Musings —11.28.2010 12:37 AM—
About a year ago, a Toronto Transit worker was photographed asleep. If you lived in Toronto, you couldn’t have avoided the photo, or the many stories about the incident. It even was a subject of debate in the municipal election campaign.
Now this story has appeared, occupying far less space – and being given far less prominence – than the original “napping TTC worker” demi-scandal.
Today, we learn that the man in photo is dead. He was sick, and apparently sick at the time of the photo, too. He left the job he loved, ashamed of what had happened, ashamed that he had hurt the reputation of his colleagues. He had worked for nearly three decades with an unblemished record.
Why am I drawing attention to this? Because it isn’t the exception; it’s the rule, now. Because it should make some people – a lot of people, actually – feel ashamed for how this story ended. Because, when our collective memory is determined by a Google search, and nothing is worth saying if it isn’t expressed in 140 characters, and the “news cycle” is shorter than a sound bite, and analysis is thinner than piss on a rock, this how things are going to be, from now on: someone’s life, captured in a completely unrepresentative moment, is completely destroyed. And no one gives a shit.
I’m as guilty of this techno-mob rule as anybody – maybe more so. As I know too well, as I’ve experienced many times, it takes a few seconds to put something out there in the Internet ether – but, as I told a U of T class this week, you can’t take it back. And it’ll be there forever. It’ll be there after you’re dead.
I feel sorry for what happened to this man. He deserves an apology.
But apologies are the only things that are slow in coming, these days.
UPDATE, FROM LOUISE: “I am proud to say I was related to George and had the privilege to know him and call him “friend”. We always looked forward to seeing him. He was just fun to be around and a kind and decent man. He was a true hero in his everyday life as he always put others first – he showed himself in everyday small kindnesses, not just one or two incidents of which the public has come to know. He was tremendously loved by our family and by his many friends. George was always happy and cheerful, with an open hand and heart. I’ll never forget his laugh and his bright blue twinkling eyes. I never heard George say a bad word about anyone. Wasn’t in his nature. He was a good friend, loving, kind, easy to be with and tremendously funny. A bright light has gone from our lives. He will be missed by all who had the good fortune to know him.”