(Copyright, estate of Gaillard Hunt)
CITY OF MASTERLESS MEN
It was not difficult to block out a report on the political development of the men in the Patent Office because in general there was none. At one period, during the last few months of the Hoover administration, there had been a vague and undefinable fear because the apprehension which prevailed thruout the country had seeped in even there, but that had by now been forgotten and the men had settled back into the complacent state where the rest of the world did not count except when corporations offered jobs. They did not vote and had no interest in organization and usually did not take even an academic interest in what was happening elsewhere.
They had one big grievance -- the lack of raises and promotions -- but the new Commissioner had taken the initiative on this. He had called a meeting and told them he was doing what he could and seeing the proper authorities, and held out some hope for readjustment, and from then on any organizational action met with the objection that it would only annoy the Commissioner.
There was one thing, however, that did attract their attention and that was Hitler's coming to power in Germany. It was almost unnoticed when it happened because it took place on the same weekend as the Roosevelt inauguration and the Bank Holiday but later, when the papers began to run pictures of flogged workers, of burned synagogues, of battered Jews forced to walk barefoot thru the streets of Berlin, and when the speeches of Nazi officials told the world that this violence and persecution was an official policy of government, midaeval in cruelty and cunning in its appeal to the basest instincts, it became evident that something strange and terrible was happening. And it was not only because there were quite a few Jews in the Office -- this Nazi business got everyone, everywhere. Still there was no realization of its relation to world conditions or underlying forces and it was all put on a personal basis. The Germans were dictator-worshiping suckers like the Italians. France should prevent Germany from rearming and the decent people of Germany should throw Hitler out.
At the same time, there was plenty going on right there in the Commerce Building for anyone who wanted to pay attention to it. Where there had previously been innocuous and dormant agencies such as the Bureau of Fisheries and the International Screw thread Commission there mushroomed the Home Owners Loan Corporation, the Civil Works Administration, and numerous others. All were bustling with activity and some had long queues of applicants for loans or jobs. Many overflowed their quarters, with rows of typewriter desks placed along the corridors. The cafeteria became crowded with women, and they were not the usual middle-aged listless Government clerk type but obvious newcomers -- young corn-fed girls, eager and chattering. The men who took possession of the new offices and displaced the fat-headed Republican party hacks were sharp-faced, bespectacled and earnest. It was impossible to gather whether anything was being accomplished because the predominant note was one of confusion, but there was no denying the fact that there was vast activity, here and elsewhere.
There was also the NRA. The corridors were crowded with little knots of men conferring and riffling typewritten pages, darting into phone booths and out again. Anxious businessmen with briefcases crowded the elevators, talking excitedly of rates and wages. Every large room in the city became the scene of a code hearing and there were always four or five going on in the Commerce Building -- at these hearings the specific methods and problems, the trials and tribulations of the nation at work were duly reported and made of record.
And there was the Bituminous Coal Code hearing, which was held in the main auditorium on the ground floor. This hearing went on for weeks, and Peter used to drop in and listen after work, and sometimes when he should be at work.
The setting for this hearing was similar to those of the others. The stage of the auditorium was filled with tables at which sat officials, witnesses and stenographers, and messengers came and went carrying sheaves of papers. There were few people in the spectators' seats and these were mostly coal men -- they sat toward the front learning forward in their chairs and nervously smoking one cigarette after another. Every few minutes a messenger would go to a blackboard, erase what was written there, and write the name of someone who had received a long-distance call or wire. A podium had been placed at one side of the stage and the witness of the moment stood there, half facing the stage and speaking into a microphone.
An aging operator said, the loudspeakers amplifying the slight quaver in his voice, "The coal industry is a sick industry. We had no chance to put fat on our ribs in the boom days of '27 and '28. . . ."
Another operator said, "We may agree to the compulsion of having to recognise a union, but I sincerely trust that the Government will never force us to recognise other than an American union." There was explosive applause and foot stomping at this.
Another described a company town where all the necessities of life were furnished the workers on credit and ended, "Thus, by working one or two days a week in the slack season and more during the peak season, the men find that they usually finish the year even, or nearly so."
