An Open Letter To The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC)

An Open Letter to The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC)

Monday, May 14, 2018

ATTN: Rick Leary, Interim Chief Executive Officer & Chief Service Officer of the Toronto Transit Commission

Re: Pertaining to events which occurred on May 11, 2018

Dear: Mr. Leary,

Throughout my life, the TTC has been the primary mode of transportation for myself as well as countless family members and friends. We rely on the system not only to take us to our destination, but to ensure a safe and comfortable environment for those on board. In most cases, the TTC has done a fantastic job serving the residents of Toronto in both a professional and convenient manner. Last week, however, events transpired which led me to question the values and moral compass of both the TTC and the individuals it employs.

I suffer from Crohn’s disease, a chronic illness that greatly debilitates the body and wreaks havoc on the digestive system. Sufferers of Crohn’s disease experience a variety of lifelong symptoms, including internal bleeding, excruciating pain, lack of nutrient absorption, and increased risk of other illnesses (such as colon cancer) to name a few. Should one with Crohn’s disease experience an “attack”, they would immediately experience crippling pain followed by an intense sense of urgency, which necessitates the use of a restroom. With Crohn’s disease, there is no warning, and there is no waiting. The body will vigorously release bodily fluids. Any attempt to hold everything in can result in numerous complications, from varicose veins to ruptures of the anal sphincter. Please note, Mr. Leary, that I give you these details simply to make you aware of the risks associated with having this disability as it pertains to the subsequent sections of this letter.

On Friday May 11, 2018 at approximately 8:00 a.m. at Eglinton West Station on Line 1, I found myself on the verge of a “Crohn’s attack”. The attack commenced just as the train came to a stop at the station. I exited the train promptly, felt the effects of the attack worsen and hurried up the stairs to the collector booth. At this point, I felt notifying the TTC collector was the best course of action. When I reached the collector booth, I kindly asked the gentleman if there was a washroom in the station I may use. He promptly replied “no”. Following his response, I politely made it clear to the gentleman that a.) this is an emergency, b.) I require a washroom as soon as possible because of my health condition, c.) I have Crohn’s Disease and, d.) It is a disability and that I would appreciate his help. He responded with a very abrupt and dismissive “I don’t know, go figure it out”. I kindly pleaded with him again, and asked if there were a washroom in the immediate vicinity that I may use, to which he replied, “I don’t know. Go outside and look for one.” This was repeated several times. Take note, Mr. Leary, that throughout this interaction, I did not raise my voice nor illustrate any aggressive behaviour towards the gentleman. I found myself in an urgent situation and was required to act quickly so that I may reduce chances of further complicating my situation and health condition. Should you require an accurate depiction of the interaction, I am certain the audio/video surveillance at the station will serve you in that endeavour. Following the interaction, I immediately left the station to seek assistance elsewhere. I was unable to locate a restroom in time, I physically couldn’t hold in the bowel movement, and had my clothing stained in blood and other fluids. The clean-up process took time, and the experience shook my body for a good while afterwards. All of this could have been avoided by a simple act of kindness and understanding on the side of the operator.

Now, I implore you to understand, Mr. Leary, that I am one to let instances like this go. I would have been fine handling my business on my own and resuming my day. What prompted this letter was one simple realization – what if the person in that scenario was not me, but had instead been my mother? My mother, who also sufferers from Crohn’s Disease, has been managing her disability for quite some time. Her illness has caused a slew of other complications. How do you think I would have felt if she were in my situation and was abruptly refused assistance or help of any kind from your staff? How would any person feel if their parent, child, spouse, sibling or loved one were in a dire situation and not only refused assistance but rudely dismissed altogether? To me, and I feel to countless others, this TTC employee lacked both a sense of humanity and common courtesy.

Following the event on May 11, I contacted TTC Customer Service to file a complaint. The operator I spoke with was very understanding and sympathetic, and notified me that the issue will be addressed with the collector. I felt, however, that sharing this experience with both yourself and the public was critical. There are over 250,000 Canadians with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, a similar inflammatory bowel disease. I am certain other people with Crohn’s or colitis have had experiences echoing my own.

In closing, I kindly ask for a few key items to be addressed. Firstly, please remove the The TTC Way posters that populate transit vehicles. It is clear to me after this experience that the TTC has no interest in ensuring your operators follow the outlined pillars. I bring to your attention the following three in particular:

Respect One Another, TTC: We will value, support and treat every customer and colleague with patience, respect and dignity. We welcome all.

