Three tales of summer in the city, and of the endless struggles that women face in trying to do the simplest things therein:
Struggle One: A well-dressed young woman who tries to hail a cab on a downtown street corner by herself at 10:15 p.m. is asking for trouble, because male cabbies may assume she's a hooker, not a professional who had to work late at the office.
Louise E. Gant of Northwest learned the truth of this on July 17. She spent 10 minutes trying her luck at the corner of 15th and L streets NW. Finally, a passer-by helped her with her hailing, and a cab at last stopped.
The first thing the driver did was illegal. He asked Louise where she was going. "Northwest," said Louise, even though she didn't have to.
But as Louise tried to hop in, the driver said no, no, he had another fare to pick up in three minutes (an obvious lie, for why had he stopped for Louise if he had somewhere else to be?).
Louise was about to argue, but the cabbie wiped that possibility off the slate in rather abrupt fashion. He pushed Louise out of the cab and sped off.
Now, the driver didn't say what he thought Louise did for a living. But the corner of 15th and L is well known as a place where the "pros" strut their stuff. Should the Louises of this world really have to walk over to Connecticut Avenue to get a cab just because male cabbies tar every woman at 15th and L with the most available brush?
Struggle Two: This one is as old as the Mona Lisa, but it bites women far more often than men. On July 15, it bit Susan Reed of Falls Church.
She was standing in line to buy a Farecard at the McPherson Square Metro station when a man approached and asked Susan if she had a $20 bill for four fives.
Susan took the fives, and the man quickly pocketed the 20. But an instant later, he produced a $1 bill from the same pocket and claimed that Susan had given him that bill, not a 20.
They argued for a while, but it was a public place, and people were staring, and Susan had a train to catch -- all of which the male stranger was counting on, to be sure. After an argument of a couple of minutes, Susan returned the four fives to the man, even though she knew she was allowing herself to be taken.
Why do women get tabbed so often as "marks"? "I have never been one for clear thinking under pressure," Susan theorizes. But that's exactly the self-deprecating attitude these sharks count on.
I realize these things happen fast, and you can't be absolutely sure you haven't handed over a one instead of a 20. But why allow yourself to be pressured and hurried by a stranger? You wouldn't do that at home. You wouldn't do it at work. Just trust your instincts and make yourself say, "If you don't get out of here right now, I'm calling a cop."
Struggle Three: I was standing on Connecticut Avenue, waiting for the bus, when an attractive young woman came walking past me. She wasn't dressed provocatively -- just neatly and casually. She wasn't slathered in makeup -- just a little lipstick. Anyone who thought she was begging to be picked up would have been an early favorite for the 1986 Grand Self-Delusion Award.
So, of course, two guys in a passing painter's van whistled at her.
Then they shouted: "Hey, Baby!"
Then they blew a few kisses each at her.
She smiled at the two men, once, quite self-consciously, and kept right on walking. Which would usually end this sort of encounter. The men would drive away, giggling, and the woman would be left alone.
But not these guys. They pulled to the curb and sat there, waiting, with the motor running, even though the woman had walked on and obviously wasn't coming back.
But why were they waiting? Did they think they were being charming? Did they actually think the woman had been walking down Connecticut Avenue, hoping that these two men would whistle at her, so she could fling herself at them and say, "You two are the sexual partners of my dreams!"
Give the women -- and the world -- a break, fellas. You are not charming. You are ineffective, you are childish, and you are offensive.
An open letter to a reader:
Dear Jane McDonough:
Eleven days ago, I ran an item in response to your inquiry as to whether "you had that new baby yet." I don't know why, but I made light of your kind question with a crack about how my having a baby would put me on the front page. In the process, I may have embarrassed you. If so, I hope you'll accept my apology. I was very touched by your interest in my family, as I always am whenever readers express similar interest. I can't explain what prompted that crack. Sometimes glitch monsters invade columnists' brains. This was one of those times.