Ever since they improved the intercoms on New York City subway trains, I’ve become a casual connoisseur of different conductors, and the vocal techniques they employ in announcing the stops. Most just sound bored, while others express evident dissatisfaction with their lives through the hostile, resentful tone they take with the passengers. But there are a few who put some effort in to it, such as one guy who used to announce the 1 and 9 trains back in the ‘90s. He sounded like a cross between a carnival barker and an old-time department store elevator operator listing the shopping options at each floor. “You’re on the number 1 train, headed downtown to lovely South Ferry. This is Columbus Circle: you can transfer here to the fabled A train is you want to head up to Harlem, hop off to take a stroll in beautiful Central Park, or just gaze in amazement at the stupendous Trump Tower just above this station.”
My current favorite is usually on the C train, though sometimes he’s assigned to the 1. He plays it pretty straight until he gets to “stand clear of the closing doors,” which he always delivers in the same strange quasi-British accent, dropping the “o” sound in “closing” nearly an octave, then swinging back up to end with a prim “please.” I always crack up at this, no matter how many times I hear it.
But I may have found a new favorite this morning. He sounds like John Lee Hooker: specifically the slow-talking-blues Hooker. Low and mellow, but with an undertone of urgency. He sounds like a fellow convict whispering quietly in your ear, trying to talk you down from doing something foolish in the Yard. “Please move in to the center of the car. We need to get lots of people in. We’re coming into a crowded station. Lots of people trying to get on. We can get through this people, we can get through this.” It was one ofthe most reassuring subway rides I can remember.