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Ambition

There is a train conductor with a secret longing to be a Voiceover Guy. This my theory anyway. The man really has the golden tonsils. I’ll be sitting there, seething into my book and loathing humanity; wishing I had the nerve to tell the guy two rows in front that if I can clearly hear the news that Roger Federer has defeated Inferior Player 6-3 6-3 6-0, then his personal radio is turned up too fucking loud.

But then I’ll hear the familiar BING BONG of the train announcement PA system thingy, and the Conductors voice will come through, soothing like melted chocolate.

“Good evening Ladies and Gentleman… this is your conductor speaking.”

He’ll just be apologising for the Inconvenience of the Short Delay or warning us that the Next Stop Is Glasgow Queen Street, but his tone commands attention. It’s deep, rich and reassuring. It fills the carriages; rising and falling like an old ballad. While all the other conductors mumble, he sounds like he puts a lot of thought into it and practices into a hairbrush at night.

He even does wee pauses for suspense. “The next stop is… [Ooh tell me, tell me!] Haymarket. I’d like to remind passengers to please… retain your tickets… [Why? Why?] as barrier checks… are now in operation.”

It’s a lovely mild sort of Scots accent, not one of those incomprehensible ones or over the top like Mr Connery. It belongs in voiceovers, I tell you. I can just imagine him saying, “Hair care products. Three-for-two this week at Boots“. Or, “Stay with us now on Channel Five; next up is the insightful new documentary… The Man Who Was Raised By Chickens”.

The conductor is a handsome bloke, 40-something; he’d look so dignified in a small booth with a microphone above him.

The other day he sauntered through our carriage to inspect the tickets. This is where he really showcases his range. He managed to say something different to every single passenger as they half-heartedly waved their passes at him. Thank you. Much obliged. Thanks. Perfect. Merci. Ta. Beautiful. That’s smashing. I never knew there were so many ways to acknowledge a valid ticket.

Before he got to me, he had to announce the Next Stop. I don’t understand how the system works, to be honest. Most trains have an automated voice that blasts through so abruptly that it feels like your sternum will shatter. But sometimes the conductors have to do it manually. Or maybe this guy chooses to do it that way. I watched him unlock the little hatch where the equipment resides. He cleared his throat, straightened his tie, rolled his shoulders twice and cracked his knuckles, as if he was about to walk on stage to play King Lear. Finally he cleared his throat and picked up the handset, “Ladies and Gentleman… [dramatic pause!] The next stop… is Edinburgh Waverley.”

I was dying to tell him how brilliant I thought he was, how his voice warmed my soul and if put to commerical use, it would also make me want to buy stuff. But I figured he’d just think one of the following –

1.  I was being overly polite. Like when people at work thank me for making such great coffees for their meetings, when I KNOW full well I make the most shit coffees in the world, or

2.  I was drunk. Like 75% of passengers on my train line tend to be.

Then again, maybe he had always harboured this secret desire to be a voiceover guy, but didn’t have to confidence to really believe he could be a voiceover guy, and took the train conductor job because at least he got to announce the stations. Maybe if someone said to him, “Have you ever thought of doing voiceover work?” his secret desires would feel validated and he’d go and sign up for Voiceover School or whatever you have to do.

Or maybe he was just a dedicated train conductor who happened to have a nice voice.

When he came by I silently held out my ticket. I was rewarded with a Marvellous.

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About Shauna Reid

Ahoy there! I’m an author, copywriter and old school blogger. I love telling stories about life and helping my clients to tell theirs. Find out more about me and how we can work together.


22 thoughts on “Ambition

  1. God I love this! I love that there are still some people who take pride in what they do. Who not only put in that little bit of extra effort, but make a point of it and enjoy it by proxy add a little magic to those they touch. Priceless! He is priceless! And so are you, Shauny! Bloody well done! 😀

  2. My two favourite Sydney train experiences?
    1) A train guard broadcasting the end of a cricket game over the PA by holding his radio up to the mike. The whole train was enthralled. Lots of “Ohhhhh….Ahhhhh!”
    2) The train was delayed at Wynyard. Nothing to look at. Middle of summer. No air-con. After explaining the signal failure several times, we knew he was just as frustrated as us. Finally, the train kicks into action. “Stand clear, Ladies and Gentleman, stand clear – WE’RE OUTTA HERE!!!!!!” Everyone laughed till Town Hall…

  3. Shauna – I LOVE the way you write. You have me in stitches after every post! There are not many people in the world that have the ability to make the voice of a train conductor so amusing. Love your work chick!

    P.S. About ten of us Auckland bloggers went out for a “Bloggers Dinner” on Tuesday night. It was decided that you, with your Dietgirl blog, are the Blogging Queen. Just thought you might like to know that you’re famous even down here in little old New Zealand!

