The Gatekeeper

With her job in the Easy Streets booth on Dalrymple Drive, Winnie Netters may be the most recognizable person on campus not employed by the athletic department.

Miss Winnie Netters is usually the first person many LSU faculty and staff see when they arrive to work in the morning.
Eddy Perez/University Relations

In mid-2007 LSU implemented the Easy Streets program in an effort to transform itself into a walking campus, thereby increasing pedestrian safety while decreasing pollution. By all measures, the program has been a great success. Perhaps no one can bear witness to that success better than Winnie Netters, who spends 6:45 a.m. to 3:15 p.m., Monday through Friday, in a booth at the intersection of Dalrymple Drive and Infirmary Road, offering commuters safe passage inside campus, punctuated with an ever-present smile.

Miss Winnie, as she is known to practically everyone, is likely the first person faculty and staff members see when arriving to work in the morning. She has been working for LSU for 12 years and, during that time, has seen the inner campus of LSU go from a congested and sometimes perilous one to a pedestrian and bike-friendly area with 63 percent less traffic in most areas, according the department of Parking, Traffic & Transportation.

So, after almost five years of seeing Miss Winnie smile and wave to me, this intrepid reporter decided to find out what life was like for her on the other side of the booth and, like a less British, more gregarious Minerva McGonagall, what tips she might give to LSU commuters on proper wand usage!

In the initial press release introducing Easy Streets to the LSU campus in July of 2007, LSU Media Relations Director Ernie Ballard wrote:

"Testing has shown that there are two areas on the windshield that seem to work the best. One option is to place the device vertically on the vehicle's windshield, about 3-4 inches above the inspection sticker and about 1 inch away from edge. A second option is to place it horizontally about 1-2 inches below the top of the windshield and 2-6 inches from the left edge."

Sage advice, but after nearly five years, many people have developed their own and usually completely ineffective ways of trying to open the Easy Streets gates.

Here are examples of a few:

The "Alohomora"
Works considerably better on the Hogwarts campus than on LSU's

The "Zorro"
Understandably confused with the "Puss in Boots" motion, but used by older, masked, less furry drivers

The "Norman Bates"
Used alarmingly by those with road rage and/or mother issues

The "Royal Wave"
Best for beauty pageant winners in convertibles in the event that a parade passes through campus

The "Statue of Liberty"
Perhaps the least volatile, but according to Miss Winnie, the most effective and most American use of the Easy Streets wand. USA! USA!

Q: How many cars do you see daily passing through your gate daily?

A: With people coming into work, going home, leaving for lunch and with deliveries, it has to be in the hundreds.

Q: The booth is surprisingly bigger on the inside that it looks from the outside. Do you think your boss will let us test to see how many people we could fit in there?

A: (Laughs) Uh, no.

Q: What’s the longest period of time a car has waited attempting to wave their Easy Streets wand before you pressed the magic button to let them through?

A: No more than a minute or so. If I don’t hear a click, I’ll let them through. If I hear a click, it means their wand has been deactivated. So, I’ll call the parking office to check on that.

Q: What happens when people are denied entrance and have to be turned around?

A: Well, we have a lot of visitors who don’t know the rules. Most of those are here to see Mike the Tiger or Tiger Stadium, so I just explain to them how to get there from Nicholson.

Q: Do these folks ever get angry with you for not letting them straight through?

A: Not really. I try to keep my disposition up no matter what. Visitors who come here are good for us as a university. I represent LSU and I want everyone to have a good experience while they’re here.

Q: I’m sure you’ve seen people try to use their wand in a variety of ways to get through the gate. What are some of the more creative ones?

A: Well, some people just swing it as much as possible, but the more you swing it, the more the system is going to read it, which will keep the gate up after the driver passes through.

Q: Do you have any advice for the best way to use the Easy Streets wand?

A: Well, make sure to keep your windows clean, because if your window is too dirty, that could cause a problem. So, I’ll just tell them to roll down the window and the gate opens right up.

Q: Taking into account a clean window, what would you say is the best way to hold or swipe the wand?

A: Hold it still and straight up. Not sideways and there is no need to wave it.

Q: Finally, do you ever get bored sitting in the booth all day?

A: Oh no, I’m at the busiest booth on campus, so there is always something to do. Plus, I’m going to take whatever it is I do and make my job fun. People can choose to have a good day or a bad one, and I always choose to have a good day.