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Do not ask for whom the subway speaks

February 13, 1997

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Washington has one of those modern subway systems with trains that talk.

Before a train leaves the station, a warning chime rings, the doors start to close and a disembodied female voice sings out.

But what was she saying?

Some people used to hear: ``George Clayton. George Clayton.″

Others heard: ``George Clinton. George Clinton.″

Others heard: ``George Mason. George Mason.″

Others heard ``George Clooney, George Clooney.″ (He’s the Hollywood doctor who stars on TV’s ``ER.″)

But they mostly kept quiet about it; they didn’t want others to think they were crazy.

Until Metro passenger Nady Robson broke the silence.

``Who is this GEORGE CLAYTON they are paging all the time on Metro trains?″ Ms. Robson wrote to the local paper. ``It’s annoying, just like a dripping faucet.″

She raised the issue with ``Dr. Gridlock.″

``Dr. Gridlock″ is Ron Shaffer, who writes a Washington Post column about commuting problems.

He professed to be stumped. Aliens? he wondered. Squeaking doors?

Metro spokespeople were unhelpful.

The doctor appealed to readers.

Rider Charles L. Merwin thought a defective tape was accountable.

Dennis Carroll blamed an accent from the Tidewater region of Virginia.

Frank Bell Jr. said he raised the question with the subway system and was told to get his hearing tested.

Cathy Brian Johnson speculated that the words are a ``coded message among Metro employees.″ She said her teen-ager son suspected a pretty girl alert. He thought ``George Clayton″ stands for ``G.C.″ which stands for ``girl comin’.″

Passenger Arlene Simms came up with the simple, perfect, innocent, prosaic truth. She too used to hear ``George Clinton,″ she wrote. Finally she figured it out.

The voice says:

``Doors closing.″

``Doors closing.″

On Thursday, the voice said, ``Doors closing.″ The doors closed. The train pulled out of the station.

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