Before you swipe, say hello: An interview with an MTA employee

Latrice Smith has seen it all

I am always taking a full schedule worth of classes at Hunter, and working part-time as well. Sometimes when I’m done with a long day of school work, I don’t want to immediately go home, because I know that means my day is over, and have not had the chance to have some enjoyment in my day.

One night a few semesters ago, I was ready to go home from school, and I went into the station, and before I swiped my Metrocard, I noticed a middle aged woman, who was inside the the Metrocard teller cubicle all by herself. I thought to myself, why don’t I make this woman’s day? So I approached the Metrocard teller, and I introduced myself, “Hi I’m Je’Jae Daniels, in which she responded “Hi I’m Latrice Smith” and I started making jokes with her about her job, and my life – and we really connected.


I started to have this routine every day and night coming and going from school of striking a conversation with Ms. Smith. I enjoy my time with Ms. Smith so much, that whenever I have a bad day, I smile when she is in her cubicle, and I am sad when she is not. She would always allow me to talk over her customers even though there are 10 people standing in line. I know I can openly talk to Ms. Smith about anything even if customers are listening. She is a funny, bright, and charismatic person. It bothered me that this person who does a lot for Hunter Students, and people who pass by, gets a lot of talk back, nasty attitudes, and not enough thank yous for her service.

So I thought, hey why don’t I bring this woman to the attention of students? Here’s what Latrice had to say:

What would you like your age to be in the interview, 21, 22?

I don’t mind telling you my age, I’m 52 and proud.

How do you get to work every day? 

I live in Harlem. I take the 2 train to the 5 at 125st, and then I switch over to the 6 and go straight to Hunter. I work five days a week from 2-10pm.

What’s the best part of your job?

All the wonderful people. You get to see all walks of life running through these stations and you get to see all of New York City through the lens of my window.

What’s the worst?

When a customer can’t have their way. Some people take advantage of my kindness and think I am a fool to let them into the station for free. Some customers have even gotten angry with me blaming me that the train is delayed. Do I look like a train conductor? I don’t have the control switches over here.  And I hate when people play stupid that their MetroCard has more money than what is actually in, and think I will “change” their mistake.


If you were able to decide what you can wear to  work, what would it be?

I would wear a jumpsuit or a jumper dress in navy blue. Or, if I didn’t have to wear blue, I would wear a white t-shirt, an orange sweater and pants, and a pink tie.

What do you think about Hunter students?

I think they forget a lot of stuff in class. But they do look like they enjoy school and are so educated.

If you were a Hunter student, what would you major in?

Math – I wouldn’t want to teach, I would like to work as an accountant, I love numbers.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen at work?

Someone tried to break my window with a brick and was trying to threaten me, but good stuff happens too. Someone once dropped their wallet, and someone else returned it to me, because they trust me.


Hunter College