Encore: Metro Driver Connects Commuters In The Nation's Capital
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
We're going to revisit a voice that moves people through the nation's capital and often moves them to laugh or at least pay attention. He's a train operator for the subway system here known as the metro.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)
LAMOUR ROGERS: Eastern Market.
CORNISH: NPR's Renita Jablonski is one of his fans. She recorded that announcement on her iPhone two years ago during a ride home. Baby pictures eventually crowded her phone's memory, but she wasn't able to delete that audio file until she could say a proper thank you.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)
ROGERS: Blue line train to Largo Town Center.
RENITA JABLONSKI, BYLINE: Sometimes he's more over-the-top than other days. But he's always smooth, always helpful, remind you that the trains have...
ROGERS: More than one door.
JABLONSKI: And you see something happen each time you end up on his train. People look up from their phones, from newspapers left behind by someone else. They make eye contact. They smile at each other. I had to know who this guy is, who can do this, where that enthusiasm day in and day out comes from.
ROGERS: It comes from my soul because in my soul, you know - it's, like, my soul to make people happy, you know? Like, I think I'm a happy person. My name means to love.
JABLONSKI: Lamour Rogers.
ROGERS: So, you know, try to brighten someone's day, say good morning, good night, so it's just me.
JABLONSKI: He can hardly keep still - snapping his fingers, clapping, moving around as we talk, almost like he's dancing. He beams in person the way his voice beams over the crunchy speakers of the train cars.
ROGERS: Customers in large groups with the luggage, just like you wouldn't block the aisles of a plane with your luggage, please do not block the aisles of this train with your luggage. Sorry we don't have any overhead storage compartments.
JABLONSKI: I'm not the first to seek him out. A weekly here called the Washington City Paper named him best train operator last year. He says people stop him all the time.
ROGERS: They'll wait for me if I'm coming down the platform, and they'll say, you know, I was having a bad day. You know, I heard your voice. I'm always happy to hear that.
ARIEL SMITH: He likes his job. You can tell he enjoys his job (laughter).
JABLONSKI: Ariel Smith is experiencing Rogers' announcements for the first time. Ben Bennett is a daily rider sitting nearby.
BEN BENNETT: Actually, I look forward to hearing what he has to say every day, you know, and seeing other people's reaction.
ROGERS: I feel like I'm a professional.
ROGERS: But I just add a little something to my professionalism.
JABLONSKI: Lamour Rogers has been with the Washington Area Metropolitan Transit Authority for almost 10 years. Home is...
ROGERS: Buffalo, N.Y.
JABLONSKI: Where he says his dad was his biggest influence on his appreciation for all types of people and that voice.
ROGERS: Customers on the platform, please do not let your electronic devices distract you from boarding the train safely. Thank you for not being distracted.
I think I sound like my father a lot. He's a little sarcastic in certain things, used to work at a health food store. The people he brought around, you know, they were, like, vegetarians and some would play guitars. So, you know, they were, like, hippies back in the day - '70s. You know, I come from that era - '70s, '80s.
JABLONSKI: Which may explain why he felt compelled to sing on the train the day Michael Jackson died in 2009, which compelled metro riders to take out their phones and record the performance. Listen carefully "For You Are Not Alone."
ROGERS: Michael Jackson's on tour.
JABLONSKI: I am not alone in my appreciation of Lamour Rogers.
ROGERS: I don't consider it being entertaining. I just try to do my job the best way I can.
JABLONSKI: Come on. It's entertaining. And, oh, this kills me. The time to enjoy that baritone is limited. The metro trains are being upgraded over the next few years, and they will have digital automated announcements.
ROGERS: I'm going to be hurt.
JABLONSKI: He's living in the moment, though.
ROGERS: I'm thankful every day I work. I mean, every day I get up, I'm thankful to be alive.
The next station is Potomac...
JABLONSKI: Anyone who ends up on his Orange- or Blue-Line trains knows it.
ROGERS: Once again customers, there are trains ahead of us, so if we stop in between stations, you know why.
JABLONSKI: Thanks, Lamour. Renita Jablonski, NPR News, Washington.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FOR YOU ARE NOT ALONE")
MICHAEL JACKSON: (Singing) That you are not alone. I am here.
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