Local Commentary

Our Man in Arlington




These are the lazy days of summer, and today I am going to be lazy.

Last week, the Washington Post printed my letter describing a summer job I had more than fifty years ago. It appeared in the Posts’s Page Three feature in the Metro section. I thought I would share it with the intrepid readers of the Falls Church News-Press. Here it is complete with a couple of deletions the Post made.

“I got my dream summer job at the Testing Laboratory of the Louisiana Department of Highways in the summer of 1956, between my graduation from Baton Rouge High School and my freshman year at Louisiana State University.

“Every day, I drove between Baton Rouge and New Orleans picking up samples of asphalt used by the highway department in it various road projects from about a half dozen major oil refineries along the Mississippi River in the River Road. Quart cans from every tanker truck were waiting for me when I arrived, but I had to scramble to the top of all railroad tanker cars and ladle out the samples myself.

“I left at around seven in the morning and would return to the lab at about two in the afternoon. I then had a little lunch, and hung around watching the testing and reading a book until quitting time at five.

“After about two weeks, the director, a family friend, invited me into his office for a little chat. After complimenting me on my work, he asked if I noticed that I was not very popular around the lab. I told him that I had noticed a certain coolness.

“He told me that the tests took about an hour and a half to complete. My arriving back at two or two-thirty meant that they had to complete the testing of my batch before they left work. This did not make them happy.

“I took the hint. From then through the rest of the summer I would tour the nooks and crannies of the River Road, strike up friendships at the numerous little cafes and shops along the way, tramp through the ruins of some of the great plantation houses, and occasionally go all the way into New Orleans to catch an early afternoon movie at the great Saenger Theater on Canal Street.

“I would get back every day at about four. My popularity soared! My boss had hit the nail on the head.

“The next summer, I was promoted to tester. On the first day, I took the new driver aside and explained the situation to him. He became very popular, too.”

Thus I went a long way towards financing my first year of college!

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