Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 1, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

15 SECONDS OF FAME TIMES TEN MILLION....The Washington Post has a story today about the finalists in the DC Metro's contest to be the new and improved disembodied voice that says "The doors are opening. Please stand back so that customers may exit the train. When boarding, please move to the center of the car."

You can hear all ten finalists here. Unrequited Narcissism has appropriate commentary here.

Kevin Drum 5:48 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (68)

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Comments

For my money, Carol Rabel's the best. Although, I think it would be funny to hear John Howell's on a regular basis.

Also, I want whatever drugs Angela Stevens is on. (PLEASE! STAND BACK!)

Posted by: Royko on February 1, 2006 at 6:03 PM | PERMALINK

"Mind the gap"

"The White Zone is for immediate loading and unloading of passengers only. No parking"

Any other famous ones?

Posted by: craigie on February 1, 2006 at 6:03 PM | PERMALINK

mmmmmmmmmindthegap. mmmmmmmmmemories.

Well, there's my local groceteria: "Please stand back; misting is about to begin. Freshwater misting keeps produce frrrresh and llllllocks in flllllavor."

Posted by: shortstop on February 1, 2006 at 6:07 PM | PERMALINK

Jill Apple - too damn perky
Steve Broido - is this really 3 people spliced together?
Sarah Fraser - so bossy!
Jon Garcia - the Barry White of public announcements
John Howell - Luke! I am your father!
Angela Stevens - So freaked out! (Stand back! We're all going to die!) Maybe that's appropriate for DC

I vote for Linda Carducci.

Carol Rabel sounds like she may need a doctor at any moment.

Posted by: craigie on February 1, 2006 at 6:08 PM | PERMALINK

And don't forget "The number you have dialed -- FIVE FIVE FIVE - ONE TWO THREE FOUR -- has been DIS-connected. No further information is available about -- FIVE FIVE FIVE - ONE TWO THREE FOUR."

Or

"Welcome to moviefone!"

Posted by: Royko on February 1, 2006 at 6:10 PM | PERMALINK

Are these people robots?

The synthesized voices at AT&T's Natural Voices demo sound more lifelike.

Posted by: JJF on February 1, 2006 at 6:12 PM | PERMALINK

Linda Carducci all the way. I thought there was a gap between her and the others. Rhythm, intonation, everything.

Posted by: tzorbs on February 1, 2006 at 6:14 PM | PERMALINK

Why do all those names sound like a meritlessly best-selling author's idea of character monikers?

"I'll throw in Broido and Garcia...ethnic, baby! And Carducci...everyone loves an Italian!"

Posted by: shortstop on February 1, 2006 at 6:14 PM | PERMALINK

"Mind the Gap" takes on a whole new meaning once you've read Gaiman's "Neverwhere."

Posted by: tbrosz on February 1, 2006 at 6:17 PM | PERMALINK

Royko - you forgot part of it...

PLEASEMAKEANOTEOFIT!

Posted by: K on February 1, 2006 at 6:18 PM | PERMALINK

shortstop:

Well, there's my local groceteria: "Please stand back; misting is about to begin. Freshwater misting keeps produce frrrresh and llllllocks in flllllavor."

My grocery store has little strobe lights that flicker, and the sound of thunder is heard before the misting starts.

Posted by: tbrosz on February 1, 2006 at 6:19 PM | PERMALINK

"Mind the Gap" takes on a whole new meaning once you've read Gaiman's "Neverwhere."

Since we're not complete freaks who live in our garages sporting Vader helmets, we don't plan to do so anytime soon.

Posted by: shortstop on February 1, 2006 at 6:19 PM | PERMALINK

PLEASEMAKEANOTEOFIT!

Hee!

Posted by: shortstop on February 1, 2006 at 6:20 PM | PERMALINK

"At the beep, the time sponsored by Accurist will be..."

I'll never get that fucker out of my head.

Posted by: craigie on February 1, 2006 at 6:28 PM | PERMALINK

Why, for G.. sake, should the rest of us outside the beltway worry about that?

