Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Pat Boone and Mother Love
The Ticket Receiver’s Office (or TRO, as we conductors call it) is just off the main concourse in Grand Central Terminal. This office is basically a bank, where we conductors turn in our cash, cash fare reports and tickets. This is also where we get our change; pick up new tickets and cash checks.
The TRO isn’t very fancy, in fact it’s basically a hallway with two windows covered in bulletproof glass. Behind one of these windows works a short and portly African American woman who is in her late 50’s. We conductors sometimes refer to her as “Mother Love.”
The name “Mother Love” was given with a sense of irony, much the same way 400lb men are called “Tiny.” I say this because Mother Love is not the warm and fuzzy type. In fact she frightens me. She is a no-nonsense woman who doesn’t suffer fools lightly. When you enter her office you better have your cash fare report ready and your money neatly stacked and facing in the same direction, if not… be prepared to suffer her wrath.
Those of you who know me personally know that I’m always singing. I consider myself an off-key troubadour of sorts. One day I entered the TRO doing my version of Michael McDonald singing the Marvin Gaye song, “I heard it through the grapevine.” I was really getting into it, contorting my face the way I had seen Michael do on those MCI commercials.
Oooh I heard it through the grapevine
Not much longer would you be mine
Heeey I heard it through the grapevine
I looked behind the bulletproof glass and there stood Mother Love, frozen at her cash register. She pulled down her glasses to the tip of her nose and looked over the rims. She gave me a stone cold stare till my face turned bright red in embarrassment.
“C’mon Marvin,” she finally said, “Give me your money.”
“Hey,” I said, “I’m just trying to give you a little blue eyed soul.”
I not sure...but I think I detected a smile.
The next day when I walked into the TRO, Mother Love said, “Hey Marvin, you got anymore Motown for me today?” I then launched into a Smokey Robinson falsetto.
Ooooohhh baby baby
Ooooohhh baby baby
To my amazement, Mother Love started dancing and swaying to my soulful sounds. She began calling over her co-workers and saying, “This boys got some soul.”
“That’s right,” I said, “I’m a regular Pat Boone.”
Mother Love doubled over in laughter. From then on she has called me Pat Boone.
Since that day, Mother Love and I have become good friends. She even once brought me an authentic Philly cheese steak from her neighborhood in Philadelphia, (She commutes from Philadelphia to NYC every day.) She recently changed shifts and I don’t see her much anymore. Now when I enter the TRO singing, I hear that same old joke:
Co-worker: What did you do with the money your mother gave you?
Me:(playing along) What money?
Co-worker: The money she gave you for singing lessons.
Ha! Ha! Ha!
At least I know I have one fan.