28/03/2011

Announcement Woman!

You must have encountered her. Perhaps travelling- “The next station is Canada Water…” or maybe in the comfort of your home- “For audio navigation, press enter now...” or perhaps when making a phone call- “Please leave a message after the tone.”  She is Announcement Woman, a part of our lives about whom we know nothing. Now it would be very easy to Google our way to knowing everything about her but far more interesting to speculate because nobody can be that composed in real life can they?

Perhaps she is putting on the announcement voice for work only. Once she leaves the recording studio, maybe she speaks like Lily Savage while scoffing a full English breakfast. Or perhaps she is even more refined than her announcements would suggest, driving back to a gold plated mansion in the country?

It’s hard to imagine that her recording sessions are ordinary.  It may well be that the studio is normally as drab and workmanlike as any but one the days when she comes to record her announcements, a throne is brought in. Or perhaps it isn’t and she has to move old newspapers from the stool before she starts.
Then there’s the question of whether there is one or several Announcement Women. On some trains, especially the London Underground she appears to speak the generic preface only, so she will say “the next station is…” before another, far more urgent if not panicky voice shouts “CANADA WATER!!” as if the destination is a complete surprise.
Of course her soothing tones are not applicable to every situation. She would be no use to the police to tell people to “drop your weapons and come out with your hands up”. Or would she? It could be that having someone with the tones of a therapist might coax the criminals into complicity. “`Ere, she sounds nice, maybe we should drop our weapons and come out with our hands in the air,” they might say.

It seems Announcement Woman is here to stay and her sphere of influence is widening. Many customer phone lines now employ her- or someone like her- to tell us ever so nicely to press one if we want to cancel our subscription, two to report a fault or 3 to speak to an advisor. We dutifully comply, feeling things are going fine, at least until the Wagner mood music kicks in and we realise we’ve been corralled into a holding pattern that could last an interminable 15 minutes. They should have her cut in and say “We apologise for the horrible music, but your are our very favourite customer.”

Then, somehow, everything would be OK.

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