An organizer from a union other than the United Mine Workers, a massive man with bulging muscles, ascended the podium. One could feel
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grammatical errors but no one thought it funny. ". . . Our meetings have been broken up, our members slugged, and it was not only de vork of de mine owners. Hired men from de United Mine Workers -- "
In the center of the stage John L. Lewis sprang to his feet, his face twisted around an unlit cigar and his bushy eyebrows and unruly hair bristling. He looked like George Bungle. He did not speak -- did not have to -- but one gathered that if he had it would have been in the Bungle participle: "Saying things about United Mine Workers."
The deputy cleared his throat. "Er, I think all this testimony can best be got on the record by means of a brief. Will the witness please file a brief with the clerk by tomorrow morning. And now the next witness -- our time is getting short." The organizer stepped down with a grim smirk on his face. He evidently had not expected to be allowed to say as much as he had said.
Witness followed witness, filling out the picture of a sick industry. Owners failing to make a profit and workers failing to make a living. The sickness bred hate -- owners hated workers, workers hated owners and often hated their own leaders. Unions hated each other more than they did the bosses. The whole picture was studded with episodes of violence and death, and for what? Just for a better break from an industry that couldn't give anyone an adequate break. The big question to Peter was why should anyone spend his time in the bituminous coal industry anyhow?
But he knew the answer to that one. Other industries were sick too -- in fact Industry was sick. All sick, everywhere. They were grasping at the NRA as a chronic invalid seizes upon a new patent medicine. Not as strong as the hatefull stuff the Germans were drinking, perhaps, but a nostrum nevertheless. As the radio said, "Aspirin is a member of the NRA."
Peter stayed downtown late that day and Ellen met him at O'Donnells for dinner. As soon as they had ordered it became evident that Jane had called her up at the office and they had had lunch together. "And she told me all about John Sartain," she said.
"Well, let's hear it."
"You know he was coming around to the Manns' almost constantly, and was going around with Hilda, and Ed Collins got furious --"
"Ed always gets furious."
"Yes. He gets furious but he always comes back. Anyhow, John was in town a lot working on his thesis, and would come to see Hilda, and would hardly ever take her anywhere because he seldom had any money, but there he'd be. I don't know how much Hilda ever went for him or anything but they saw a lot of each other. And it seems that his wife got wind of it and cracked down, as General Johnson would say. So now he doesn't come around any more and Hilda and Ed are so very serious, and Making Plans and all that."
"Interesting," said Peter. "Not very dramatic, tho."
"No. But the way Jane told it was. She had the Charlottesville end of it from Struthers. They had it down there that John was so serious about Hilda that he talked of breaking up with his wife. Wrote letters trying to get a job somewhere and about the time he found he couldn't his wife issued an ultimatum -- either he'd stay away from Hilda or she would leave him. Without paying tuition for the next term, even. And, the way Struthers reported it, John had a terrific struggle with himself and finally decided he wasn't so serious about Hilda after all."
"She couldn't keep him in the manner to which he was accustomed."
"No. And so he got back in line."
"Why guys?" she asked.
"Oh, I just included Struthers for allegedly knowing so many details and making such a comprehensive report to Jane."
"Jane says Struthers and John once had a discussion around at the house on whether it was all right to 'sell your Southern charm' and they decided it was."
"Looks like they did," he said. "Hell with 'em. What about Peyton?"
"Seems to be unchanged, but I think he's wearing Jane down. You know there's been two or three times when he's turned up missing for several weeks at a time. Good tactics. I think they'll eventually both become serious. And I still don't like him."
"That's all right with me."
"I thought you liked him because he wasn't listless."
"His kind of non-listlessness can be pretty destructive. It's one of the things that causes fascism, if you ask me."
"Speaking of that, I've been giving the Party a lot of thought lately and, er, maybe I better not go into it right now."
"No. Wait till later."
They ate in silence for a while. Finally Peter said, "Hell, what happened to the conversation?"
