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Steve Collins covers urban affairs and other issues facing the nation's capital.

Online justice comes for the TTC Leprechaun

The so-called “TTC Leprechaun,” a spiteful creature in a green shirt, bowler hat and chin beard, is becoming the latest poster boy for selfish, head-up-the-fundament behaviour on public transit, and not just in Toronto.

His alleged offence: occupying a seat with his bag on a crowded bus, and then not only refusing a woman’s request to move it so she could sit, but doubling down by shoving her, verbally abusing her and flipping the finger.

A Facebook account of his boorish display and an online video have, as we say, gone viral, in that they’re making rapid rounds online — and also in that they may sicken people exposed to them.

There are two sides to every story and it’s possible the TTC Leprechaun is a lovely, altruistic fellow, and that the luggage he thought more needful of a seat on the bus than an actual human contained donor organs he was selflessly rushing to an emergency room. Anything’s possible.

But on the face of it, he appears to have masterfully escalated a garden-variety bit of transit-riding bad form into a sort of narcissistic performance art, for which the reviews have been justifiably scathing.

The TTC has made attempts to find security video of the incident, and, just in case anyone’s still in any doubt, the commission explains its people vs. baggage policy (feel free to read this in the slow, calming voice you’d reserve for a mid-tantrum toddler): “Bags don’t pay fares. People do.”

I don’t think it coincidental that in the video filmed after the initial confrontation, which has become a 44 Seconds’ Hate for transit riders, the Leprechaun doesn’t even look at the woman he’s abusing; his eyes appear glued to his phone the whole time.

These screens can hold a mirror to the souls of the self-absorbed and oblivious, proving again and again that you can’t Google a clue.

The technology has its uses, of course — the incriminating video was recorded on another passenger’s phone.

And posts from and responses to the “OC Transpo Rulebook” Twitter account (@OCRulebook) have become a handy forum for Ottawa riders to school each other on the finer points of on board conduct. (Example: “Don’t break up with someone on a packed city bus. It’s awkward for those nearby.”)

The social media conversation often gets bitchy, but this crowd-sourced pillory is probably more effective than OC Transpo’s official etiquette primer, the hokey Busology campaign, the latest chapter of which, launched in April, exposing riders to such well-meaning doggerel as, “It’s better to look back than hit someone with your backpack.”

Sure, Busology ads posted on board may serve as a useful reminder to particularly obtuse riders, but the accompanying videos, for which one must actively go to OC Transpo’s website, are -— I’m just hazarding a guess here — probably not reaching their intended audience.

Online justice can be rough, and the TTC Leprechaun has become a social media leper. He might well hesitate to show his face on the bus any time soon, though sympathy over his ostracism may be limited.

But here’s some free advice: Burn the shirt and hat, shave the dumb beard, and try not to be such a creepshow. Nobody will ever recognize you.