“Have a five-star day” or “it takes teamwork to make the dream work” are phrases one might expect to see on an internet meme or hear on a customer service phone call with the cable company.
But probably not on the Orange Line.
MBTA Orange Line conductor Ja-Ron Freeman has made these phrases his own. He speaks them while driving his train during his entire run through on the Orange Line, but in an interview during his break at North Station Friday, he said motivational clichés are not his intention.
"At the end of the day it's all about safety. I don't want anybody to get hurt riding my train," he said.
Couched within traditional train speak – “This train is bound for Forest Hills; Keep your hands inside when the doors are closing” – Freeman said he wants to do what he can to lift people’s spirits while using the MBTA.
Riders have noticed. Each morning a Twitter search of “MBTA” reveals the usual cacophony of people complaining that their train was late or that riders are sneezing around them, but more recently MBTA-based tweets have been positive all thanks to Freeman.
Some tweets from Friday morning:
Freeman, 35, used to operate a Red Line train, but his popularity has soared on the Orange Line. Which makes sense: he operates during both morning and afternoon rush hours.
Freeman knows his T persona is catching on, though he said he’s not an avid Twitter user.
“One lady is like ‘You’re the “Have a five-star day” guy! They talk about you on Twitter.’ I didn’t even have a Twitter account,” he said.
Freeman, a Dorchester resident, insists it’s not an act. Despite a smooth, ready-for-radio vocal delivery, he considers himself just a T driver genuinely concerned for passenger safety and overall well being.
“I’m a low key kinda guy, I’m not trying to be a celebrity,” he said.
He is far more passionate about his instructions to T riders when the doors are closing than he is about his catch phrases.
“Some people have that elevator mentality,” he said referring to instances during which the train doors are closing and people stick their hands through to try to keep them open. “That door is not always guaranteed to pop open. A lot of people get hurt, that’s why I make the announcements.”
For Freeman it works both ways. He appreciates the riders as much as they appreciate him.
“I’m just trying to keep it positive,” he said. “You’re going to work or you’re going to your second job, you don’t want to hear people screaming at you ‘Don’t hold the doors!’ I just figure keep it cool, keep calm and have a safe ride.”