The New York Times City Room blog has a feature this Sunday on the woman who makes the subway announcements, revealing that she lives in Maine, where not even the Q train goes. Carolyn Hopkins, the public address announcer for 15 years, “works from a windowless room in her house” up north and only makes her way into the city to board cruise ships, “but we’re always in cabs,” she said. The last time she took the subway was in 1957.
Hopkins’ job is to record a collection of phrases, which are then linked together to form a semi-coherent thought depending on the subway station and the trains’ actions, hence the robotic nature of the announcements:
What you hear, standing on the platform, are a series of short takes, each no more than a few words, strung together by the computer. “Ladies and gentlemen” — one take. “There is Brooklyn-bound” — one take. “Local train” — one take. “Two” — one take. “Stations away” — one take. The longest take is 16 words: “Please stand away from the platform edge, especially when trains are entering and leaving the station.”
Hopkins pretty much has a monopoly on the transportation announcement circuit, including gigs in Chicago, Washington, Paris, and at LaGuardia, Kennedy and Newark Liberty airports. But wait, there’s more:
“Plus Incheon in Korea; Charles de Gaulle in Paris; Beirut, Lebanon; and I’m forgetting some in China,” she said. “Once we walked into the John Wayne-Orange County Airport in California. I had completely forgotten that I’d done the announcements there, and it hit me like, ‘Oh, O.K.’ I was telling myself to watch unattended bags. That’s always a good one.”
Unavoidable, yes, but she’s not exactly soothing. “My husband says he doesn’t hear the nice voice as often as he’d like,” she admitted. But at least he never has to wait for the L train.