Posted by: Yoni on February 1, 2006 at 6:29 PM | PERMALINK

bop-vvvvvvwing!
bop-vvvvvvwing!
bop-vvvvvvwing!
bop-vvvvvvwing!
At the tone, coordinated WWV time will be ...

Posted by: K on February 1, 2006 at 6:30 PM | PERMALINK

Christ, I'm crabby.

I'm sorry, tbrosz. You're a self-centered, purposefully insular ass and I just can't soften that assessment, but calling you a complete freak is over the top in a thread in which you haven't even started the unwarranted condescension yet. I retract it.

Posted by: shortstop on February 1, 2006 at 6:30 PM | PERMALINK

Who's Accurist?

Posted by: shortstop on February 1, 2006 at 6:31 PM | PERMALINK

I'm sorry, tbrosz. You're a self-centered, purposefully insular ass and I just can't soften that assessment, but calling you a complete freak is over the top in a thread in which you haven't even started the unwarranted condescension yet. I retract it.

Not only that, but Neverwhere is a decent novel. (And American Gods is pretty great!)

Posted by: Royko on February 1, 2006 at 6:36 PM | PERMALINK

They ought to have one that sounds like a nagging Jewish mother.

Posted by: MonkeyBoy on February 1, 2006 at 6:37 PM | PERMALINK

Accurist makes watches, and so naturally they sponsor or sponsored the "speaking clock" - the number you phone to get the time - in the UK.

I have heard that little ditty so many times it has it's own brain cells, and it's not giving them back.

Posted by: craigie on February 1, 2006 at 6:44 PM | PERMALINK

Oh no! I wrote "it's own brain cells"!

Now I have to turn myself in to the grammar police. I bow and scrape before you all...

Posted by: craigie on February 1, 2006 at 6:46 PM | PERMALINK

they sponsor or sponsored the "speaking clock" - the number you phone to get the time - in the UK.

Huh, I never did that once when I lived there. What you miss when you're not paying attention.

Posted by: shortstop on February 1, 2006 at 6:47 PM | PERMALINK

My grocery store has little strobe lights that flicker, and the sound of thunder is heard before the misting starts.

Do you actually own the store, or do you just work in the produce department? I always figured you as some kind of rocket scientist.

Posted by: Bud on February 1, 2006 at 6:48 PM | PERMALINK

Randi Miller won.

That was fast.

Posted by: Royko on February 1, 2006 at 6:50 PM | PERMALINK

shortstop, good for you for apologizing. That was a little cranky.

Are there any folks on the Right who go too far, and then own up and say sorry, without even being prompted?

Anyone?

That's what I thought.

Posted by: craigie on February 1, 2006 at 6:51 PM | PERMALINK

Let's not forget the California favorite:

"Please remain in your seats. Sientose centavos, por favor."

Posted by: Apot on February 1, 2006 at 7:00 PM | PERMALINK

In the LA subway, the announcer says "Please give up your seats to Republicans. They tend to pass out in the presence of brown people."

Posted by: craigie on February 1, 2006 at 7:04 PM | PERMALINK

Jewish mother--for awhile, NYC taxis had this dude reminding people to take their belongings and receipt, and he had a NY accent that was so thick, the tourists complained. They switched to broadway actors, then. But I can't remember the last time I heard a recording, so maybe the TLC gave up.

The best in NYC is the Union Square subway guy on teh 4/5/6 lines. There are these incredibly dangerous moving platforms (no lie) that come out after the train has stopped. He's got a white guy outer-borough accent and a smoker's voice, and he says, "Please stand clear of the moving platforms as trains enter and leave the station. Your safety matters to us." It's the lack of commitment in the delivery of the last line that sells it for me.

There's a chick who does it, too, and she's good (she sounds like a terribly put-upon but very loving African Am. mother who is like, "Ohmigosh, I'll say it again nicely because you're three, but really, I'd kind of hoped you'd have figured this out by now...") but she's no guy at Union square who's like, "listen, subways kill people and platforms move. Do the math, genius."

