I also had a conversation with a veteran max operator tonight. I did my best to re-create the conversation as best I could from memory.
He described the sound you hear when a call comes in from that call box as
“Take a backpack to your ear and rub it around, that’s what you hear”
He also told me that 90% of the calls are just somebody pushing up against the button or a little kid pushing the button , nuisance calls.
5% of the calls are “does this train to me to?????. or how do I get to blah blah blah, etc.
A few calls are “I lost something”.
An occasional call is for medical help, seizure and the like.
Most of the time those calls go directly to 911 rather than the call box.
A big problem with those boxes is they stick way out and they get pushed by accident, 9 out of 10 calls.
The box used to say “for emergency only” but TRIMET wanted people to be able to call the operator for whatever reason, so that creates lots of nuisance calls. Operators used to answer the call box like this “please state the nature of your emergency” but TRIMET wanted people to feel “good” on the train.
When you do answer it you stop watching what you were watching and divert your attention to the box, a major distraction and potential hazard.
On top of all this they have always had problems with those devices; the quality of the communication is very poor.
It seems that this particular operator has not been a star employee; he didn’t go in to details.