"I'm afraid I stopped it by mentioning That Subject."
"You did. Might as well go on with what you were going to say, if we can't find anything else to talk about."
She sighed, started to speak, then sighed again. When she finally got started she talked rapidly, as if anxious to get it over with. "I've given it a lot of thought lately and I don't think I'll ever join. I'm sorry but I don't think I ever will."
"Well, don't forget that I was born and reared in a small town. I know how small-town political rings work. And it's -- well, I've just seen too much of small-town political rings at work, that's all."
That stopped the conversation again for a considerable period. He had known he was not making any headway on getting her into the Party and he had thought it over and decided that it should not make any difference -- he had not married her because she was Party material. It would simplify things a lot if she were in, but if she wouldn't there was nothing to be done about it -- he knew that any pressure or coercion would just defeat itself. But he still could not think of anything to say to what she had said about political rings.
Finally when they were thru eating and had lit cigarettes he said, "Sure it's not perfect, but what parties have you got?"
She did not answer this, instead she said, "Of course I don't want to try to interfere with your activities or anything but I do wish it didn't occupy your time so much."
"It's a mess how you and that political organization had to happen to me at the same time."
"I don't think there's anything at all messy about you happening to me. Any time."
Neither of them mentioned the Party again until they had finished smoking and Peter had paid the check and gone and got his car from the parking lot. He drove back and picked her up in front of the restaurant, and as she got in he said, "Now, dear, let's for God's sake keep this C.P. business on an intellectual level. Let's not ever get emotional about it."
"I won't," she said. "But darling, I want you to promise me one thing before we leave the subject. Promise me you won't ever stand me up again -- you know, like you do sometimes, go to a meeting and say you're coming in at eleven and then not get in till one or two. All you have to do is let me know. When you say you're not coming in till a certain time, I don't like it, but . . . . And then, when that certain time comes, and you come in, everything is all right again. But when that time comes and you don't come in it's just terrible. I get all confused, just don't what to think. . . ."
He promised. They were coming to Fourteenth Street and he suggested going for a ride instead of going home right away. She agreed and sat close to him and he turned down Fourteenth toward Virginia.
As they were going over the bridge with the river dark in the twilight below them she said, "Tell me you love me, Peter."
"You ought to know whether I do or not. I wouldn't be interesting for me to tell you right after you asked me."
"It's always interesting to me, but you don't have to tell me. You don't have to do anything about me except when you want to.
"That corporation you talked about. You can have the whole corporation and give me what you want to from it. I like it that way. You give me enough to make me completely happy anyhow."
He put his arm around her and drew her close, and neither of them said anything until he turned off into Columbia Pike. Then she said, "I wonder if you enjoy being with me as much as I enjoy being with you."
He said, "Hell yes, in my own way. But I can't help feeling there's a catch in it. There I go analysing things again. My trouble is I think too much."
"Like yon Cassius," she said. "But go on, dear, analyse. Explain about the catch. You can't hurt this by analysing."
"Alright. The bituminous coal industry is sick, Industry is sick, the system is sick and going to pieces. Nobody can really achieve success because it isn't success in something that's healthy and permanent. I couldn't, because even if the rotary Club gave me a dinner and presented me with a floral horseshoe with 'success' on it I wouldn't believe it. So how come I hit the jackpot in the love racket?"
"You hit the jackpot because you know how to play a straight flush, as you told me about once. You won and it's all yours.
"But your analysis doesn't go far enough. What we've got exists under any system, and it's the same under a going-to-pot system. Love is stronger than systems -- you should have learned that just from literature and the movies."
"That's the trouble. Anything that's been ballyhooed as much as love has is bound to have a catch in it. All that cheap sales publicity."
"Now darling, not so fast. All the publicity isn't cheap. Shakespeare and Wagner went in for it too. It just goes to prove that love is the, er, constant quality, and the ballyhoo can't affect it one way or another."
"Okay. You win. That's a good angle. When the Stevepost ties love all up with a two-car garage and the latest model radio they're not trying to sell love because love doesn't need selling -- they're trying to sell cars and radios. And when the movies put love on their level they're trying to sell themselves to the ten-year-old mentality."
