THE ALARM goes off late at 4:45. I wake Wendy to remind her that it must be set for 4:30. She mumbles something incoherent, but this is National Rutabaga Week and who has time to listen? As I heat the water on the stove for my morning shave (restored townhouses near Logan Circle do have their problems), I remind myself that squab is in season and I must pick up food for dinner at Larimer's. I wake Wendy to say, "Don't worry about tonight's dinner, dear." She murmurs something incoherent. I go in to say good morning to the twins, Jason and Danielle. I tell them, "Today is the first day of the rest of your lives." They murmur something incoherent.
My bike ride to work allows me the chance to savor the beauty of this Capital City as it lies asleep. But while the rest of Washington slummbers, H. George Strivers III is ready for action. Watch out, world, here come the Rutabaga Kid. As I carry the front wheel of my bicycle onto the service elevator at 1776 K Street, I remind myself of the virtues of getting to the office early. At 6 in the morning, no one is calling the American Rutabaga Council thinking ARC stands for the Appalachian Regional Commission. Also, I need some quiet time to plan a week of high accomplishment.
At 7, without fail, my boss, Avery (Ace) Rufuss will arrive for work. Rufuss, whose working habits and knowledge of the vegetable world were acquired during 27 years of running the rutabaga support program at the Agriculture Department, has some disturbing limitations. He doesn't understand the intricacies of Capitol Hill, as I do because of my two years on the staff of Rep. Abner (Ab) Scamm (D-Mo.). I remember that I must call Wendy before she leaves for work to get Scamm's federal prison number at Allenwood for my resume. Wendy somehow seems annoyed at getting a call at 6:15. I hope I can help her work out her hostility problem. Liberated husbands have a burden.
By noon, I've opened the mail and have composed a memo to the friends of rutabagas on the Hill proposing formation of a Rutabaga Caucus. This is the day for my weekly lunch with Rufuss and this time it's my turn to choose a restaurant. "(Ace's idea of a good lunch is a big, thick, carcinogenic steak). Today I introduced him to the virtues of bean sprout salads at Rainbows and Radishes. During lunch, I subtly try to raise the question of Ace's upcoming 60th birthday and possible retirement. He murmurs something incoherent.
I spend the afternoon entertaining visiting rutabaga producers from Idaho. Rapport is difficult to create, even after I remind them that I worked in Idaho as assistant McGovern coordinator in 1972. All I get is frozen silence; perhaps they were among the 71 percent who voted for Nixon. I subtly change the subject to the insights I gained during my years on the Hill. One rutabaga man asks me who I worked for. I murmur something incoherent. Tuesday
I spend the morning on the Hill lobbying for higher rutabaga supports. This is the part of the work week that I cherish. I don't know what Rufuss would do without my congressional expertise. I test market a new argument about how Soviet control of the Afghan rutabaga supply makes this essential vegetable even more strategically important. While eating lunch in the Rayburn cafeteria, I wonder if they could substitute rutabagas in the bean soup.
Wendy seems unusually grouchy tonight. I assume there are some major problems with her work at the National Endowment for the Humanities. She's planning the upcoming bicentennial for the Articles of Confederation, only three years away. I suggest that she might start looking for another job, perhaps on the Hill where she can gain experience, self-confidence and assurance.
Wnedy's mood is not improved when the supreme de volaille that I am cooking for dinner is not quite ready when it is time for her to leave for her women's group. She suggests that maybe she could skip it for just this week. (She's been trying to pull that one ever since I found the group for her). I remind her that sisterhood is powerful. After she leaves, I use these peaceful moments to get closer to the twins. "(The Strivers family is particularly close-knit since we've finished only 2 1/2 rooms of our 9-room townhouse). The twins watch television, while I read Norman Mailer's "Advertisements for Myself." The dinner is delicious. Wednesday
A quiet day in the office. Ace is speaking at a rutabaga conference in Biloxi. He leaves me what he thinks is a day's work. With my lightning speed and renewed determnation, I finish the filing by 11. I work on a memo to the rutabaga council about making the Washington office more legislative in scope. We cannot depend on our old friends at Agriculture forever. In the memo, I remind them that I am the one with ties to the Carter administration because of my work as his Grand Rapids, Mich., coordinator in 1976. I repeatedly try to reach Stu Eizenstat to ask him bout the Carter campaign pledge of a comprehensive rutabaga policy. Lord, they do have a lot of meetings at the White House.
I stop a the Trover Shop and pick up a copy of "What Color is Your Parachute?" If the make-up of this office doesn't change, I'm going to have to do something about my career. Wendy is clearly going nowhere at the Endowment and someone has to carry the Strivers family. As the book recommends, I review the accomplishments of my 29 years. There's the cum laude degree from Penn, the graduate work in Egyptology at Yale, the travel in Europe, the McGovern campaign, the Hill, and, of course, the way I've really been running this office. The book suggests that I find a subtle way to remind the world that I am in the market for a better job. I wonder how I could do that.
At home, Wendy goes into deep sulk just because I mentioned that she brought home the wrong kind of cumin for my famous rutabaga curry. Her attitude is increasingly unreasonable. I try to draw her out about last night's women's group, but she murmurs something incoherent. The dinner is delicious, despite the cumin. Thursday
I writer a press release at the office about the upcoming crowning of Miss Rutabaga. I change it to Ms. I somehow sense that the writing skills I acquired on the Hill will be the key to landing a new job.
Rufuss leaves the office early to attend the retirement party of his successor at Agriculture. (I note the time). He's going to more and more of these retirement parties recently. The old guard is changing and Rufuss doesn't know it. The office must get up for the '80s. I mail a memo on rutabaga issues to the Bush and Reagan campaigns and call Eizenstat again.
The big event of the evening is the reunion of Rep. Scamm's office. Strangely enough, Wendy refuses to go, saying that she is engrossed in "The Women's Room." At the party, everyone is talking about the latest Scamm appeal and the big victory by the U.S. hockey team. The highlight of the evening is the phone call to Abner at Allenwood. I promise to send him a tennis racket. Friday
Rufuss is strangely bouyant at work today. I catch him doing sit-ups on the office floor. He mentions that his doctor has given him a clean bill of health. He also tells me that we will be expanding our staff by brining in the recently retired rutabaga expert from Agriculture.
Maybe it's the end of the week, but I fall into a bit of depression. But then I come up with a great new plan to make my job qualifications known to the world. It is crucial that I not confide it to anyone. I wouldn't even tell Wendy, if she were still speaking to me. While at the office, I start work on my scheme, since Rufuss is leaving early to go squirrel hunting with some Agriculture officials. On his way out, Rufuss asks me why I have addressed an evelope to The Washington Post. I murmur something incoherent.