activist notes

Trains, tractors and the Prairies. Part 1: The time a VIA Rail employee grabbed my ass on the way to a fair trade symposium by activistnotes
February 21, 2008, 8:49 am
Filed under: Oppression | Tags:

By Ian Hussey

My friend Beth and I (I miss you B!) had been gushing for months about how excited we were to go to Saskatchewan. It would be my first time. B grew up on a farm in the Eston area a couple hours outside Saskatoon and had done her undergrad at the U of S. She wanted to show me Saskatoon and her farm. I wanted to drive tractor.

We were traveling to Saskatoon for, amongst other things, the Canadian Student Fair Trade Network‘s second annual international symposium – the activist organization consulted by VIA Rail when they were considering switching all of their coffee supply to Fair Trade Certified. We took the train from Vancouver so we could take in the changing landscapes that rise and fall along the way. After chugging through much of the Canadian Rockies, the train stopped in Jasper to refill its water supply, empty its coffers of human waste, and so on. We had half an hour.

After grabbing a quick bite, we sat at the train station. Me reading the local rag, B wondering aloud why there wasn’t an announcement to re-board the train. I largely ignored her, as men often do when women speak. Golf carts were taking seniors and the well-to-do to the first-class cars. The platform was almost empty. I decided we should find our car, the one at the front of the train, far away from the platform where the first-class cars sat. B wondered why she hadn’t thought of that.

We noticed all the car doors were closed after walking by a few. B voiced her concern; I strolled casually along. Then the noises of a train starting started.

“Is that our train?!?”, B exclaimed. I became concerned. We started to run.

“That’s our train!” B yelled to a man in coveralls a few hundred meters up the track.

“Where ya headed?”


He walky-talkied someone and told us to get in his truck. The train slowed to a stop as we got escorted to our car. B apologizing to the man. I couldn’t stop laughing.

As we ascended the train steps, the woman managing that part of the train asked if we’d been late on purpose.

“What? No, no, we just didn’t hear the re-boarding announcement. We’re so sorry,” B explained.

The manager looked at me.

“We didn’t hear the announcement.”

With the look of a disappointed mother and some authoritative-sounding comments I didn’t listen to, she let us find our seats. B sat down to read. I went to the observation deck to think of terribly important matters of the world.

The train stopped again in Edmonton. B and I got off to say ‘bye’ to some friends we’d made along the way. We quickly got back on the train, conscious of our previous experience. The manager approached me.

“Not late this time, eh?” She said as she grabbed and yanked my ear.

I just stared at her. Do I look like a child? As if it’s a question that I’m standing here, before you, on the train. I don’t have time for this bullshit.

Then she grabbed my ass, and squeezed. She said something that my surprise drowned out.

I went to the observation deck where B was waiting for me beaming with anticipation of our final location.

“What’s wrong?” She asked.

“I…I’m sorry.”


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