Brokering and Nursing Homes
In the next weeks Heston was as tractable as anyone could have wished. We got rid of the airlines, some of the trains, and the busses. We then bought a great block of SoCal Edison. We also bought a number of other stocks of good quality even though, from Heston's point of view, there was nothing exciting about them. In fact, we soon reached a point where it looked as if Heston would agree to any move I suggested.
During this time we got a new branch manager to replace the retiring Harold Piggott. It was rumored that the job had been offered to Bret Halvorson, and that he had refused it. After all, he was already making more on commissions than he would as manager. There were many months during which Halvorson made more than any two of the rest of us. However, it would have been awkward to have promoted any of the others over Bret, and so a new man had to be brought in from the outside. This one was from Dubuque, Iowa, of all places.
It wasn't really a bad appointment. David Larsen had been manager of the Scripps Goodbody office in Dubuque, and knew how to run a brokerage. It was a step up because he was coming to a place with much more money, and one much closer to the home office. It was also convenient for him because he was in the process of divorce and wanted a change of scene.
Most of us met Larsen at the same time, when Harold Piggott called his last staff meeting and introduced him. Larsen was forty, but, square and fit, he looked younger. He also impressed one as being utterly serious and absolutely sincere. Such an appearance will do a broker no harm, but it must mask a subtlety if he is to make any money. If Larsen was actually what he appeared to be, he would be better cast as a manager and administrator than as a broker and salesman.
Larsen's initial speech was pleasant enough. He said at one point,
"It's my job to arrange the necessary support for you, and to help you reach and maintain your maximum potential. I'll be meeting with you individually in order to acquaint myself with each person's philosophy and mode of operation."
That last part sounded like a mistake. In this business, the person who can say exactly what he or she is trying to do is generally the one who can't do it. However, a new boss always has some extravagant ideas. If he's humored, they're likely to be forgotten.
It happened that my interview with Larsen came on the day that I had finished re-arranging Heston's portfolio to my satisfaction, at least for the time being. I therefore showed Larsen the before and after versions, and asked for his comments. He was a good deal slower than Halvorson would have been, but also more thorough. In the main he approved what I had done, making a few suggestions for future moves. He then asked,
"Is this the first time you've taken on this sort of responsibility?"
"I've often given advice that people've taken, but this is the first time I've done it on this scale."
"Does he do everything you advise?"
"He hasn't refused yet."
At this point, Halvorson would surely have congratulated me and left me to my own devices without any worries. Larsen was quite concerned.
"I'm certainly pleased that you're doing this much business, and you can be sure I won't do anything that would cut into it in any way. However, there's a potential for trouble here. I would prefer that you check with me before making any major moves, even if Heston approves them. At least if it involves buying anything which isn't on our 'buy' list."
"SoCal Edison is rated only a 'hold,' but his airlines were on the 'sell' list."
I then explained about Heston's toys and the windmills in the desert. Larsen gave just the tiniest smile.
"Ok, Miss Brooks. I see the logic. But think how that's going to sound in the unlikely event that SoCal Edison has a nuclear accident and we have to explain why we recommended it."
I was tempted to say that, in such a contingency, I would think up some other, more respectable, reasons for having recommended the stock. But it was clear that one didn't say such things to Larsen. I remained silent, and he concluded.
"Anyhow, it sounds as if he's reached the point where he'll take good advice, and you don't have to dress it up with windmills and things."
The conversation, from my point of view, had taken an unfortunate turn. Instead of impressing Larsen with my success in the matter of Heston, I had ended up in the position of an untried youth who has to check with an adult before doing anything. It wasn't unreasonable, since I really didn't have the qualifications of a fund manager, but it was humiliating all the same.
The rest of the conversation, oddly, was more satisfactory. Larsen was pleased with other things that I had done, even though they involved much less money. He said,
"You've done very well with the yuppies. You've probably got more of them than anyone else in the office. People may sneer at them, but they're just beginning to accumulate capital. Some of them will eventually be very wealthy. You'll be their broker, and you won't have to do the things you do with Heston to sell them stock."
Some people might have taken Larsen's last words amiss, but I didn't. He meant no harm, and it was true enough that I didn't have to find companies that operated windmills in order to recommend their stock to my younger clients.
During this period, my Saturday night date with Brad seemed to become a fixture. There was some physical contact, and, at one point, he asked me,
"Would you like to play huggy bear and kissy face, but not house?"
I had never met anyone more disarming, and ended up by asking him up for late night coffee.
