A cruel twist of fate and a troubled man

Columnist recalls last encounter with bus driver Padilla

Walkabout_columnWho knew? It was mid-week morning rush hour. I’d just been standing at the east-side bus stop for the Bayview 11 bus heading north. I had bet myself that the horrible, no-traffic-lights, Parkhurst-Soudan intersection just south of the Parkhurst Dry cleaner would generate at least one near-accident before my bus arrived.

Sure enough, some impatient driver waiting on Soudan Avenue for a break in traffic saw his chance and suddenly bolted across to the Parkhurst Boulevard side. Had the mother driving her daughter northdecided at that moment to accelerate a bit to catch up with traffic, the hurtling vehicle would have caught them broadside, with possibly fatal results. When the mother passed me, I acknowledged her close call with a shaking head and an upraised hand, and she shook her head too. Our gestures were no match for the occasion. This was mayhem very narrowly avoided.

Unfortunately, mayhem of a different sort lay just ahead.

When the bus arrived I mentioned to the driver what a nasty piece of work that intersection was and he agreed. He seemed like a particularly nice driver, a jovial bald guy in his mid-40s.

Later on when everyone else had disembarked, I heard the driver let fly with several sneezes. As we approached Sheppard Avenue I went to the front and suggested he try some Cold/FX to ward off what sounded like the onset of a nasty cold. The capsules had worked unfailingly for me for seven years. He replied that indeed he might do just that.

The following day I took the same bus at the same time and, once again, as we came within sight of the Sheppard stop I went to the front. I suggested tongue-in-cheek that he must have followed my advice, since he was still on the job.

He recounted that the day before, his cold was obviously worsening and by evening he was about to call in sick, when he recalled my Cold/FX recommendation. He ran out to the pharmacy to get some, and lo and behold, it worked.

“It was almost miraculous,” he enthused.

Well, I joked, if it weren’t for me you could have been sitting at home with your feet in a bucket of hot water sipping Neo-Citran and watching Oprah.

He laughed and thanked me as I stepped outside.

I wish now I had never made the recommendation. This was the driver’s last day on the job—ever. If I hadn’t opened my big mouth, he may indeed have been home, sick as a dog.

And sick as a dog at home rather than healthy and on the lam, he might have surrendered to police when they came to arrest him on charges of possessing child pornography.

Instead, he headed for Haliburton with a double-gauge shotgun, and when police became aware that a shotgun had disappeared with him, the media and then the whole province were alerted to his assumed armed-and-dangerous status.

A grotesque peeping-Tom incident the driver had been apprehended for two decades earlier was once again all over the news. That and child-porn charges spelled the end of the reputation he had re-forged under a new name.

In Haliburton, he turned the shotgun on himself.

Tragically flawed as he evidently was, a nicer driver you couldn’t hope to meet, his gory demise the product of a perfect storm of impinging factors.

As a female TTC driver later remarked to me, what he needed was therapy, not the rough justice he felt obliged to carry out against himself.

Bayview bus driver Darren Padilla, R.I.P.

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Posted: Mar 29 2016 4:32 pm
Filed in: Column  NEWS  VIEWS