When Heather Frete signed a contract with the MTA to record next-stop announcements for all lettered-trains, she could hardly have predicted how hard it would be for her to break character. The now-famous tones that tell straphangers such important messages as, “The next stop is, Canal Street,” or “Transfer is available to the E train” have become a burden for Frete.
“Whenever I go to the grocery store, and the cashier asks me whether I want paper or plastic, they know right away,” Frete said. “They then start trying to imitate me, and inevitably ask me to say a line. So I have to say something dumb like, ‘This is a Murray Hill Gristedes. The next stop is: 3rd Avenue Laundromat.’ I swear, I want to break every one of their little registers when that happens.”
Frete has attempted to break the mold by auditioning for other voiceover roles. In the last two weeks, she has attempted to replace the voice at the Whole Foods checkout line, the Penn Station escalators, and the elevators at the Trump Soho, all to no avail.
“When I read for the Penn Station escalator, they told me I was too formal. They wanted someone cheerier, and my voice was associated with the homeless, the body odor and the delays of the subway,” Frete said. “When I tried my smiley Oklahoma voice, they laughed uncontrollably until I threw one heel and one wedge shoe at them. That brought the police.”
Frete now awaits a hearing at the Greenwich Village police precinct. She is charged with disorderly assault and a lack of empathy for delayed passengers on the L train.