"Now, that was my thought. You needn't be amplifying it and giving it back to me."
He laughed and said, "Alright. Now I'll tell you that I love you. You're all I want in the way of babes."
She snuggled against his shoulder and said, "You're all I want."
Anderson had to have fifteen bucks -- that was all there was to it. If he had not gone out with Mary last night, and if he had not got disgusted and quit and sat drinking beer the night before that, he would be all right, but now he had to catch a note on his car and rent and taxi association dues and he needed at least fifteen bucks. He had told too many of those people he would fix them up by Friday. He would have to work a drop shift, as the guys called it. Meant you started out early and worked until you were ready to drop, but you got what you were after.
One of the things he had had to know when he got his hacker's license was, what is a manifest? Answer: A manifest is a record of all trips taken by a public vehicle for hire including time, point of departure, destination, number of passengers and tarrif. It must be preserved an produced on demand of the police at any time within seven days. So Anderson kept a manifest, as follows:
5:10 A.M. 2 psgrs. It was getting daylight and he was cruising uptown on 16th and he saw them on the other side of the street under a lamp, a man and a girl holding hands. They looked groggy and did not see him at first but he kept staring at them and the man finally saw him and whistled. He made a U turn and stopped beside them and opened the door but they went into a passionate movie clinch right there on the sidewalk. Anderson understood the situation -- it was what you get this time of day. They probably were married to other people, or something, and had to get home before they were found out. Sometimes you'd get a long run taking the girl home and another bringing the guy back. But not this time. They came out of the clinch and got in and the man said Wisteria Apartments and when they got there they both got out and the man paid him off. Tarrif 30 cents. First blood.
5:25. 1 psgr. Some kind of foreigner at 11th and Mass. Destination, Mayflower Hotel, rear entrance. A cook or something and all he had to say was, "Son of a bitch, work all goddamn time." Tariff 25 cents.
He cruised around in front of the Mayflower to see what was doing. Nothing was -- the doorman was gone and four cabs were lined up on the stand with drivers asleep. But he made a pass thru DeSales Street while he was about it and a girl was coming out of the hotel side door.
5:35. 1 psgr. She was tough-looking and wore an expensive dress and was obviously a prostitute and wanted to go to an apartment in the 2800 block of Connecticut Avenue. She didn't say anything and he was wary of starting any talk because nothing can get insulted more easily than a chippie who is trying to act like she isn't one, but when they were going over the Taft Bridge he took a chance and said, "Well, how was the Mayflower?" She yawned and said, "Hard to get into." Tariff 50 cents.
5:40. 1 psgr. A Young collegiate fellow on Connecticut Avenue. Destination, the gate at Georgetown University. (Inside the gate would be over the zone line.) The fellow promptly went to sleep and Anderson had to wake him up when they got there. He apologized for being so hard up and not tipping but that didn't help the revenue. Tariff 20 cents.
Had to deadhead back too. M Street was full of colored people going to work but there were quite a few colored cabs cruising about. No one noticed Anderson until he got to Connecticut and M.
6:15. 1 psgr. A tired-looking man whose destination was way over in Northeast. It was made clear by his conversation that he had gone broke in a crap game and the House had given him half a buck to go home on. All the way over he griped about his luck, his bad judgment in not quitting when ahead, and the evils of gambling. Tariff 50 cents.
6:50. A Girl on H Street who wanted to go to the Commerce Building. So the morning rush was starting already. Tariff 20 cents.
He swung around behind the White House and up Connecticut Avenue. If he could get on the Mayflower stand he might get an airport job, but it would probably be the station. He got on the stand.
7:15. 1 psgr. A Man with two large suitcases who wanted to go to the station in a hurry. Had to catch train. Anderson explained that it was hard to make any time going cross town this time of day, and the man swore at those desk clerks who were so slow checking him out and swore at the lights, the traffic, everything. When they finally got to the intersection at New Jersey and Mass Anderson beat the light and didn't have to stop until they were in the station drive, four minutes before train time. That ought to have pleased the old sorehead but it didn't. Tariff 25 cents. They don't give you anything extra for hurrying.
