The drumbeat of the Diamond Cab radio was incessant, this being afternoon rush hour.
"Georgetown, Georgetown. South Cleveland, South Cleveland. Who's in Foggy Bottom? Foggy Bottom."
I sat back and made a mental bet with myself. Foggy Bottom would be the first call snapped up.
Why? Because cabbies in this town know where the big fares lurk, and a lot of people calling cabs from Foggy Bottom at rush hour are heading for National or Dulles airports from the Watergate Hotel or the State Department. To get to either airport, you open the bidding at $7.50 -- which is three times what a cabbie can make by carting a Cleveland Park housewife to the Garfinckel's at 14th and F.
It didn't take long for me to collect the bet from myself.
"Three-seventy-seven, State Department for Jones," the radio droned. Then a pause. "She's going to Naylor and Good Hope. That's right. Naylor and Good Hope."
Obviously, 377 had asked the dispatcher for Jones' destination. Very likely, he wasn't pleased to learn that Jones was going to an Anacostia intersection about six traffic-clogged miles from 23rd Street NW.
My driver leaned back and grinned at me. "I'll bet 377 gets himself a sudden flat tire," he said. "No-o-o-o-body wants to go way down in Southeast."
"Why not?" I asked. "What is it, four zones to Naylor and Good Hope? That's about $5 at this time of day. Even if you came all the way back without a passenger, that'd still be worth it."
"Let me tell you something," my driver said. "You need to make $10 an hour to survive out here, with gas prices the way they are. You take a run like that, you're guaranteeing that you make only $5 an hour in the hour of the day when you're most likely to make 10 somewhere else. So where's the percentage?"
"But you're always going to have ups and downs in your business," I said. "You can't swear you're going to make $10 an hour every single day at rush hour. What if you get caught in traffic downtown? You guys don't have meters to protect you from that."
"You're right there. You give me a meter, and I'd vote to lower fares. Everybody would benefit -- me and the guy I pick up."
Just then, the voice on the radio started lecturing.
"Now, 377, I don't want to get into a big debate with you. You want the run or don't you?"
Again, my driver leaned back and grinned at me. "The thing about meters is, they don't just mean more money for drivers. They'd mean that drivers will go anywhere in this city for the first time since 25 years ago."
If that's so -- and I suspect it is -- there isn't a soul in this city who could lose.
Scene I Wish I'd Seen, courtesy of Greer Gilka of Arlington:
"A couple jogging down our street, my husband watching from a ladder while painting. Couple neatly designer-outfitted, both hooked up to same Walkman -- box at his waist, headphones connected by umbilical cord.
"He starts running ahead of her and too fast; she tries to catch up and can't. Her headphones are being pulled off by his speed. She yells to get his attention and he can't hear her!
"Finally, both stop when her headphones hit the street . . . . Both annoyed and chagrined as my husband laughs."
Thanks to Peter Gray of Northwest for passing along the draft of a General Services Administration regulation concerning discounts. The only thing that gets discounted in the proposal is the English language.
In the seventh paragraph, one finds this sentence: "It would also be necessary to assume the burden of informing agencies, quarterly or oftener , . . ."
Never spill coffee on your notes. Particularly if thousands of World's Fair-goers might be affected.
I did, and they almost were. On Wednesday, I wrote that the Knoxville Fair ends Oct. 1. It actually ends Oct. 31.
Why the mistake? Because my notes originally read, "Fair ends Oct. 31." After a droplet of coffee fell on the "3," however, they read, "Fair ends Oct. 1." Apologies to all.