Alvin Lurie looked warmer than anyone on the Capitol steps, in his black-vested 100 percent wool suit, said he'd been traveling suit '48, was originally from the Bronx in New York and now lived in Nashville.
"I just switched lines," he added. "I'm in ladies sportswear to the stores."
Wearing a plastic "straw" boater like the rest of the salesmen with the salesmen with the message - "Heard about the travelling salesman?" Lurie was a heavy-set man, 5 feet 9 and weighted 220. He had a smile and an easy-going persuasive personality. He asked that his age be kept out. "Might need a new line someday."
His best years had been during Eisenhower' presidency, he said. "Money meant something, money to spend, no one bothered me. I had some money to put away, it was a full dollar."
These are the lean Carter years. The talk of doing away with the three-martini lunch, contingency gas rationing and the need for bigger cars with more trunk space were on Lurie's mind.
So he came along with the thousands of yards of dacron and polyester, in the shape of suits, sports jackets and slacks to meet with the lawmakers yesterday and look for a better deal. It was "Salesman's Awareness Day" and an estimated 600 travelingnmen and women who said they represented 60,000 more came from all parts of the country to find out about the territory around "The Hill."
Sen. Jacob Javits (R-N.Y.) from the top of the Capitol steps said he had introduced legislation that would give traveling salesmen a tax deduction for contributions made to their pension plan.
Lurie moved out of the sun as he listened to Javits and said. "I think a few years back he had a chance to run for president. He would have made a good president."
Lurie likes his job, called himself a "rah, rah boy - I like the lifestyle." - and withont meaning it, said, "I'd work for nothing."
Early each Monday morning Lurie packed his samples into his new Oldsmobile in the back where the seat has been removed and took off for 700 to 800 miles through Tennessee and Kentucky and returned home late Friday night. He talked about the loneliness of hotel and motel nights, then he nudged and laughed, "You should have asked me 20 years ago."
He reached for his wallet for a photo of his 20-year-old daughter - "Leslie Karen, she was adopted and used to tell the other kids, 'I was picked out.'
"The traveling salesman has a lot of troubles," Lurie said. "One thing is that he gets old, he has developed his territory and there is always the chance he can lose it.
"We are not Willie Lomans. Neither are we sleeping with the farmers daughters or we wouldn't be bringing in 5 percent of the net national product. And remember each salesman on the road keeps 423 people working.
"Our expenses for gasoline, meals, hotel rooms and auto insurance have gone up between 46 and 58 percent while wholesale apparel prices on which we are paid commission have risen only 29 percent in the same period."
A statue of John Marshall, an early Chief Justice, sat in a chair one leg crossed over the other with the right arm outstretched as the salesmen passed by with remarks like, "Look, he's saying. 'I'm all bought out,'" or "No he's saying, 'Cancel the order.'"
Lurie said he followed in his father's footsteps to become a traveling salesman and told a story about his father's expense accounts.
"My father came home from the road one weekend and he was wearing a new coat with a fur collar. He said his manager admired the coat and when he turned in his expense account he was asked if the coat was down on the account.
"My father said, 'No but it's on there.'"
Lurie was not on vacation yesterday, just between seasons, like the rest of his comrades.
"We finished the fall line on the fourth of July," Lurie said, "and I'll be moving out of my holiday line when I get back to Nashville."
On their march to the Capitol, Lurie listened as two buddies sang "Onward Christian Soldiers." Though the heat reached the 90s Lurie had not loosened his tie, opened his coat or undone his vest.
Later in the morning he fired off a few one-liners as he walked off into the dining room to sit with his fellow "drummers" to buy a lunch for a congressman and try to sell him a whole year's line.