7:32 1 psgr. A priest on the station platform. Priests were usually good. This one went to Catholic University. Tariff 75 cents.
8:05 4 psgrs. Stenographers on North Capitol Street, going to Dept. of Labor. They looked glum and didn't say a word the whole tedious trip down town. Tariff 40 cents.
8:30 1 psgr. A stenographer on Massachusetts Avenue. Destination the Bureau of Engraving and Printing -- as far downtown as you can get. She was good looking but just as glum as the others and had absolutely nothing to say. Tariff 20 cents.
Nothing to do but deadhead uptown thru all the traffic. This rush hour stuff is a mess. No use passing anyone up because one is just as bad as another.
8:55 2 psgrs. A man and a girl at 17th and L. He just knew they were going to Bureau of Engraving. They were. Tariff 20 cents.
After two flat twenties like that it was about time to stop and eat, so he parked in front of a lunchroom and got a breakfast special which set back one of the twenties. He counted his money -- $3.55, which was what he was supposed to have. Have to do better than that.
He started out by making a pass at the Mayflower, and the stand was open so he eased on. Within five minutes he had a job.
9:55. 2 psgrs. Airport, by gosh. A middle-aged man and a young girl -- sat close together and talked about getting briefs in shape. Nice kind of secretary to have. Tariff $1.
It looked like hundreds of cabs lined up out there so he did not stay. He deadheaded back and cruised thru town and nothing happened until he was at the Mayflower again, and he got on the stand.
10:45. 2 psgrs. Men with briefcases, to Commerce Building, talking earnestly. "Now whatever you do, be sure to stress the chemical process. If they make up our code on the basis of the mechanical process we're sunk." Tariff 25 cents.
10:55. 1 psgr. Grim man with briefcase from Commerce to House Office Building. As he got in he muttered, "All this red tape." Tariff 25 cents.
11:10. 1 psgr. Fat, grouchy man with briefcase from House Office Building to Dept. of Labor. Tariff 25 cents.
11:25. 4 psgrs. From Commerce Building to Carleton Hotel, all with briefcases. Sullen and griping. "I wonder if that deputy ever had to meet a payroll." Tariff 50 cents.
11:45. 1 psgr. Came out of Transportation Building and looked like a Congressman -- wide-brimmed hat and important bearing and everything. Went to House Office Building. Was Congressman. Tariff 20 cents.
12:10. 4 psgrs. From House Office Building, briefcase men in jubilant mood. Going to Occidental to lunch. Slapping each other on knees and laughing. "Sure put that one over, didn't we?" "Of course it's only justice, but just wait till J.C. learns what we got -- oh boy!" Tariff 50 cents.
12:25. 2 psgrs. From Occidental 'way uptown to Roosevelt Hotel. Talked about the new corporation which was capitalized at a hundred million and held 100% stock of something. Entirely unaffected by the new Government regulations. But the way they throw around those millions on the back seat has no bearing on the number of dimes they give the driver. Tariff 20 cents.
1:00. 1 psgr. Doorman of a 16th Street hotel whistled, and he turned into the drive, and the doorman helped this colored man in. At least Anderson thought he was colored, but when he looked closer he saw he was not exactly colored -- he looked like the pictures of the Aga Kahn who owns race horses and has so much money. He spoke good English and said he wanted to go on Connecticut Avenue to make some purchases and did Anderson know of a good linen shop? He said he did, and took him to one at Connecticut and Q whereupon Aga Kahn said "Wait please." He slowly eased himself out and went in. In six minutes he came out, with a man that was apparently the proprietor bowing him over the sidewalk and promising prompt delivery and so forth. The proprietor helped Aga Kahn in and Aga Kahn gave an address near Wardman. When they got under way he said "That shop was expensive," and when they got to their destination, which turned out to be the embassy of a country that Anderson did not even know was a country, Aga Kahn said, "I will send someone out to pay you." In a couple of minutes a pure white dapper little guy came out and gave him a dollar and waved him away. Tariff $1. A nice break.
