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Spreading Cheer At The Christopher St. PATH Station

Meet Earl Jones: The Man Behind The Movement
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Earl Jones: Photo by Billie Rama

Earl Jones: Photo by Billie Rama

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By Billie Rama

Fist bumps and smiles. Two things that are as common as say bread and butter — well at least to commuters at the Christopher Street PATH Station.

If you commute via the PATH, chances are you’ve noticed an overtly friendly guy each morning greeting hordes of people as they make their way to and from New Jersey. Earl Jones, a Port Authority employee for the past three years, is the man behind the smile. Jones, always with a twinkle in his eye, positions himself near the turnstiles and makes it his mission to personally greet as many commuters as humanly possible.

I take the PATH each day and have to admit, when I first noticed Earl more than a year ago, I was a bit put off. I thought to  myself, “Why is this guy so happy? No one is ever this happy–especially in the morning!” I tried to avoid him at first, but then slowly but surely, started to look forward to getting my daily “top of the mornin’ to you.”

I am not alone. One day I watched in awe as several people went out of their way just to say hi and bump fists with the  fellow in the yellow and orange reflective vest.

I decided to talk to Earl and get to better know the man behind the morning movement.

BR: Earl. When did you decide to personally greet just about every commuter that crosses your path with your signature fist pound?

EJ: Well, there was nothing else to do so I just did it. Then it took off!

BR: And how was the response from people? I can’t imagine everyone was a fan — this is New York and we can be, well, crabby.

EJ: Honestly, the response was great from the beginning. People were always friendly and wanted to know who I was. The Port Authority though — they weren’t sure if they should let me stay or go.

BR: Why?

EJ: Because — we’re not really supposed to go out of our way to talk to people. But it’s all positive now.

BR: Well, I’m glad you’re here.  What do you like best about your job?

EJ: The passengers for sure. I love interacting with people and especially love the occasional bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches people give me!

BR: People give you things?

EJ: Oh yeah. Like I said, some people give me breakfast sandwiches. One woman once gave me a sweet potato pie.

BR:  Nice. So, what is the strangest thing you’ve been given?

EJ: {Laughing} One guy gave me dirty chicklets — you know the chewing gum. But they weren’t in the shape of chicklets. He then laughed and got on his train.

BR: Hmm. I’m not going to ask.

EJ: It was pretty funny. That why I love people and love what I’m doing.

It certainly shows. When I spoke with Earl, he was a bit under the weather but you’d never know it. He still managed to take the time to say hello to passengers and greet them with his signature pound.

During our interview, one guy nearly tripped over the turnstile to make sure he got his Earl greeting before heading out into the world.

The mornings when Earl is not there, the mood is not the same and something is clearly missing. Earl’s positive energy is contagious and we can all learn from him. He works in oftentimes hot, underground train stations by himself but never seems bored. 

I don’t know what Earl makes for a living, but I bet he’s not a millionaire. He is rich, however, because I  have the feeling Earl would be happy working in a minefield simply because he loves life. How many of us can say that?

If you ever find yourself at the Christopher Street PATH Station, say hi to Earl. Or smile and say hi to a stranger. Heck, even extend your fist. Spread some cheer, because trust me — it goes a long way.

Billie Rama is the Managing Editor of CBSNewYork.com.

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