IT'S A GOOD MORNING to stay in bed for awhile and catch up on writing a letter to my son in college about summer job opportunities and whether or not we might take a trip somewhere after his college is out in May. Have been looking at a recent printing of "Europeon $15 a Day" and am wondering if, maybe, sometime. . . I hear my two Japanese student boarders get up and I suggest we do some sightseeing after they return their rented car.
We stop at a gas station for them to fill up their late-model subcompact and I notice from my car that they are having some trouble at the pump. The problem, on closer inspection, is that regular doesn't go easily into a tank made for unleaded only, although they manage to get a fair amount in anyway.
We drive on and deposit the car. The Jefferson Memorial is a bit cold and breezy this morning as I explain about the cherry trees and they take a picture on the steps.
On to the Capitol where we take a guided tour of the Capitol rotunda, partly because I feel that would be informative for all of us and partly because it helps me to gather a few moredetails for my third try at the D.C. tour guide examination.
From the Capitol we take the touristtrail to the Air and Space Museum where my friends have heard of, but not yet seen, the big screen and the world brought to you by Johnson's Wax.Although most of Washington seems to be here on a Sunday, I am happy to see the film again and take the opportunity to show my newcomers World War II displays before the movie starts, including the Japanese Zero. Am not sure that made too much of an impression on them, partly, I suppose, because the war is now ancient history for Japanese and Americans born in the 1950s.
Not much time left in the weekend after returning to clean house, organize papers, including the article I'm writing, between turns at the wheel, on legislative oversight of the intelligence community. Monday
I pull out from home about 8:20 a.m. in time to catch the next-to-last load of office workers on Connecticut Ave. At that hour there are a lot of cabs moving in the same direction, many of them with one or two passengers already, and you have to move fast to spot your waver among the hulking buses. I do spot one below Nebraska (3 zones,$2.80 to downtown) and the day's business has started.
It no longer surprises me that the majority of cab-seekers at this hour are women with modest incomes, some of whom provide breakfast for their families and then have to hurry to get to the office on time. Many of them also have warm feelings about cab driving and the price of gas and the inadequacy of the fare system. It's nice to know there is public support for cabbies and I would like to believethat most cab drivers deserve that support.
I elect to return via 34th St. for asecond run down Connecticut Ave. and have the feeling as I descend the slopeat Van Ness St. of diving through the clouds on a mass of hapless cab-seekers. Maybe we're all Walter Mittys at heart.
After luinch and some reading at the Library of Congress, I pick up a man outside of State who tells me he's worried about being called back to duty in the Navy. Since he tells me he works on the seventh floor of that edifice, I pick up my ears.
Soon after leaving this anxious man off at the Capitol, I get a rider on H St. whose itinerary for the next hour and one half will lead me to my big fare of the week -- to Dulles and a chance to use my card listing the new interstate mileage rates.
Back on the beltway loops by mid-rushhour, I decide to head home and prepare dinner for my daughter that evening. Tuesday
Time to search for a fill-up and the price has gone up again. The B.P. station at Albemarle and Connecticut Ave. which used to sell regular for 92 cents/gallon just two weeks ago now sells the same gas for $1.10/gallon and turns out to be closed. Likewise the Scotch-Buy station on Wisconsin above Sears is up to $1.15/gallon and is not open till later in the morning. I settle for gas at an Amoco station for $1.24/gallon. I figure that about 20 to 30 percent of my gross income for the week goes to pay for gas, and my car is a compact which gets better mileage than most cabs. What the big fleet owners will do with their large collections of coverage and oversize stinkpots when gas hits $2/gallon I do not know.
Around noon I pick up a portly man on Constitution Ave., whom I take to the old Senate Office Building. (a $1.10 trip confined to a subzone of zone 1). He wants a receipt for $4 and tells me to keep the change from $2. That kind of offer and my acquiescence in it tells a lot about Washington and what's wrong with it.
Today is the day I get broken in properly with two rides to far northeast over the Benning Rd. bridge. Apart from the stories you hear about crime in this area, which undoubtedly is a real problem, the main difficulty for cab drivers with this long trip (8-10 miles round trip) is that it takes time, particularly with heavy outgoing trafficover the narrow bridge, and the fares don't seem quite adequate to the time and mileage involved. On the other hand, the people living there, mostly ofmodest means, really do need taxi service and often have difficulty finding a cab. I now understand why black and white drivers sometimes appear to ignore black riders heading in that direction.
