It’s 8:30 a.m., and two bleary-eyed commuters jump on the packed inbound train at Rosslyn as the doors are closing.
“Please stand clear of the door. Thank you,” the recording instructs them.
“God, I hate that voice,” one says to the other. “She sounds so angry.”
The complaint is almost as familiar as the voice itself. For that reason, Metro is changing the recording on some trains Tuesday.
The speaker will be the same, the message will be the same, but the tone will be softer, Metro spokesman Rod Burfield said.
“I think some people thought it sounded like their old elementary school teacher, like the voice was reprimanding them,” Burfield said.
Dozens of Metro riders voiced their objections to the voice in mail-in responses to General Manager Richard White’s “Dear Fellow Rider” pamphlet, disseminated in stations and buses since mid-September.
“Well, it really does sound rude, like she has an attitude,” said Frances Thompson, 35, a daily Red Line rider from Fort Washington.
But Thompson will not be among the patrons to hear the more dulcet announcement Tuesday. It will play only in about 20 to 30 Orange Line trains, Metro spokeswoman Cheryl Johnson said.
The rest of Metro’s fleet of 764 will receive the new recording by the end of November, Johnson said. The “doors opening” and “doors closing” recordings will remain the same.
“It’s just that `thank you,’ part. It’s like she doesn’t mean it,” said Marc Rappaport, a contracting officer from Germantown.
The “she” whose sincerity Rappaport questions is Sandy Carroll, 52, a Southwest Washington woman who volunteered the use of her voice as a favor to a friend who worked at Metro.
“Oh, I didn’t know that,” Carroll said of the complaints, although she said she has heard people mimicking her on her regular Green Line commutes to Squire, Sanders & Dempsey, the Washington law firm where she works as an administrative staffer.
Metro started playing the recording in March as a supplement to the two-tone chimes, which did not always clue tourists in to the impending motion of the doors, Johnson said.
Carroll said Metro told her to “sound stern” for the first recording, but asked her to make it softer about a month ago, when responses to White’s open letter started coming in.
Nearly 4,000 people mailed in the postage-paid suggestion ticket, requesting everything from lower fares to more parking and signs announcing when the next train will arrive.
“I didn’t mind re-recording it in the least,” Carroll said. She said she does no other recording work and has never had professional voice training.
Johnson said Metro originally chose Carroll’s voice over several others because it was clear and “very attractive.”
But Red Line rider Lisa Parker said the announcement is more annoying than attractive. “It would be appropriate on the 4th of July when trains are packed, but besides that she just sounds angry,” the Takoma Park receptionist said. Some said the tone was appropriate to the message. “It’s not the friendliest recording I ever heard, but it’s a warning,” said David Felber, 36, an editor from Takoma Park. “I don’t need any more sunshine in my day.” -30-