  4. Marvellous, indeed. Oh, you must tell him about his own marviness with a quick winning grin.It would make his day/week/month for just the teensiest bit of embarrassment on your part.

    I love railway announcers with a bit of flourish or comedy. There was one a few years back in Melbourne who I loved getting. He once drolly sighed:

    “Yes, people, we’re off to beautiful seaside Frankston!”

    Franga is a bit of a shithole. He knew it. Everyone on the train knew it. Frankston City Council probably has a plaque certifying it’s own bit of a shitholeness. It was a golden moment as everyone snorted and chuckled to themselves.

  5. He’d make a good mini-documentary subject. Do you have a video camera? Ask him for a five-minute interview and post it on the web so that we can admire his lovely voice. There must be a million people out there who deserve to be on YouTube more than the zillion who are currently there. You can call it ‘Five Minutes with Shauny” and get, like, famous.

  6. Not sure if this is still happening but we enjoyed a distorted announcement on our train line that was supposed to be: “The next station is Graceville,” but instead came across as “the next station is disgraceful”.
    You’d end up checking out the station just in case something was happening there.

  7. Oh MAN, I want a trainride like that! Nothing like the automated robotic voices of DOOM that ring out in the Singaporean and Hong Kong train system.

    *soft bing bong*
    DO NOT EAT ON DA TRAINS LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL ^_^ KEKEKEKEKE

    *soft bing bong*
    DA NEXT STOP IS LED-TOWN, DOORS OPEN ON DA LIGHT HAND SIDE OF DA TLAIN LOLOLOLOLOLOL ^O^

    *soft bing bong*
    SALE ON HERRO KITTY TOYS AT SOHO LOLOLOLOLOLOL~~~~!1!!!!1!one

    Oh the memories…

  8. Ah come on Shauny, throw the guy a bone.
    Tell him how great he is that he takes such pride and care in his work and efforts. The world doesn’t have enough people doing that and not enough people stopping to notice like you did. You will make his day……life!

  9. Oh it’s so true – the quality of the announcements can make or break a tube journey. I hate the ones who get far too over eager and decide they need to make a full announcement about all the lines you can change to, minding the gap, taking your belongings with you, what the tourist sights are at this station, enjoying the ride… until you want to shout “just shut up and let me have my journey in peace!”. But I love those who are prompt and polite in informing you about delays and even amusing; I had one guy who said “listen, folks, don’t think it’s only Britain, I’ve just been in [some exotic location I forget the name of] for two weeks and the transport is just as bad there!”

  10. 🙂 excellent stories guys…

    i dunno, i think i prefer to admire the guy a la distance. i just know if i were to talk to him the whole illusion would be shattered then there’d be nothing to look forward to on my commute (aside from encounters with Naked Lady Poetry Guy)

  11. Brilliantly told Shauna! There’s a driver on the Sandringham line in Melbourne who specialises in extraordinary broadcasts. Nothing like someone turning a mundane job into something special to brighten everyone’s day!

  12. This is a WONDERFUL story, Shauny. Maybe you could anonymously leave him a copy of your blog post or something next time you see him. 🙂 But I concur, it’s so nice to see someone taking pride in what they do and doing it well.

  13. I have been silently lurking here for some time now after discovering your blog randomly (I think it was during a moment when I was blurred by an alcohol-fuelled episode back in good ole dodgy Redfern, Sydney) and I have to say, your exploits and stories have provided many laughs for me. There are not many who can make me laugh out loud in the middle of a quiet office at my computer screen, so I have you to blame for my workmates thinking I’m a maniac who randomly laughs as her computer and only when it’s dead silent does this ever happen. But it’s all worth it 🙂

  14. Excellent post, Shauny.

    It’s always a treat to hear a migrant accent on the Strathfield line in Sydney announce that the “neck stop will be Arsefeel” (Ashfield).

    On the Gosford/Wyong line it’s all mainly nice harsh Australian accents with “Woy Woy negs stop then KoolewongTascottPointClareGosfordthenallstopstoWyyyyyyong.

  15. Oh Shauna, you MUST find a way to share your brilliant insight with this man! Print it out and somehow slip it to him…he must know what you’ve written about him (even if he doesn’t know who wrote it).

    I am sure he would be thrilled to know someone has captured the very essence of his soul….please please please share this with him!!

  16. I am currently living in the U.S. and my accent (Oz, tempered by 6 years of UK) goes down so well over here that I actually AM doing voiceovers now… “Thank you for calling Bollocks Medical Insurance. Please press 1 to continue…”. I have a special voiceover voice which I bung on to make it sound professional. God knows why, but the Yanks can’t get enough.

    My goal is to get into the movie listings business. Reckon thats where the glory is….

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