He ate lunch at a White Tower place on Connecticut, and afterwards found he had $7.05, which was going good. Now if he could only keep it up.
But he cruised down Connecticut Avenue and no one gave him so much as a dirty look. Soon he was at the Mayflower, but the stand was full and a lot of cabs were trying to get on and Officer Nichols was standing on the sidewalk ready to slap a ticket for loitering on any cab that hesitated. He turned off on I Street and caught an old lady coming out of the Medical Building.
2:15. 1 psgr. She started out by saying, "Dodge Hotel, and do drive carefully, driver, I'm very nervous." Anderson said, "Yes'm." But that did not end the conversation as far as she was concerned, she told all about what the doctor had said, what the other doctor -- the one before this one -- had said, etc., etc. Tariff 25 cents.
He cruised by the Capitol and picked up a man that looked like Jesse Jones in front of the Senate Office Building.
2:40. 1 psgr. Destination RFC Building. Probably was Jesse Jones. When they got there Jesse Jones gave him a quarter and waited for change. Tariff 20 cents.
3:15. 3 psgrs. From Commerce Building to temporary building D. Briefcase men. So the briefcasers were chasing around again. The theme of their conversation was, "I'm agreeably surprised. I think he really understands our position." Tariff 30 cents.
3:25. 1 psgr. A briefcaser coming out of Dept. of Labor. He sunk down in the seat with a groan. "Ahhhh. Chase all over town, they shunt you from one man to another, right man never is in, nobody has any authority. . . . Ahhhh." Went to Hay-Adams House. Tariff 25 cents.
3:40. 1 psgr. A guy with a grip on 16th Street. Might have been airport job but was Station instead. Wasn't in a hurry, and talked about taxis in New York, Boston and Cleveland and what their rates were and how the drivers were making out which was pretty bad. Nice guy. Tariff 35 cents.
On the way back from the Station he cruised down Constitution Avenue looking for briefcase guys but the government offices broke and the streets filled with people. One job was bad as another now.
4:05. 1 psgr. A girl from Department of Justice who wanted to go way out in Petworth. Traffic thickened, the pedestrians were a nuisance, but when they got away from downtown it was better. The girl wanted to know what the number was but Anderson hadn't learned, and aside from that all she had to say was that she was certainly tired. Tariff 50 cents.
Had to deadhead back down town -- that was the hell of this evening rush. He would go thru Arkansas Avenue and get onto Columbia Road and Connecticut Avenue so he might pick up an old lady or something. But he didn't, he had to cruise all the way down town and did not get anything until he picked up a woman at 12th and F.
5:10. 1 psgr. She slowly unloaded a lot of bundles in the back, got in, and sat back and said, "Whew!" Went a good distance out Georgia Avenue. Tariff 60 cents.
For a wonder he did not have to go back down town -- a young man hailed him on Georgia Avenue.
5:50. 1 psgr. To 14th and Park. The man said, "Jeezus, after a day's work I feel like I been run thru one of those mangles. God, I don't mind being called a son of a bitch every now and then but I hate to called a son of a bith all --- day --- long. Bud, you ought to be glad you ain't got my job."
"Yeah? What do you do?"
"I'm a claims adjuster and general fix-it-up man for the Eagle Laundry. I catch hell for all mistakes, and the laundry business is just one big mistake. . . ." Tariff 25 cents.
It was about time to eat, and he could eat a good meal and still have over nine bucks. He was going good -- only had to run six dollars at night and he would be over. Ought to be able to do that. Trouble was these nights had a way of going dead on you, but he still ought to be able to run six bucks.
He took his time about eating, and it was over an hour before he got started again. Then he drove over to 16th and began to cruise down town.
7:10. 2 psgrs. A guy and a girl to the Palace. The girl was on the make, and was handing the guy a spiel about how a fortune teller had said she'd meet someone who would mean much to her. Not a very good line, but at least passengers were getting more interesting. Tariff 25 cents.