Help Others Out, TTC: We will go out of our way to help – and if we can’t, we will take the time to point you in the right direction.

Stay Safe, TTC: We will ensure the safety and security of our customers, employees and everyone around us.

On May 11, 2018, not one of these promises made by the TTC was fulfilled.

My second request is an apology from the TTC for not fulfilling these pillars to all those who suffer experiences similar to mine. This pertains to all individuals who identify as being a person with a disability. I would also urge the TTC to revisit their five-year corporate plan and explore ways to better integrate The TTC Way into the workforce. I applaud the TTC for creating The TTC Way and making it a priority, but I would hope to see it better employed in the near future. If not, the posters warrant removal.

As both a resident of Toronto, and an individual living with a disability, my experience last week with the collector on duty at Eglinton West Station was nothing short of appalling. I am not asking the TTC to cover the cost of replacing my clothing, nor do I expect the collector to personally apologize to me. I will, however, bring into question the TTC’s attitude towards those with disabilities, special needs, and those that might require additional accommodation.

I have included my e-mail address below should you wish to contact me.


A. Khan


How To Live An Oscar-Winning Life

It wasn’t too long ago. I was waiting in the rain for my train to arrive. I had just come from delivering a speech at a small conference for youth in a town on the outskirts. It felt like forever, so I decided to look for something to occupy my time: a newspaper, a bird frolicking about, or even an autumn leaf dancing salsa with the wind as its partner.

At that moment, a thought hit me. A thought that I’m sure has hit many of you countless times in your lives. I sat there and wondered, “Is this it?” We ask ourselves this because inside all of us is a yearning to be a hero, to impact the world in some sort of way, to leave a lasting contribution.

I want to share an exercise with all of you. I would love it if you would do it with me.

Imagine this.

It’s the night of the Oscars in Hollywood. There you are, on the red carpet, making your way to the hall where all the celebrities, the best of the best, have gathered.

Ladies, you look fantastic. You’re wearing that classy, sexy outfit you’ve had your eye on for a while, and you’re wearing it extremely well. Those gorgeous heels are a perfect add on, not to mention the hours you spent on that hair of yours. Everything is just perfect.

Gentlemen, same goes to you. Looking absolutely spiffy in that amazing suit (Armani, is it?), polished shoes and an overall great clean look.

Everyone is taking pictures of you, taking pictures with you, and attempting to get your autograph. For that night, all eyes are on you.

Now, you’re not at the Oscars tonight because you wanted to just hang out. No. You’re here because the movie you starred in, is being nominated (and rumour has it, might win the award) for Best Motion Picture.

You make your way in, and sit down among all the other celebrities in this giant hall, and guess what? They’re about to play your movie.

Thousands are watching in the theatre, and millions upon millions are watching through their TVs.

Then, your movie starts to play.

Here’s the catch. The movie is the story of your life, from the day you were born, until now.

You might have mixed reactions to this, most people do. But the questions to ask yourself, as I did, were…

“Am I proud with what everyone is about to see?”

“Do I think this is an Oscar-winning movie?”

“Did I live an Oscar-winning life?”

“Did I live Oscar-winning moments each and every single chance I had?”

You might have, you might have not. That’s for you to decide. And if your answer is no to any of these questions, it’s time to ask yourself.

“Could I have lived an Oscar-winning life if I had really wanted to?”

It’s Not Too Late

I would like to throw out a question here. If a relationship is based on trust, and let’s say a “best friend” is someone you trust the most, then who is your best friend?

If your answer is yourself, you’re right.

Because no matter how many people encourage you, friends or family, only you decide to keep yourself going on that path to success. Only you can decide whether you want to live an Oscar worthy moment or not. Only you can push yourself to grow every day. Only you can ensure that in this life, you live, love, and matter (from my entry 3 Life Goals We Ignore Until It’s Too Late)

Let’s try another question. Who is your worst enemy?

That’s right, yourself.

Because on that path to success, only you can stop yourself. Only you can inhibit your growth, and only you can limit your potential. Only you can decide to place doubts and let them dictate yourself. Only you can decide that something is impossible, when in fact it isn’t.

Decision, Discipline & Determination

If you weren’t proud of the movie, or rather, of your life, then perhaps you’ve been letting your worst enemy call the shots up until now. But here’s the great thing, it’s not too late at all. Decide to live an Oscar winning life at this very moment. Accept the fact that nothing will stop you, and act upon it.

