Hot Operator Voice

bart train
Photo by Flickr user drain

This charming story is by Suzanne

I always cringe if I end up on the N-Judah headed toward Caltrain with the conductor who likes to announce the 2nd and King stop as: “home to the house that Barry built.” I curse him for making me think about Barry Bonds, drugs, and the corporate sports machine so early in the morning.

There are many Muni voices we love and hate to recognize. Who hasn’t heard the announcer who draws out the broken elevator messages into three-minute pronouncements more fitting for a get-you-in-the-mood Motown record? Then there’s that BART conductor who takes on the role of airport commissary when en route to SFO, and city ambassador when at Powell. He has a zingy, upbeat, professional voice that is not wholly unpleasant.

One time, I actually developed a crush on the voice of a BART driver. He caught my attention when returning to the city from a visit to Berkeley. It was late at night and the train was full of people leaving a Cal game. The train came to a stop aboveground, between stops, and everyone complained. Moments later “the voice” came on to say that the reason we were stopped was because there was a man walking on the tracks. This fact surprised everyone. And though it was annoying that we were stopped, we appreciated knowing why. About five minutes later, as the train started to move again, “the voice” announced: “We will continue now because the man who was walking on the tracks just crossed them and walked on the freeway.” After a good pause, he added: “Good riddance.”

My crush was born. It wasn’t just the low and slow frequency of this voice that got me, but the content too, the attitude: sarcasm. A rare sign of a certain dark intelligence. I was delighted. Was this driver actually a kindred spirit? Was he hot?

Weeks later I found myself on BART again, headed to Berkeley. The car I was in had a broken door. When we got to the next station I heard “the voice” again: “Attention passengers on the fourth car, please move to the end doors, as the center door is broken and will not open. Unfortunately the people in the platform can’t hear this announcement and they will proceed to just stand there stare confusedly.”

It was him and this time I had to see what he looked like. So I slowly made my way to the very front of the train. When my stop came, I stepped out, my fellow passengers turned left toward the exit, and I turned right. And there he was. Just leaning out the open window, content to watch the passenger de-board. To my surprise, he looked like an average college graduate. He had a trimmed beard and slightly unfashionable glasses. And he was just as cool and collected as his voice. “Hello,” he said, puzzled by wayward sense of direction. Of course, I froze. Then I began to babble the whole story about recognizing his voice, the guy walking on the freeway, etc. I couldn’t believe how patient he was as he held the train. “Oh yes.” He said. “I remember that. I guess that guy had just run out of gas and was walking back to his car.” Then we stood there, me on the platform, he holding the train.

“Well,” I said hesitantly, but empowered by knowing he’d have to move along soon. “You have a very nice voice.”

And with that, he smiled, sounded the ding of closing doors, wished me a good day, and allowed the electricity to flow, propelling the train into the tunnel.

If you have any crushes related to your time on public transit, let us know.

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