Classic: Train Conductor Travis D. Ford
Yankee Classic from September 1996
Down in the southwestern corner of New England, where Connecticut resembles a funnel draining toward New York, dour commuters on the Metro-North train suddenly smile when they see Travis D. Ford in his blue conductor’s uniform. The day instantly seems a bit more promising, the rat race a little less daunting. “Nice to see you,” beams Ford at a man in an expensive suit. “Good morning, dear,” he croons to an elderly lady, taking her elbow as she boards. A harried-looking executive brushes past, nods sharply at Ford, and says, “I need you today.”
“Hey, Travis,” says a woman dressed for success, “which car are you going to be in?” Ford points with one hand and uses the other to high-five a boarding passenger.
“And how are you today?” he asks a man sitting with his briefcase already opened for business. “I don’t know yet,” replies the man. “Let’s just see what the weather is first.”
Ford stands squarely in the aisle and addresses the assembled in his strong, gravelly baritone. “Good morning! Pleased to have you here! And now here’s your extended five-day weather report!” He speaks in italics and exclamation points, partly to be heard over the raffle of the train and partly as a matter of style.
On this day his report goes like this (read this as quickly as you can, for a sense of how Ford speaks): “Today’s high will be in the mid-fifties under mostly cloudy skies, with a 40 percent chance for shower activity. Winds will be light. The evening low will be 50, it will be mostly cloudy, and we stand a 90 percent chance of occasional rain. Tomorrow we can expect some shower activity with a high of 60. Looking ahead to Thursday, there remains a 70 percent chance of rain activity with a high once again of 60. On Friday we’re expecting some clouds in the atmosphere and some scattered thunderstorm activity, with a high of 63 and a low of 47. Saturday should be a nice day, mostly sunny, with 53 for the high and 42 for the low. And that’s your five-day extended forecast.”
By this point most people in the car are watching Ford with delight or amusement, though one stoic guy in a gray suit, aisle seat, three rows up, keeps his head buried resolutely in his briefcase. But Ford is not finished, not by a long shot. He knows that his weather report tickles people, gives them a little show, but New York is a cold, hard town, so he likes to administer a couple of booster shots of cheer.
“Have a nice day, all day,” he continues. “I wish you a good evening and a pleasant and safe tomorrow! It’s been a pleasure to have you on Metro-North.” He pauses, then pours it on for the finish. “You owe it to yourself to have a very enjoyable day. You deserve it! In short, sock it to ‘em! Take no prisoners! Storm the fort! Go all the way, and have a real good day to-day!”
People chuckle, applaud, look at each other and grin. Even the stoic guy in the gray suit can’t resist Ford’s last flourish and cracks a smile, looking around for reassurance that he’s not the only one having fun. A tourist from France hustles up to Ford and asks if he can stand next to him for a picture. Ford is used to all of it. It comes with the territory.