Posted by: theorajones on February 1, 2006 at 7:28 PM | PERMALINK

They should switch it every week. Then get interesting character voices to deliver it, with appropriate ad-libs. People might actually listen.

FOGHORN LEGHORN: Move, I say, move to the center of the car.

AHHNOLD: Move to ze center of ze car, or I vill be back for you.

MARVIN: I know there's no point in asking, but you are supposed to move to the center of the car. And to think it was the high point of my day telling you that.

DALEK: Move! To the center of the car! You will obey!

GOOFY: Duhoh! Mickey tole me ta tell ya to move ta the center o the car. Duhoh!

SCOOBY DOO: Reah! Roove do da renter ruv da rar! Hee hee hee!

VADER: (Whoosh!) You will move to the center of the car. I won't ask a second time.

Posted by: jimBOB on February 1, 2006 at 7:42 PM | PERMALINK

shortstop:

I'm sorry, tbrosz. You're a self-centered, purposefully insular ass and I just can't soften that assessment, but calling you a complete freak is over the top in a thread in which you haven't even started the unwarranted condescension yet. I retract it.

No problem, and downright nicely said, in fact. Hey, I wouldn't be here at all if that kind of thing got under my skin. I see commenting on boards like this like playing football: we try to take each other's heads off on the field, but when the whistle blows, you help the other guy up. It's a game, and taking it too seriously can give you an ulcer you could toss a cat through.

When it comes down to it, nobody here is going to change the world by commenting here, and sometimes I wonder if even Kevin ever reads down more than a dozen posts or so.

I'd give Neil Gaiman's book "Neverwhere" a try if you don't know what I'm talking about. Or anything else he's written, for that matter.

***

Bud:

Do you actually own the store, or do you just work in the produce department? I always figured you as some kind of rocket scientist.

"My" grocery store, as in the one I go to. Nob Hill, originally, but now Safeway has thunder in the produce aisles too. Never worked in a grocery store, but did work in a vegetable packing plant when I was a kid. Field work, too. Ever pulled tassels for a living?

Posted by: tbrosz on February 1, 2006 at 7:47 PM | PERMALINK

In Tokyo, there's train station where one way for passengers to connect to a subway line is by going from the gates down some a short flight of steps to an underground passageway.* The steps had a jury-rigged look, like someone had retrofitted them into the space, and they stayed there for YEARS despite the low ceiling (maybe 6 feet).

The train company dealt with it by painting the edge with yellow-and-black stripes, and installing a PA speaker and a permanent loop recording speaking in Japanese and English, "Please watch your head. The ceiling is low."

They finally rebuilt it last year, so the ceilings are no longer low, but I miss that recording.

*For you Tokyoites who care, I'm talking about Kanda Station.

Posted by: Calton Bolick on February 1, 2006 at 8:01 PM | PERMALINK

Some of the women sound like Kerry Shrug on helium. Is life that tense in D.C. now?

Posted by: Hedley Lamarr on February 1, 2006 at 8:08 PM | PERMALINK

Ever pulled tassels for a living?

Is this some kind of conservative code? What do you people get up to?

Posted by: craigie on February 1, 2006 at 8:09 PM | PERMALINK

Why not have the voices change on a regular basis? It's not like it would be technically hard to do these days.

Oh, and the voice on the Hong Kong MTR gets my vote as my favourite - "Sing Mat Kowgun Taemon; please stand back, from the doors". I could listen to it all day - which was kind of handy because I did hear it about 50 times a day for two weeks...

Posted by: Robert Merkel on February 1, 2006 at 8:11 PM | PERMALINK

craigie:

Is this some kind of conservative code? What do you people get up to?

City boy.

Posted by: tbrosz on February 1, 2006 at 8:30 PM | PERMALINK

Just to fill you none inside the beltway peeps in on this little "contest." It had two parts. The first was to come up with not only a recording of your voice, but also a new convincing line to get people in and out of the trains and to stand in the middle of the cars. Metro (or WMATA) has a serious problem with people holding up train doors and crowding around the exists. (The Districts' population doubles during the work day, and a lot of those people come by Metro. So the agency is trying to figure out how to get more people on the cars. I guess having people stuff them into cars like in Tokyo has been ruled out.) After that initial batch, the list was whittled down to the best voices and the best new phrase. The finalists were asked to record the new phrase and then that has been opened up to voting.

