convinced. She said that the shape was a mushroom, connected to the ground by a root. She also said that she is an engineer, and implied that the shape people see depends on their level of imagination and their education. We can infer two things from her comment: (1) some engineers have no imagination, and (2) since the sign obviously looks like a cock, mushrooms must also look like cocks.
Bob Ross, the same spokesperson who defended the removal of the sign, explained how the sign popped up in the first place. Apparently unaware (or perhaps intimately aware) of the double entendre, Ross said that the sign “was erected in December,” and that “the person who designed the sign did not seek proper approval.” According to Ross, the transit authority will follow up with that employee. This response amounts to a slap on the wrist; while it is not a firing, it is as close to a cockslap as anyone in a non-porn workplace will ever get. A stiff punishment, no doubt.
As other news media picked up the story, a predictable public debate formed. Is public enterprise worth the risk? Can we justify public welfare if it means dealing with shlongs in subway stations? If you listen closely, you can hear the refrain: can you imagine if a worker did that in the private sector? Yeah, that person would be out of work faster than a foreskin at a bris, and that company would go back to being boring. In contrast, the lucky goofball who pulled this stunt at the public behemoth TTC is protected by a union job, and can conceivably do something like this again. That’s a good thing, because the average commute in Toronto is longer than it is in Montreal, Vancouver, and anywhere else in Ontario. Torontonians might delight in anything that makes that time more interesting, even if it results only from gaps in oversight in a bloated public enterprise.
Editor’s Note (08/02/2015): This article initially incorrectly mentioned the “removal of a dick” in 2013. It has been corrected to specify 2014.