From 4 p.m. until midnight, Barbara Waters looks more like a disc jockey than a cab dispatcher, cooing endearments and addresses to harried hacks across the airwaves.
"Come in, come in, come in, Southwest, Southwest, Southwest," she calls rhythmically, expertly working the pedal controlling two large silver mikes. "Your job is good, young fella . . .That's good fella."
After midnight, Waters drives her own cab. She will prowl Washington's desolate streets until 4 or 5 a.m., hoping to pick up prostitutes along 14th Street for $3 to $4 tips.
After 13 years, Waters, 34, would not have it any other way.
"You can go right through the lights, getting from one end of town to the other fast," she explains, her eyes red but alert. "People speak of the dangers, but death doesn't pick a time or a place."
Waters works day and night to support her two teen-agers and a 16-month-old grandchild who live with her in her Parkland apartment in Southeast. She usually goes to bed about 5 a.m., then must get up at 8:30 a.m. to feed the baby.
"My children don't have anyone to depend on but me," she explains. "At day I have to be a mother and a grandmother, and at night I have to be the breadwinner. But I enjoy it. I really do."
Waters' 13 years' seniority makes her eligible for any day job that comes up at the company, but she has refused offer after offer. Working days would deprive her of her favorite form of entertainment -- soap operas.
"I'd miss my stories," Waters grins unashamedly. "I love soap operas. I live for them."
In workday reality, Waters is a religious woman who considers herself a devoted mother and provider. On her day off, she spends an hour with her children in a rap session, explaining that she hopes to counter any "counterfeit information" her kids may pick up in school or on the streets.
"They don't miss a meal and they dress better than most" she says.
Waters admits she works hard, but does not push herself. At 34, she considers her fun years over, and her reward still ahead of her: "It's going to pay off in the end.(My children) are going to go to school and get good jobs.Then they're going to take care of their mother."