I had to promise all the drivers I wouldn't use any names, which is understandable. Most people try to avoid controversy, and, when I think about it, there is something different about attaching a name to even the most innocuous opinions. Saying that there is one Metrolink driver who likes to send passengers on their way with a courteous wish is one thing. Saying that Rosie, the driver of Metrolink Train #108, wishes everyone a good day, a stupendous day, a fascinating day at each stop suddenly means there is someone at the wheel, so to speak. This isn't just a story about the great and powerful voice that comes over the train speakers. It's about a woman with her own story, and her own mystique. A woman who is very difficult to find.
I am going to assume most people have at least a passing acquaintance with the Metrolink driver I'm talking about. She is the one who tells everyone to watch their step and then wishes all departing passengers a insert favorite word for happy day. Normally this would just blend into the background of simple pleasantries. After all, when the driver thanks me for riding Metrolink, it doesn't actually register in my mind. Rosie's send-off is different, and remarkable, because she uses words people don't normally think of when they wonder what their day will be like.
"Have a luscious day." "Have an outstanding day."
It's always nice riding on Rosie's train. Some people roll their eyes, but they're in the back car where she can't see them. The people I like watching are the ones who smile and nod. There's usually at least one couple or family who's never heard her before, and I love eavesdropping on them while they talk after each stop about how funny it is.
So who is Rosie, the driver of train #108? For passengers, she's at least infamous if not legendary. Surprisingly, most of the other train drivers aren't familiar with her. I interviewed six different drivers in my search for the ephemeral wisher of happy days, and found only half of them knew which driver I was talking about. I also asked each of them if they had something they liked to say at each stop, a professional signature they added as a flourish to their eight-hour shifts. Nothing. As one put it, "I'm not that kind of driver."
There was one man I found who chose to insert himself into one of my interviews his name is George Paul. George was quick to establish his authority on the subject of mass transit by pointing out that his last name "Paul" is a shortened version of "Paulette" the first name of a train driver I had not met. He had very detailed descriptions of how the electronic sensors in the track worked to redirect the trains in any given direction a bit of knowledge that definitely impressed me. Almost as much as learning that he was married to Donna Summer back in 1975 and had fathered one of her children.
George actually knew more about Rosie than any of the drivers I talked to. Apparently, Rosie is a bitter woman. And though it may seem that she's always using happy words to send people off to their destination, these aren't words that are actually considerate towards them. In fact, there's one word she will never use. "Pleasant." "She will never say, 'And have a pleasant day.'" says George, "because she's not really hoping anyone has a good day. She's very bitter, very bitter."
I wouldn't know. From my part of the train, she sounds pretty enthusiastic and happy. In fact, all of the drivers think driving the trains is great. "The only job that's better is being the CEO in the office," said the second driver I interviewed. And that's something I can believe. But then I don't ride the trains nearly as much as George Paul. If I did, I know he is one man I would always wish a very pleasant day.
Kent Shaw, a poet and writer, lives in St. Louis.