"Welcome aboard, nice to see you."
"Wrigley. Cubs. All aboard. Batter up."
"Have a good day, and may the force be with you."
They're friendly and familiar phrases you've most likely heard if you've ever ridden the Red Line during commuter hours. The welcoming voice was from Michael Powell, a CTA train operator who today announced he is retiring after nearly 36 years with the CTA.
CTA spokeswoman Catherine Hosinski confirmed that Powell's retirement is effective today, Dec. 31.
As he pulled into the Howard terminal for the last time, Powell made his final exuberant announcement.
"God bless you. Happy New Year. Enjoy life," said Powell, 59.
He said he plans to spend more time working on projects around his Morton Grove home. In May, he will become a grandfather for the first time when his oldest daughter Jenny gives birth.
Powell said he appreciates comedy and tried to make his time as a CTA operator fun.
"I just have this passion for the job," said Powell, a Woodlawn native. "You give out love and it comes back to you."
Powell said he chose to retire this year because he's developed carpal tunnel syndrome and arm pains from his time working with trains.
Reddit user imkerker wrote this post Tuesday morning on Reddit after hearing Powell's final words on the Red Line:
"I've always enjoyed his kind and witty comments over the PA system. He announced to us passengers that today is his last day before retirement, and the car was filled with a mix of cheers and groans. Best of luck, Michael, you're a Chicago treasure!"
With all the negativity that has surrounded the CTA and Ventra in recent months, the comments following Powell's retirement news on Reddit are kind:
"He made my red line trip so much better by saying this!!!!"
"I have to admit, i'm sad to see this man go. After a tough work day he was usually able to make me crack a smile on the way home. His positive attitude is amazing."
One user who has only been riding the Red Line three months went as far as reaching out to the CTA to pass along the Reddit message board to Powell.
It's not the first time Powell was acknowledged for his work on the Red Line cars. He was also featured in the Chicago Tribune in 2009 and Time Out Chicago in 2010.
Powell's co-workers threw him a small party Tuesday, his last shift. He said he still plans to ride the CTA in retirement.
Overall, he said he will miss the people and the fun of the job the most.
"It gets me through rush hour being a little nutty," Powell said.
@ksamredeye | @tracyswartz
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