Turning back in front of the Willard he caught a sissy-looking man in a top hat with a woman of about thirty-five who looked hard but talked soft.
7:30. 2 psgrs. Destination Chevy Chase Club. The man just didn't know what to do about little Jackie. Didn't like governesses. The woman insisted he needed a mother's care. "You should get married, Charles. It needn't interfere with your freedom -- simply make a definite arrangement that she goes her way and you go yours. Jackie gets a mother and she gets security and position and it needn't interfere. . . ." She talked that way all the way out there. Yeah, thought Anderson, marry her and she'll hire a governess for Jackie. Tariff $1.
This was okay, especially if he could get something on Connecticut Avenue on the way back. But he had to cruise almost to Wardman before anything turned up. Then a guy and a girl.
8:20. 2 psgrs. To a restaurant in Chinatown. They went into a clinch and as far as he could tell they didn't come out of it all the way down there. Tariff 40 cents.
As soon as they got out a little Chink jumped in.
8:50. 1 psgr. To "fifty-lun slurteen Massconsin Avenue." "You mean Wisconsin Avenue," said Anderson. "Or Massachusetts, maybe." But the Chink would not be moved. "Yeh. Yeh. Massconsin Avenue." Anderson reflected that there was nothing that far out on Massachusetts that would be likely to interest a Chink so he would have to take a chance on Wisconsin. 5113 turned out to be a laundry. Tariff 60 cents.
Absolutely nothing turned up all the way back down town. He went thru F Street, then back along E and up 14th and a small neat man hailed him at I Street.
9:35. 1 psgr. The small man got in and leaned on the back of the front seat. There was no mistaking what his intent, hungry stare meant, and if there was what he said set it straight. "You ought to be getting horny on a night like this, eh Bud?" "No," said Anderson with finality. No use getting sore about it -- there's always at least one a night. He slowed down to get caught by the light at the next intersection, and, just as he thought, the man scuttled out. Tariff 25 cents. Wonder how many quarters that guy spends every night soliciting drivers?
After that things went completely dead. The streets looked empty of pedestrians, and cabs began to accumulate wherever he went. He took a turn up 16th and nothing happened, he swung thru Mt. Pleasant Street and back down 16th but it seemed a lot of other cabbies had the same idea. All the way down just one job turned up, and the cab right in front of him got it. He went thru K Street and made a pass at the Mayflower but the stand was full, then he kept on up Connecticut until he got to Florida Avenue where he parked on the cab stand by the lunch room. He was tired and he needed coffe. Three and a half bucks more.
He spent some time drinking coffe and listening to other drivers gripe about how tough it was, then he realized it was almost time for the movies to break so he drove downtown to F Street. He picked up a drab middle-aged couple in front of the Palace.
10:45. 2 psgr. They gave an address in Trinidad, and sat silent until they got there and then the man silently gave him a coin. Tariff 50 cents.
Back downtown. Another job from the movies on F Street, a couple and their daughter this time.
11:20. 3 psgrs. To Sheperd Street Northeast. These people didn't have anything to say, either. Not a word. The silence was getting on his nerves. Damn such people. They go to the movies for pleasure, don't they? Then why don't they enjoy themselves. Tariff 60 cents.
He made another trip downtown and thru F Street, in a line of cabs with cops standing on the sidewalk to keep them moving. Once again the cab in front of him got a job and he got nothing. He went thru F, down 9th, and back along E -- still nothing doing. And he only needed $2.40 more. He drove onto the Avenue, past the Willard, up 15th and past the Washington, past Keiths, over to 16th and past the Hay-Adams and the Lafayette and the Carlton, then thru K and past the YWMC and onto Connecticut and past the Troika and Stonleigh Court and there he was at the Mayflower. Cabs were allowed to line up back of the stand after midnight, and the line extended almost to the corner. He pulled up on the end. A little over two bucks more, and things had to go dead like this.
There were some jobs coming out of the hotel, and the line eased forward slowly. After what seemed to be half the night he got to the door and a middle-aged and over-dressed woman got in.
