Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Go Mr. OK!

From CS:

They say that reinforcing good behavior can lead to positive change. Against the tide of so much going wrong with Metrorail these days, here’s hoping.

The scene: Orange Line to Vienna, Smithsonian station.

What: What else? Door problem sidelines a train at about 5:50 p.m. Passengers off-loaded. Suck potential jumps to “mega” on the meter.

What came next: Metro worked it out pretty well, both with the train, and especially in the actions of the operator.

Delays are never fun, of course, and Metro has enough door problems for all the subways in the hemisphere. But once the problem struck, and the train was off-loaded, Metro was able to lock the offending doors shut, and then allow people to reboard. (Why they don’t do this more often, I don’t know.)

Of course, crowds were piling up down the line by the second. And that’s where the operator came in. Once the train hit Metro Center, it was, naturally, packed. But with a mixture of resolve, humor, and cajoling, he let everyone know what was going on, kept the crowds on the platform under control, kept the train moving, and soothed we passengers sardined on board.

Let’s call him “Mr. OK,” for his PA system mannerism. Regular riders will recognize him as the guy who prefaces his announcements with, “OK,” as in, “OK, next stop is Farragut West,” or, “OK, this is Rosslyn, the first transfer point … .” I’ve been listening to him for years.

Anyhow, Mr. OK calmly assured those on the platforms that other trains were following closely behind. And you know what? They listened. Talking all the while, he didn’t hover in the stations so long as to allow too many people to surge aboard, which could only have crippled the train again. He urged the door hogs to step off (“Please don’t try to save your space.”) so people could exit, assuring that he’d give enough time to get back on. Again, people listened. (For the most part.) “Left side, show the right side how it’s done,” he bantered, prompting open laughter in the car, as we moved through stations with different door opening sides. After each stop, he thanked us for our help in keeping things moving. Heck, it was like we were partners.

What really made it all work was that Mr. OK treated us like we had brains. There were no platitudes or Metro-speak. (“We’ll be moving momentarily." (Long pause) “We’ll be moving momentarily.” (Repeat as often as necessary.) Nor tirades. (Not like the operator I once had who shouted out, “Alright, people, I’m through pleading with you … .”) All of Metro could take a lesson from Mr. OK’s deft handling of the situation.

How deft? At several stops, as people were leaving the train and Mr. OK had his head stuck out the cab window, they came up to him to share a laugh or to say thanks.

Now there’s something you don’t see every day.

Also by CS:
Smooth operator
Metro workers who shine

Other items:
Metro to hold 6/22 memorial ceremony (WMATA)
Union to hold vigil (WaPo)


Ben Schumin said...

Going to show that treating riders with respect will earn you an easier run down the line...

Anonymous said...

Clone that operator! :)

Anonymous said...

I love that guy! would love to know his name so I could tell metro how great he is.

Jen said...

I love Mr. OK. I actually haven't seen (heard?) him in years and don't remember the OK part but I vividly remember years ago getting stuck in a massive backup around Foggy Bottom (Orange to Vienna) and he cajoled us to work on teams (right side and left side) to show who could get their people off the fastest. He always asked everyone to step off and PROMISED that he would allow time for everyone to get back on. And he always did. Its one of my good memories from Metro (who would think that being stuck in a packed train and massive delays would count as a good Metro memory). I hope WMATA reads this, and makes note of this. He is an example of what the other operators should be like.

Anonymous said...

Get Mr. OK to train the other operators and bus drivers!

Anonymous said...

Just want to second the emotion. I remember Mr. OK with fondness. He makes any rush hour ride more pleasant. Let's have WMATA get him to run training sessions for other operators. He deserves employee of the year.

GrapesOfRough said...

This dude sounds a lot better than the Green Line operator I often get who yells at us like we're second graders and he's our teacher.

Matt Glaz said...

Mr. OK is awesome. I wish I had him this morning when we were all dumped off at Court House at 8am because some jerk was blocking a door.

Anonymous said...

I have had Mr. OK too, and he is more than OK - he is one of the great ones.
Another great operator that I haven't had in a long, long time is the guy who used to joke around with the passengers, wish everyone a pleasant day when they were getting off, and then, in a sort of child's voice, repeat, "and you have a nice day too Mr. Metro Driver." That guy was hilarious.
There are some bad apples, but its good to remember that Metro does have some real gems on its workforce, too.

Steve said...

I've had Mr. OK many times on the Yellow Line, but sometimes on the way home from work on a regular day (i.e. when the train is functioning properly and there are no delays) his chatter can be a bit annoying.

In a crisis situation or during some sort of delay I'm sure it's great but sometimes I just want to be left alone when there's nothing to actually talk about.

Anonymous said...

I've been stuck on a horrible train with his joyousness on the orange line before...he made the whole situation better, assured us he wouldn't leave without us, and praised us without sounding like we were kindergarden students...LOVE him!!

Anonymous said...

Where's WMATA Customer Service (or whatever that nameless coward is called-- haha get it? Ain't hypocrisy fun?) commenting their usual... "If you have a complaint, er, a... compliment?... um... e-mail it tooooooo... no, that's not right... uhhhhhhh... you sure you're not complaining? 'cuz I can tell you where to stick (send) it."

Anonymous said...

I sent in a compliment once about 8 months ago. Got 2 phone calls the next day from 2 different people thanking me.

A week later I sent in a question about how something is handled on trains. Never heard from anyone, even after 2 follow-up with them. De nada. NutNHoney.

I won't compliment again. Poor OK types who deserve it.. oh well. I don't play two-sided games like that.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with the person who stated that Mr. OK "is one of the great ones." I abhor Metro, but having experienced Mr. OK on a particularly challenging ride, he actually made the ride pleasant.

To the same commenter, I also had the guy who use d to say "and you have a nice day too Mr. Metro Driver." He also used to tell people that it was 8:00 AM, when it was really 8:10 (to give you a couple of extra minutes). Too bad these two individuals are the exception and not the rule.

Anonymous said...

@ 4pm you got phone calls? I've complained and complimented and I haven't even gotten an email!

Tuscan Red said...

Mr. OK is awesome. I sometimes run into him post-rush hour on the Blue Line and on weekends on the Yellow Line and his enthusiasm for his job is awesome. He needs to be promoted to a trainer so we can bring WMATA back. He refuses to let everything going on around him get him down.

Buzcajun said...

I was on that Train, and I commend him for his actions. I had recently sent a note to WMATA complaining about the unnecessary and frequent unloading of the trinas. (8 car at Metro Center). They responded with, saftey this and training that. Then Mr OK happened and I responded to WMATA's email with this same story. Do THIS more often, try to solve the problem instead of leaving folks stranded on the Platform. His resolve was commendable.

Anonymous said...

I think Mr. OK drove a train I was on after the Snowmageddon storms. The system was still reeling from the snow/ice and the train was incredibly full, but he handled the situation with a lot of grace. He explained the unusual circumstances over the PA after every stop, gave people enough time to squeeze aboard, reminded passengers to hold onto their children as we approached rough areas, and even gave us few words of encouragement every once in a while. Whoever the operator was, he made an awful trip a lot brighter.

Anonymous said...

I've had Mr. OK on the Red Line from time to time, and he always makes a bad day better. It would be great if he could train the other Metro operators on how to handle crowded situations well - he is definitely a keeper.

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