As for the best recorded voice elsewhere, I love the crazed, singsong white guy on the 4/5/6 Trains in New York: Stand clear of the closing doors, please. Which crescendos down and then up.

Or the hot voiced Muni metro voice with the different pitches for inbound and outbound in the underground stations of downtown San Francisco.

(The worst, though, is probably the literal electronic voice from the BART system that pronounces the syllable "min" for minutes when announcing the coming trains. I can't believe they couldn't have programed it to say the full word.)

Posted by: DC1974 on February 1, 2006 at 8:33 PM | PERMALINK

I vote for the voice of Slim Pickins, RIP, as in Blazings Saddles.

Posted by: Keith G on February 1, 2006 at 8:37 PM | PERMALINK

Please stand back so that customers may exit the train.

They would never even try saying that in the NY subway. New Yorkers know that if you stand back somebody's going to take your spot, and then you're the one who can't get off.

Posted by: Noo Yawka on February 1, 2006 at 8:47 PM | PERMALINK

OK. On BART in SF, it's "The doors are closing. Please stand clear of the doors." [Italics added to show where the emphasis goes.] That's all. In a sort of sing-songy but not unpleasant female voice. Not quite the sepulchral London "Mind the Gap!"

On certain Golden Gate Transit bus routes, OTOH, you will sometimes hear "Por favor, mueven se para atrs." Roughly translatable as "other people are trying to get on here, so do them a courtesy and move further back."

Posted by: waterfowl on February 1, 2006 at 9:27 PM | PERMALINK

I should've added that "so that customers may exit the train" is incredibly ham-handed. "Customers"? Jesus, people, what's wrong with "passengers"? Which is what they are called on any train system I have any experience of. What's the idea that the fact that they're paying money ought to be emphasized over the fact that they're trying to get from Point A to Point B? This strike anyone at all as a good idea?

Posted by: waterfowl on February 1, 2006 at 9:34 PM | PERMALINK

I wish they would have just such a contest here in NYC. The guy whose recorded voice says "Stand clear of the closing doors, please" on the new IRT cars is so obviously *not* a New Yorker, it's annoying. He's clearly got an upper-Midwestern twang, especially on the vowel and the "r" of "doors".

I don't want a stereotypical "Fuggedaboudit"-type New York voice, I could live with Mr. Midwestern if only he sounded like he lived here for 20 years before he made the recording.

Posted by: Ed Fitzgerald (unfutz) on February 1, 2006 at 10:02 PM | PERMALINK

I still remember a witty conductor with an urbane manner of speaking on the #1 line in New York. "Next stop, 116th street, Columbia University. Now that's some fine credentials", or the like at each stop. I remember reading a short blurb in a newspaper that we won an award that came with a small cash prize for raising the quality of life in the city.

Does anybody else remember this guy? He's retired now. I lived there about 10 years ago.

Posted by: Mornington Crescent on February 1, 2006 at 10:26 PM | PERMALINK

craigie: Is this some kind of conservative code? What do you people get up to?

Had you spent your formative years in the Breadbasket of the Nation, you would be embarrassed to display such granary ignorance.

jimBob, that was rery rery runny.

Years ago at the Baker Street tube station, there was a guy (live, not recorded) who liked to bellow (or the English version of same, which unless football is being played is a weak shadow of a full-throated Yankee holler), "Let the passengers exit the train before boarding. IN OTHER WORDS, LET THE PASSENGERS EXIT THE TRAIN BEFORE BOARDING." Everyone would smile and snicker, then ignore him.

Posted by: shortstop on February 1, 2006 at 10:29 PM | PERMALINK

Mornington Crescent, we used to have a similar guy on the Chicago El Red Line. He kept up a running commentary:

"WILson is next. TRUman College. That's Harry, S for the fake middle name, Truman."

