Final ride for retired Metro-North conductor
NEW YORK (FOX 5 NEWS) - On the second day of his retirement, 55-year-old Barry Young woke before the sun, put on his old uniform and returned to the job from which he'd just retired.
"A fine replacement," Barry said, shaking the hand of the Metro-North conductor who'd taken his place. "Thank you. Thank you so much."
"Enjoy your retirement," Barry's replacement said.
"Hey, dude," Barry said, turning to a commuter. "How are you? I came back to visit you guys."
"We missed you," the rider said.
Barry applied for his first position with the Metro-North Railroad 33 years and three months ago, after dropping out of a small college in Pittsburgh, which he deemed far away from his hometown of Greenburgh, New York.
"I started as a coach-cleaner in the North White Plains yard working overnight," Barry said.
From coach-cleaner to usher, through gigs in Grand Central Terminal at the station master's office, lost-and-found and the information booth, Barry eventually transferred to trainman and spent the next 28 years walking the center aisle of commuter trains thanking strangers by names they didn't recognize.
"Thank you, Ice," Barry said, checking one passenger's ticket before turning to the next. "Thank you, Dice. Thank you, Slice."
"There's a way you can do this job," Barry said. "You can just walk straight with horse-blinders on or you can pay attention to people. You can give them nicknames in the morning."
"Thank you, Blondie," Barry said to a befuddled but amused blonde woman. "Thank you, Smooth. Thank you, Jack."
The early morning commuter is a species not know to tolerate bubbly-ness, spontaneity or shenanigans, especially in the quiet car where for 28 years Barry started his mornings and where Tuesday he brought Fox 5 to conduct an on-camera interview shortly after 7 a.m.
"I changed all that," Barry said with a wink.
"Hold still," he told a commuter waiting to have his ticket punched. "Don't move. Stop wiggling. Don't move."
"A smiling face in the morning is a nice thing," one commuter said. "Some of the nicknames [Barry] comes up with -- for me particularly -- have been funny over the years."
"What name do you have for me today?" Barry asked that commuter.
Barry's routine won him the affection and loyalty of most of the 1,300 riders on his first train of the day, a 7 a.m. local from North White Plains to Scarsdale.
"OK, passengers, now hear this," Barry said over the loudspeaker he borrowed from his replacement, Tuesday. "This is Crestwood. Crestwood."
After 28 years, Barry's passengers left enough of an impression on him that convincing this ex-conductor to visit his old place of work on the second day of his retirement required little effort.
"Big ol' bald-headed black guy driving a little Fiat," Barry said to a passenger with whom he'd grown particularly close, recounting his drive home after his final day of work. "I got a little Fiat. And the tears are just coming and I can't stop."
But after this final celebratory ride, Barry promised to start acting retired.
"I want to have the world's biggest dance party," Barry said. "I want every nationality on God's green earth there."
Barry's post-retirement bucket-list also includes fishing, working out, driving to California, listening to his vinyl collection, never riding a local train again, watching more college football and college basketball, visiting his three adult daughters and his 7-year-old grandson, Cairo, and, perhaps, applying some of his experience working a crowd of commuters -- who formed a receiving line on the platform at Grand Central to thank him and say goodbye after he appeared on their train Tuesday morning -- to a second career emceeing weddings.
"Thank you, Ace," Barry said, punching another ticket. "Thank you, Slick. Thank you, Shaggy."
"You call this retirement?" one passenger asked.
"All tickets please. All tickets."