1:15. 1 psgr. To an address on Capitol Hill. Half way there she said, "Wouldn't you like to have a little drink with me?" He said that he'd like to but he really didn't have time to stop. She said she had a bottle in her handbag and why didn't he park on one of these side streets and have a little nip with her, so he did. She got in the front seat and gave him the bottle, and it was strong stuff and pepped him up a bit, but he had to get that two bucks and forty cents so he put the car in gear and drove on. She sat close to him and said, "Honey, why don't you come up to my apartment and help me finish the bottle?" He said he had to work, and there they were at the address. Tariff 50 cents. That's the way it is, hacking. You get all kinds of breaks from women no one would want. One ninety to go.
He came back thru Chinatown and picked up three chinks.
1:40. 3 psgrs. They were well-dress and talked good English -- two men and a girl. The girl called one of the men "daddy" and they talked of boy friends and steppin' and handed out similar small-time slang and in general sounded like a bad radio program. Give him the Massconsin Chinks any day. Went to 14th and Columbia. Tariff 50 cents.
Going back down 14th he picked up a guy and two girls on the corner at Q Street.
2:15. 3 psgrs. They wanted to go out on Kansas Avenue. Didn't say anything until he was turning off 13th into Kansas and then one of the girls said, "I really think she should, but it's an owl."
"What can you do with an owl?" said the other girl. The man said, "You never can tell when you're going to need an owl." Then they were at the address. Tariff 70 cents.
There ought to be a law against that, thought Anderson. Now he never would know what they were talking about. Seventy cents more. He went over to 16th and there stood a man on the corner.
2:40. 1 psgr. The man wanted to go to O'Donnells, for some reason. When they got there he handed him a quarter and a half and went into the restaurant. Tariff 75 cents, and that does it.
Going past the Post Building, a man came out and hailed him, and thru force of habit he jammed on his brakes. The man got in and said 429 Morrison Street. He was quite old and wore overalls.
2:35. 1 psgr. Anderson said, "Morrison Street?"
"Yes," said the man. "You probably don't know where it is so I'll tell you. It's between A and B Northeast and it only runs a block. It isn't named in accordance with the rule, no. It was there before they established the rule."
Anderson made a U turn and started down Pennsylvania Avenue. The man went on, "I built that house on Morrison Street when there wasn't nothing between it and the Capitol but a cow pasture. The best people in town lived on Capitol Hill then, but the town moved west. Sure it's in a negro district now but Morrison Street is white and we were there before the Negroes and we ain't going to move.
"There wasn't any Northeast then. Along H Street, where they got that business district now, used to be what they called Gooseturd Hollow and over here, along C Street, was the red-light district and below that toward the river there wasn't nothing but a swamp."
They were spinning down the avenue which looked big and gloomy and empty but to the passenger it was full of ghosts. "Yes sir, right over there was the National Hotel and over here was the Bijou Theatre -- burlesque shows. This avenue never was crowded then. No automobile traffic at all. There'd be men on bycycles and some women with big sleeves pedaling along and somebody'd come by driving a pair of trotters and maybe a cabinet member or the President in a carriage with outriders. . . ."
Anderson swung down B Street and past the Capitol. the man said, "Washington wasn't a big town then. Used to go into the bear there at the Ebbitt and know everybody in the place. John R. Mclean owned the Post, printing was all handset, nobody worried about having a job, people were friendly. . . .
"Morrison is one-way. Have to go from Fourth."
They turned down Fourth and into Morrison Street. It was very narrow with staunchly built brick houses. "Here's the house," said the man. "yes sir, the city sure has grown up. it ain't the same place by any means. But it's still Washington. A great old town."
"Yeah," said Anderson. "G'night." Tariff 25 cents.
He drove out of the street and back past the Capitol. The flood-lit dome glowed brightly and the plaza was vacant and everywhere the streets stretched empty and silent. He was tired and he had his fifteen bucks and he was going to go home and get some sleep. And he was not going to stop again, not even if he was hailed by General Johnson and Robbie.
Or home, to Introduction