Streetcar Gaffe

Let Me Tell You!

by Marta Almeida
Translated by Loretta Murphy

When Alfredo arrived in Toronto, everything was new. Having come from a small town in the state of Minas Gerais, he was enchanted by the city.

“It’s all so different, modern and very practical,” he would say to friends and relatives when he called Brazil.

During his first week, he wanted to see everything. He went out with friends to walk through the city centre. He went up the CN Tower. He was delighted with everything, but always depended on the help of friends since he had zero English. However, in his second week, Alfredo thought he might venture out alone in the city.

“I should be able to do it myself,” he told his roommate who was concerned that he might get lost.”Don’t worry. I’ll just take a walk through the centre.” And off he went.

Until then, Alfredo had taken public transportation with the help of his friends, who had taken care of everything, including paying the fares. He hadn’t paid much attention to how it all worked, but still decided to take the streetcar. He got on at College, with the intention of getting off at Spadina. He showed his fare to the driver and, thinking he was doing very well, announced, “I want to go to Spadina Avenue!”

The driver explained in English that the money should simply be placed into the fare box, where he was pointing. Alfredo, of course, did not understand and insisted on delivering the money to the driver, who kept pointing at the box. Becoming anxious about the situation, Alfredo wondered why the driver was pointing at the box. He insisted, “I want to go to Spadina Avenue!”

The driver nodded and kept pointing at the box. Alfredo then guessed that this box must be another one of those modern Canadian items, a device that recorded the location where passengers wanted to go. So without hesitation, he positioned his face close to the box and spoke loudly, three times to avoid any mistakes:

“Spadina Avenue, please!”