Together they've spent more than three-quarters of a century behind the wheel, although neither started out as a cabbie.

They've clocked more miles in this town than they can possibly calculate, but Edward E. Scott, 89, and Percival Bryan, 78, would still rather be driving their cabs than doing anything else -- unless it's raining, that is.

"I'm too old to stop," Scott said.

Bryan, a Jamaican-born autograph hound with a lingering lilting accent, bought his first cab 48 years ago when he realized he couldn't make ends meet as a butler in Franklin D. Roosevelt's White House.

Although more than a decade older, Scott, a courtly, soft-spoken Eastern Shore native, is a novice by comparison. He didn't buy a taxi until he turned 60, when his career as a Washington chauffeur ended because "all my customers died."

The two veterans were among those honored recently by the D.C. Taxicab Commission for longtime courteous service. Both say driving people around keeps them going, but they also complain that it's different now.

The routes from here to there haven't altered much. But life has changed. The city has changed. The price of gasoline has changed. Business has changed.

"Too much crime. Too many rules. Too many drivers. Too much overhead. Too much traffic. It's nothing like the business it was," Scott said.

In the past few months, District cabdrivers have raised their voices in protest, even mustered a short strike, against what they say are fares that are too low and fines that are too high: $25 for "improper dress," $250 for refusing a passenger, $500 for not displaying a Taxicab Commission license.

Last week they started getting a surcharge of 25 cents a ride, imposed in response to the Middle East crisis and its resulting higher oil and gasoline prices. The old-timers shake their heads and laugh.

"So well-meaning but so pitiful little. It won't matter a bit," Bryan said.

Still, at nearly 90 and despite a bad leg, Scott puts on a suit and tie each morning and sets out in his pristine white 1966 Chrysler Newport -- an independent cab with his name, "E.E. Scott," painted on it -- to cruise the Mall and make runs for his regulars to the doctor or market.

But these days he's home before evening rush hour. It's "just too crazy for an old man," he said.

Bryan drives every day in his blue and gray 1984 Plymouth, Bell Company cab No. 67. The business has never let him down, he said, but conditions have certainly deteriorated. He blames drugs and a more self-centered culture.

"So many have an attitude, customers and drivers both," he said. "But I say, 'Don't get out of this cab without leaving some of your goodness in it. Sign my book.' "

In 48 years, he's collected 17,000 signatures, he says.

The two men say they rarely refuse service, and they've had little trouble.

"The good Lord takes care of fools and babies," Scott joked.

"But these days you have to be careful if you want to live," Bryan said. "If you don't trust an element, you have to think twice."

Both men say they choose their cruising areas carefully, drive only during daylight hours and size up each customer individually. They don't pick up passengers they suspect are high on drugs.

That kind of discretion is within the law, said Carrolena Key, chairwoman of the Taxicab Commission. "Drivers aren't allowed to discriminate against groups or geographic areas, but there is room in the rules for judgment."

Years ago, Bryan and Scott both supported families on their earnings, but they say it wouldn't be possible with today's higher costs for fuel, repairs, insurance, among other expenses.

The Taxicab Commission recently recommended a 10 percent rate increase and is studying the possibility of dropping the zone system, which drivers complain keeps their earnings low.

All that would help, Scott said, but only so much, because competition among so many taxis and limousines restricts what one cabbie can earn.

The District does not limit the number of drivers it licenses. Over the last three years, the number has average about 7,000, about one for every 88 residents, according to the commission.

"Too many," Bryan said. "Used to be you were laughed at for being a cabdriver. Now everyone's driving a cab."

Still, few profess to love it as much as these two.

"I'll keep driving until my bones freeze up," Bryan said. "If someone takes my cab from me, they might as well dig my grave."