The Port Authority Bus Terminal can be a frustrating experience for commuters. But one worker at the terminal has spent 32 years helping travelers find their way. NY1's Michael Scotto has the story.
"Can I help you?"
Eight hours a day, five days a week, Winona Wingfield asks that question as she directs lost commuters through the sprawling Port Authority Bus Terminal on 8th Avenue.
Past the newsstand and down, gate number 32," she says to one traveler. "The local is at gate 212."
She gives directions and bus times while sitting inside a glass box near one of the terminal's main entrances. On most days, she arrives at 6 a.m., just as the morning rush starts to pick up.
"I prefer this shift," Wingfield said. "It's early. I'm in early, out early.
She's been a Port Authority employee for 33 years, starting at the World Trade Center's observation deck before becoming an information agent on 8th Avenue in 1985.
"It's challenging," Wingfield said. "Worthwhile most of the time."
For Wingfield, the Port Authority is a family affair; her late mother worked for the agency and is the reason she ended up taking a job with the Port Authority.
"She was a toll collector on the George Washington Bridge. I believe she started in '65," Wingfield recalled.
The Port Authority estimates Wingfield helps 150,000 people a year. Over the course of her career, that's nearly 5 million assists.
She helps lost people and stressed travelers.
She says she's as busy as ever, even though smartphones now provide more information than any human can.
Occasionally, however, she encounters the disturbing:
"I'm sitting here working one day, and I had a man come up to the booth and say something like he killed his mother," Wingfield said from her booth.
And the rude:
"They say mean things. 'They shouldn't have you in here,'" Wingfield said, recalling what one passenger said. "Of course."
But through it all, she tries to remain calm.
After three decades on the job, Wingfield is thinking about retiring in two years, but until then she has no plans to change roles.
"I've been doing this so long, I might as well ride it out," she said, chuckling.
As she helps commuters catch their ride.