When you’re confronted with adversity, ask yourself, “How many days do I have to waste before I can get on with my life?”

Be the Director of your life, not just simply an actor.

Live an Oscar-winning moment every day, and then watch every day become a day you love waking up to in the morning. Watch every day become a day where you go to sleep at night knowing that on that specific day, you lived, loved, and mattered.

Most importantly, be yourself. Everyone else is probably already taken.

I leave you with this.

A picture is worth a thousand words. A movie, well over a thousand pictures. But life, life is worth thousands upon thousands of movies. It’s up to you to make sure that each and every movie is an Oscar-winning one.



Date A Guy With Crohn’s Disease

Crohn’s Disease (and/or Colitis) is a chronic, incurable, immune-related disease that eats its way around your colon and small intestine. Your immune system (for some reason) starts attacking that area causing massive weight loss, painful cramps, internal bleeding, loss of energy/cognitive thinking ability, and frequent trips to the bathroom. To top it all off, Doctors don’t know what causes it or how to cure it.

But amidst all of that chaos, Crohn’s has a bright side.

I’m a big believer in making your situations work for you to the best they can. We too often let our attitudes be reflections of a situation, when really; we should be cultivating powerful attitudes to change the situations we’re in for the better. It takes a lot of guts (pun intended) for someone with Crohn’s to see the bright side of what they have, so let’s hope this can act as some sort of inspiration. Crohn’s might get angry, throw a tantrum and try to kill you, but that doesn’t mean you have to. As with any disease, the extent to which it affects our daily behaviours is minimal… unless we let it.

I’ve come across many men with Crohn’s. They’re insecure about it, no doubt. But they also turn out to be the most deep, thought-provoking, life-appreciating individuals I’ve ever met. They understand that life is too short to not love. They understand pain and suffering. They understand the importance of unity and affection. Yet, many of them find their disease a burden and don’t want to burden others with it.

I once met a young gentleman like this. We joked about dating and he said to me, “I don’t think I’ll ever get a girlfriend, I’m just a burden.” His words struck me. Is this thinking normal? How could one condition mask all the other amazing qualities of this young man? So I had to write this piece.

Ladies, date a guy with Crohn’s Disease because…

1.) He can relate to what PMS feels like.
– Let’s face it. With Crohn’s disease, he gets the painful cramps and stomach aches. He gets moody as well, but learns to control it because the problem reoccurs on a daily basis. Above all, he knows what it feels like to lose blood from an exit point in the lower half of your body. Problem is he doesn’t have a tampon or pad built specifically for him. But all in all, a guy with Crohn’s can relate to all your symptoms. He’s probably had a year’s worth of ‘periods’ in just a few days.

2.) He knows where all the best washrooms are.
– Oh believe me. With Crohn’s, he has a built in radar that is able to detect where several washrooms are within a given vicinity. For him this is useful because when the poo-mergency warning sign comes in, he has a few minutes before he drops the bomb. For you ladies, he’ll always be able to direct you to the nearest washroom given your own emergencies (whether related to the toilet or make-up).

3.) You’ll get to see more of his sensitive side.
– No guy likes talking about sensitive issues like the consistent flow of blood from their anus. But because Crohn’s requires daily management, you’ll know about it, you can talk about it and you can share in his pains. In turn, you’ll be able to connect better with him and he with you. I’ve seen countless couples get closer together when faced with adversity like Crohn’s, and the outcome was always a stronger bond. Crohn’s is a journey you take together.

4.) He’s very health conscious.
– Though Crohn’s has no known cure, some studies have shown that certain (yet major) dietary changes can lessen the diseases effect on the body. He’ll be eating healthy, and so will you! What a great influence huh? Your waistline will be thanking him.

5.) He’s a wonderful cook.
– SUCH A BONUS! Crohn’s guys (since they’re so health conscious) are also well versed cooks in the art of healthy eating. They’d know that avocado is a great replacement for butter in many cases, that clean filtered water trumps any drink, and that you really need to practice portion control with your desserts.

6.) He’s super concerned with your health.
– Just assume whenever anything bad happens to you, he’ll be there with a caring heart and a ton of love. He’s been through some bad shit (pun intended) and he’ll do everything in his power to make sure you don’t go through the same.

7.) He can advise on the best toilet paper.
– I’d think anyone with Crohn’s Disease would be an expert on the best toilet paper.

8.) He knows a great deal about the medical field (for someone that isn’t a doctor)
– He’s consistently doing research and keeping up to date with the latest in health. Heck, he might even have a few natural remedies up his belt with all the crazy things he’s spent his time in bed reading.

