Hardly a day goes by that Americans don't recognize someone's famous face or voice, but have no clue as to the person's name. Old What's-his-name, for instance, who says, You've got mail on America Online's Internet Service. Or that character actor who appeared in dozens of movies and, in Cool Hand Luke, utters the famous line, What we have here is failure to communicate.
In the Washington, D.C., area, next to President Bush's, there's probably not a more famous voice than the one that says, "Doors closing."
Ten years ago, at the request of a friend, Sandy Carroll recorded that and other warning messages that are now heard tens of thousands of times each day on Metro subway cars.
Now, Metro says it wants to refresh that sound and is holding a contest in which anyone who wants to can send in a demonstration tape. Contestants are asked to record two scripts three times, using a polite voice, a serious voice, and an authoritative voice.
And not just simple stuff like Please stand clear of the doors. Complex messages, like: One arm, one leg, one briefcase, one purse . . . can block a train door and take a train out of service. One person can delay everyone. Please help us close the doors so we can all be on time.
Looks like Metro's about to get rather wordy when a simple "doors closing" does the job.
One thing's for sure. The winner of the Metro announcement contest will get a lot more than the 15 minutes of fame that artist Andy Warhol predicted we'd all have one day. Fame of a sort, anyway, since millions will know that voice . . . but not the name.