The Voice That Gets You Where You Need To Go

Carolyn Hopkins is the voice behind public service announcements at airports, subways and theme parks. She tells you a train is coming, to step away from the platform, or to please pay attention to your luggage. And she does it all from her home in northern Maine. Guest host Susan Stamberg talks with Hopkins about her work.

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SUSAN STAMBERG, HOST:

If you've traveled by train or plane in the last almost-20 years, it's a good chance that this woman got you started.

CAROLYN HOPKINS: The local time is 4 o'clock P.M.

STAMBERG: She is always punctual. She makes sure you don't trip over yourself.

HOPKINS: Caution: The moving walkway is ending.

STAMBERG: And she's concerned with your safety.

HOPKINS: This is a special security announcement.

STAMBERG: Such a cheerful, friendly traveling companion. If only she'd carry your bags. But Carolyn Hopkins, the public address announcer at airports and train stations, does inside work with no heavy lifting. She joins us from member station WMEH in Bangor, Maine. Hi.

HOPKINS: Hello, hello.

STAMBERG: I always wanted to meet you, and more than that, I always wanted that job.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

HOPKINS: Well, it's one of those jobs that is necessary.

STAMBERG: You bet it is. And one of those jobs that we always count on. Tell us some of the places where your voice is heard.

HOPKINS: The Chicago Transit Authority or the El, the New York Subway, Charles de Gaulle.

STAMBERG: Do you change your accent depending on where it is where you're going to be heard?

HOPKINS: No. I try to keep a constant, level, Midwestern, somewhere-near-Cleveland kind of voice.

STAMBERG: Do people ever stop you because they recognize your voice?

HOPKINS: They think they know me from somewhere, and sometimes people don't pay one bit of attention at all...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

HOPKINS: ...no matter what. I was on the moving sidewalk and I came up behind a gentleman who was blocking the moving sidewalk. And the announcement came on: While on the moving sidewalk, please stand to the right to allow those wishing to pass to move safely on the left. And I repeated it right in his ear, and he still didn't move.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

STAMBERG: He was getting a personal performance, private and everything. Gee whiz. Are there any words that you have trouble with?

HOPKINS: Oh, gosh. Words like regularly, usually - that's not too bad.

STAMBERG: No, but isn't that funny? I have trouble with the word rural.

HOPKINS: Rural?

STAMBERG: Yeah. I always say wuwal. It's sort of my Barbara Walters imitation. Last question to you: what do you look like?

HOPKINS: Oh, gosh. I wish I could say that I look like J. Lo. But as a commentator said on YouTube, hey, she looks a lot like Kathy Bates.

STAMBERG: That's pretty good.

HOPKINS: I think it's wonderful. I love Kathy Bates.

STAMBERG: Carolyn Hopkins, the voice heard in airports and train stations all around the world. Thank you.

HOPKINS: And thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF PA ANNOUNCEMENT)

HOPKINS: Thank you for your cooperation.

STAMBERG: This is NPR News.

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