9.) He shares in your accidents.
– Ever had an unexpected period make its way into staining your favorite pair of pants? In some twisted way, he has as well. Now you have someone to laugh with.

10.) His experiences have hardened him into a better person.
– Negative experiences always do, especially those that try to bring you down on a daily basis.

11.) He tries to understand you.
– His condition is very misunderstood by many, so he knows the feeling. It teaches him that understanding other people and their circumstances in important. I mean really, aren’t we all longing to be understood?

12.) He’s patient.
– Learning to deal with a chronic disease, especially Crohn’s, can take a lifetime to master. He understands first hand that great things take time, and so he’ll have no problem being patient when a situation calls for it.

13.) He gives.
– He starts noticing those around him in need, and is pushed to give more and become involved in charities and initiatives related to health (not necessarily just Crohn’s).

14.) He can be a great role model for your kids.
– Positive attitude and striving for excellence WITH a chronic disease? How is that NOT inspirational?

15.) He appreciates the little things in life.
– Walks in the park, sharing a slice of cake, small tidbits of affection – these are what make him feel alive because…

16.) He appreciates life a lot more.
– When you live with something like Crohn’s (or any chronic disease for that matter), you feel the weight of the world every single day. The more serious stages of Crohn’s CAN kill you, and the disease can evolve as it pleases. Date a guy with Crohn’s, or at the very least, a guy that genuinely appreciate being alive. You won’t regret a moment of it. To a guy with Crohn’s disease, love is a verb, and he will make an effort to show you every day that he loves you. Because like others with a chronic disease, he just doesn’t know how much longer he’ll be in good health to experience and explore each and every bit of you.

Let’s face it. No one wants to be sick, let alone chronically ill. But life deals you a hand, and you make the most of it. I wrote this article because I know quite a few people with this debilitating condition. I knew of a friend that went through several surgeries and hasn’t been the same since. I knew of a mother of a friend that passed after just a few years after she was diagnosed with it. I knew of an older gentleman that now lives at the hospital hooked up to a machine.

When you have a chronic/terminal condition, you inspire others in the same situation. You give them hope that life isn’t over just because of a bad circumstance, instead, it’s just starting and blossoming into something great. All you need to do is see and show others the silver lining.



3 Life Goals We Ignore Until It’s Too Late

As I lay in turmoil on my death bed, surrounded by the silence of partitioning friends and family, three important thoughts came to mind. These very thoughts never dictated my life. Of course you could say I was naive, but having something dictate your life is a lot like giving in to mass religion. Sure. It gives you an identity. But the best identity is the one you design yourself.

These three thoughts are the very criteria that proved to me that I had developed an identity throughout my life. They were questions that I asked myself on my death bed.

Did I Live?
– Live an Oscar-worthy moment every day of the limited time you have on this planet of limitless opportunities. Try. It isn’t too difficult. These opportunities are so profound when you are young, yet degrade as you decay to your death. Travel much, laugh often. Share yourself with the world, and be fearless. Fear is resistance, and is something made by us to limit us.

Did I Love?
– Love family. Love your friends. Love your significant other, love your life partner. But above all, love yourself. If you do not, how can you expect others to? Nearing death, I learned immediately, if there is such thing as a best friend in this world, it would be you. YOU, would be your own best friend, because only you can keep yourself moving forward on that path to success. Inversely, you are also your own worst enemy, because only you can hate and spite yourself. Only you can limit your potential and inhibit your growth. Love yourself. It is unconditional and free. It is limitless and boundless. If there is anything in this world that is infinite, it is the capacity to love.

Did I Matter?
– Having a legacy, not as a person, but as an icon is forever. It is the only thing that makes you immortal. I asked myself, “would the world have been a better or worse place without my presence?” Ask yourself this every day. Never attach yourself to objects or people, rather attach yourself to ambitions and values. Attach yourself to the intangibles and you will live forever. Your impact will be remembered forever. You will have left a legacy. You will have mattered.

Remember, life isn’t tied with a bow, but it is still a gift. No matter how much life gets you down, get up, dress up, and show up. Don’t save the good stuff for a special day. Today is special.

As you make your New Years resolutions, perhaps rather than something simplistic such as “lose weight” or “get good grades”. Try setting three goals that only you can measure.

Say that this year,
I Will Live.
I Will Love.
I Will Matter.

And take it from there.