Home after picking up a last rush-hour passenger around Dupont Circle. It's good to get out of the car after several hours behind the wheel. Dinner is a mixture of American and Japanese instant cooking. Japanese instant dinners somehow seem more interesting than American frozen dinners.
My daughter is working on college applications and we have 24 hours to make deadline. The evening is spent intyping and editing. I wish the schools, including my daughter's would spend more time on the nuts and bolts of composition. Wednesday
I get started late after working latethe previous evening and miss most of the rush-hour passengers. I do pickup one passenger on Wisconsin Ave. and add another in Georgetown who is wearing an immense raccoon coat straight out of the roaring '20s. He tells me that a furrier friend of his has told him what the coat is now worth and he feels fortunate to have picked it up at an estate sale a few years back for a fraction of its current worth.
Several passengers later I return home knowing that more work remains to be done on my daughter's applicationsbefore they have to be mailed by midnight at the central Post Office next to the Union Station.
After working steadily for four hoursat the typewriter, it is well past midnight. I stuff the envelopes, with my daughter's help, and head for the Post Office wondering if there really is one window which stays open all night. There isn't, and I have to contend with a dollar-bill changer which doesn't work and a number of unsavory looking characters who are taking shelter in the Post Office at his hour. I dothe best I can with the stamp machines, mail six applications first class and save two to mail the next morning special delivery. Home to bed about 2:30 a.m. Thursday
The Washington weather has turned decidedly cold. I head for the Library of Congress to study for the tour guidetest Friday.
The test is hard to study for since the information involved is so miscellaneous. This time around I concentrate on pictures of outdoor sculptures, and realize just how many sculptures, equestrian and otherwise, there are in the city. Almost behind every azalea bush.
I am getting used to driving my cab "off-duty" but am still taken by surprise when people wave at me and I have forgotten I'm driving a cab. It bothers me to think a passenger, black or white, might think I'm just looking the field over rather than engage in another part of my life.
After doing an errand on Connecticuty Ave., I find the older lady who waved in vain at me several minutes before and has now stationed herself right next to my parked cab. At that point I relent and take her where she's going. A taxi is a taxi is a taxi.
Another aspect of the cab business which distresses me is to see people turned away from a cab particularly after they tell the driver the street where they're going. I've picked up many a "discard" from other cabs and would like to think my public serice rating if there was such a thing would be high. Friday
More study for the test and a last-minute check of the almanac to find the official tree (the scarlet oak) and flower (the American beauty rose). I wonder if an appropriate song might be "Let the Good Times Roll"; after a recent trip to the District Buildingwith a couple of big shots it seems that it should be.
I take the guide test at the Bureau of Tests and Licenses at 6th and H Sts. N.W., in the center of D.C.'s Chinatown and mark the event with a light Chinese lunch across the street. After finishing the test, I hope successfully, I head into the big Friday afternoon rush-hour traffic and get two back-to-back fares to National Airport.
Friday isn't complete without taking a woman passenger from H st. N. E. to the Gas Co. on 11th St. N.W. Along the way she points to crowds of people lined up around the liquor stores in northeast to cash their paychecks and tells me the going rate for cashing a small check of $25 if $5. She says the government credit unions, when they are open, provide a real service. Apparently the commercial banks are not to helpful to the small savers and spenders such as herself. Saturday
No driving today. It's my time to volunteer my services at the Bethesda Community Food Store (the Co-op). There is usually plenty of work filling bins and cutting blocks of cheese and pricing it on Saturdays and today is no exception. As an alternative food store, the Co-op has lots of principles and expectations on the part of its workers and patrons but sometimes lacks the organization to deliver the goods efficiently.
Now to find the tofu and dried seaweed needed by my roommates and run to the bank with a wad of one-dollar bills while wondering if I'm breaking even after gas, car maintenance, etc., or perhaps slightly in the black. I haven't worked that out yet.
And what will the price of gas do next week?