"CHEEcago Avenue is next. Museum of Contemporary Art, highest ratio of shoe stores per block in the city, Bob's Stop 'N' Drink Lounge. Little something for all my little riders."

"The time: 8:16. The temperature: 36. Feet above street level: 25."

And my favorite: "We're rockin' and rollin' but never tumblin' on the Loooooooove Train."

We all loved him, even at 6 a.m. One day he just disappeared. Probably got fired for failing to abuse the CTA customers.

Posted by: shortstop on February 1, 2006 at 10:36 PM | PERMALINK

John Cole says his sister is the voice of the SeaTac airport tram. Weird, I never noticed the voice speaking English, only Japanese. I'll have to listen more closely next time.

Posted by: my cat on February 1, 2006 at 10:54 PM | PERMALINK

Jon Garcia sounded like HAL from "2001". Yikes.
"I'm sorry riders...I can't open the door."

Posted by: uvasig on February 1, 2006 at 11:03 PM | PERMALINK

Had you spent your formative years in the Breadbasket of the Nation, you would be embarrassed to display such granary ignorance.

But I didn't, so I'm not. I'm sorry, but "pulling tassels" sounds to me like something James Dobson would be against.

Posted by: craigie on February 1, 2006 at 11:10 PM | PERMALINK

I'm sorry, but "pulling tassels" sounds to me like something James Dobson would be against.

Only if boys and girls are allowed to go into the cornrows together unsupervised. Okay, you've probably figured this out, but partway through the growing season, the corn has to be detasseled to prevent it from pollinating itself. Once you remove the tassels, it can be cross-pollinated by a second variety of corn in the same field, so the resultant hybrid plants are stronger and better producers.

It's hot, sweaty, dirty work, and we all did it as kids during the summer despite the fact that the farmers paid slave wages under the table in cash because we weren't old enough to be legally working anyway. There's a lesson there that has to do with migrant labor, "guest workers" and the free market, but I'm too tired to go there right now.

Posted by: shortstop on February 1, 2006 at 11:57 PM | PERMALINK

I think they should have Debra from Everybody Loves Raymond and when somebody gets caught in the door she can just say "Idiot"

Posted by: murmeister on February 2, 2006 at 2:37 AM | PERMALINK

tbrosz: My grocery store has little strobe lights that flicker, and the sound of thunder is heard before the misting starts.

I would recommend not sampling the shrooms at the store tbrosz shops at...

Posted by: tripoley on February 2, 2006 at 9:09 AM | PERMALINK

It's hot, sweaty, dirty work, and we all did it as kids during the summer despite the fact that the farmers paid slave wages under the table in cash because we weren't old enough to be legally working anyway.

There are two other activities that I can chime in with:

1. Walking beans. Essentially, you take a hoe and walk soybean fields, removing all of the weeds. Depending on the field, this can be a quick job and you can cover a few dozen acres in a day or you can spend all morning clearing a small patch.

2. Baling hay. Depending on how big they want the bales to be, this can break your back before noon. Slinging hay bales up onto a haywagon will make your arms huge after a few days.

And then there's milking cows, splitting and stacking wood to burn in the winter and hauling anhydrous ammonia tanks--somewhat harder to handle anhydrous nowadays, what with all the crystal meth labs out there.

Posted by: Pale Rider on February 2, 2006 at 9:55 AM | PERMALINK

My grocery store has little strobe lights that flicker, and the sound of thunder is heard before the misting starts.

It's called Safeway here in Murr-land, hon.

Posted by: Pale Rider on February 2, 2006 at 9:59 AM | PERMALINK

Since we're not complete freaks who live in our garages sporting Vader helmets, we don't plan to do so anytime soon. Posted by: shortstop on February 1, 2006 at 6:19 PM


Hmmm, I've read it, but I wear my Vader helmet in the living room. Am I a complete or incomplete freak, shortstop?

Posted by: Dr. Morpheus on February 2, 2006 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

Morph, I said I was sorry.

Pale Rider! You are a Person of the Land, now an urban dweller, just like moi. I knew there was a reason I liked you, besides the hilarious writing and devastating ripostes, of course.

Posted by: shortstop on February 2, 2006 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

shortstop,

Where I live really isn't urban--I have to commute in to DC to work at the bottle washing factory.

We have quite a bit of woods around us, some of that central Maryland garden variety sort of wild land that the state wants to sell off, plus some weird subdivision property owned by people who don't ever seem to set foot out of their house.

I can literally go a half mile and be on land that hasn't been settled/farmed/cleared or otherwise screwed up since, at least, the 1700s. It's hard to know if someone completely cleared this area, farmed it for a while, then abandoned it--although, a good many of the trees are at least 250-300 years old.

Now, back in Minnesota, well...that's a whole different story. But here in the dismal state of Maryland, well--not so much urban dwellers as people watching sprawl creep towards us.

Posted by: Pale Rider on February 2, 2006 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

I love the sound the Metro trains make when they pull into a station. Does anyone else recognize it as a sound effect from Forbidden Planet?

Posted by: Matt on February 2, 2006 at 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

Neverwhere is, as tbrosz says, quite good. It was originally created to be a television production, which was a great deal of fun; I haven't read the book.

I did read American Gods and although Gaiman is an excellent writer I have to say the medium he is best in is comic books. Some of his work on Sandman is among the best of English literature.

Oh, and on topic: I live in DC and have been hearing the various would-be voices of Metro for a while now. It was a promising contest, but ultimately they chose the voice that represented the least possible change. If I didn't know otherwise, I'd say that they got the same person from earlier to simply do fresh recordings.

Posted by: S Ra on February 2, 2006 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

You are a Person of the Land,

Is this anything like Children of the Corn?

shortstop, thank you for this new information. Now we've each learned something in this thread!

Posted by: craigie on February 2, 2006 at 11:37 AM | PERMALINK

P.R.: Safeway ain't Maryland. Giant, now that's Maryland. Or, better yet, SFW (Shoppers Food Warehouse). Even better, shop at MOM (My Organic Market).

I've lived in lots of places and grocery stores are one of the few regional corporate entities left. Vons, Ralphs, Raleys, Kroger, Albertsons, A&P... you can tell where a person's from by where they shop.

But Safeway is all over the country.

Posted by: S Ra on February 2, 2006 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

My family and I went to Disneyworld back in the summer of 2003.

When you ride the monorail there, there's always a voice that says, "Please stand clear of the doors." And then it repeats the phrase in Spanish.

My older daughter, who was ten at the time, can still say that Spanish phrase perfectly even though she's had only a smattering of Spanish in school. Cracks me up every time.

Posted by: Alek Hidell on February 2, 2006 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

Is this anything like Children of the Corn?

No, that's what happens when you let the detasselers go two by two into the cornrows. Rev. Dobson was right to worry.

Posted by: shortstop on February 2, 2006 at 12:02 PM | PERMALINK

The detasselers went two by two into the cornrows...

Man, it's all getting too, too wierd.

Posted by: craigie on February 2, 2006 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

That's rural life for you.

Posted by: shortstop on February 2, 2006 at 12:10 PM | PERMALINK

S Ra,

Yes, I know that about Safeway. What I was commenting on was the produce section, where they have the thunderstorm sound before the produce is gently misted with water to keep it fresh.

Posted by: Pale Rider on February 2, 2006 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

"Or the hot voiced Muni metro voice with the different pitches for inbound and outbound in the underground stations of downtown San Francisco."

I'd love it if the MUNI voice provided instructions as well: "Please stay away from the edge of the platform if you are not boarding." "Please move to the center of the car." "Please keep the doors clear." San Francisco public transit riders definitely need behavior modification.

Last time I was in Boston, a passenger briefly held up a subway train by holding the door open. The second after the train started moving, the operator made an announcement: "If you are not ready to board, wait for the next train." I loved that.

Jeffery

Posted by: Jeffery on February 2, 2006 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK


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Posted by: good on February 3, 2006 at 7:36 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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