I had known in advance that my invitation wouldn't develop into an unseemly struggle over the removal of my clothing. In fact, after a few moderate intimacies, Brad spotted the little computer for which I had saved my pennies. Unfortunately, there was nothing to run on it to show him but the program I had been working on. This, in turn, revealed me a good deal more starkly than the removal of my clothing would have done.
Since I had written the program only for myself, some explanation was required at the data entry stage. Some of the inputs concerned my financial status, but I wasn't particularly concerned about that. At that time, I was happy to be just a few hundred dollars into the black on my capital account. There were some other inputs, ones that didn't come from the financial pages, but I glossed quickly over them and drew Brad's attention to some alternative assumptions about the future growth of GDP. We chose long-term growth in the area of two per cent, and the final figure, .879, then appeared on the old television screen which was serving as the monitor. Brad said,
"It looks like a probability to me. What does it mean?"
"It is a probability. Not a good one either."
"I assumed that you were calculating the probability that you'd some day be rich. But most people would be very happy with a probability of eighty eight per cent."
"No. It's not that. Although it's not entirely unrelated."
I must have wanted to tell him, or I wouldn't have engaged him in a guessing game. I eventually replied,
"It's the probability that I will fail to end up with a certain sum of money."
"So you're calculating the negative possibility. How much money is it?"
"Just over two million dollars."
"My God! Why not just settle for being a millionaire?"
"That's not enough."
"Sure it is."
As Brad was in the middle of explaining how easily he could meet his needs on a much smaller sum than that, I stopped him.
"Women have a particular problem. They outlive their husbands if they have any, and they exhaust the patience of any other relatives they may happen to have. They then end up in nursing homes unless they have a whole lot of money, enough to hire people to look after them around the clock three hundred and sixty five days a year."
"I bet that explains the other inputs you were mysterious about."
"Yes. They concern the present and projected costs of RN's, LPN's, and various other staff. You can't begin to do it on the income from a million."
"I take it that you think there's an eighty eight per cent chance you'll end up in a nursing home."
"Well, that's based on present data. It can change if I really make it as a stockbroker."
"It's just so strange for a person your age to be concerned with such a thing."
"I know about nursing homes because I was in one for a month."
That, too, required further explanation, and I waded in,
"When I was eleven, and had some extensive operations on my legs, I needed a good deal of care. I was beginning to get it at home, but the physical therapist intervened. She was just beginning to work on me for the first time when my mother and father, seated on opposite sides of my bed, engaged in what was, for them, a fairly routine exchange of views, more or less over me. The therapist then advised the doctor that almost any other atmosphere than my home one would be more conducive to my recovery. I spent the next month being the youngest resident, by some sixty years, of a rather posh nursing home a short distance away."
"Well, if it was posh it couldn't have been too bad."
"Posh nursing homes have thick carpets, fine facilities, and tasteful appointments. But the underlying realities are the same as at the publicly supported ones where the poor go to die."
"Yeah, I guess there's no masking decline and death."
"There were some humorous overtones. We had a retired bank trust officer who was rather violently senile, and who tried to jump into bed with the old women. He usually had to be hauled off by the orderlies."
"That didn't scare you?"
"No. He wasn't at all interested in me. He liked mature women in their mid-eighties. I also noticed that some of the ladies preferred a somewhat defective lover to no lover at all."
"You must have been quite a clear-eyed child to have recognized that fact."
"I was all of that. Repeated surgery and a lot of passion in the home both tend to dissipate sentimentality. But it also meant that I had no rosy glow to color the things I saw. The end of the woman in the next bed with a pronounced and continued death rattle wasn't even the worst of it. It was the realization that, no matter how low the old may have been brought on any given day, they can look forward to something a little worse the next day. Visually speaking, I suppose it was the sight of all those slack jaws with spittle running down them lined up in front of the TV that finally got to me."
"They were crazy to put you in a place like that."
"I wasn't sick enough to be covered by insurance in the hospital, and even my parents agreed that home was worse. On the other hand, a month of the nursing home inclined me to take determined steps not to end up in such a place myself."
Brad was really quite sympathetic and understanding about my nursing home phobia and related financial plans. It must have been two o'clock before we got around to discussing some of his problems.
As warmly as I felt toward him that evening, my objectivity was still operating. For one thing, I confirmed for myself something Jackie had hinted at concerning his break-up with another woman, several girl friends back. It had occurred, at bottom, because her brother had been killed in an accident and Brad didn't like having to console her during the period of her mourning. However, one who has dated for fifteen years has encountered worse than that. Besides, I had no brothers or sisters to be killed in crashes.
When I woke up the next morning, I still felt pretty good about Brad. The next question was whether to take him to a party given by Bret Halvorson and his wife. Brad was certainly presentable in the ordinary sense. If he was on his best behavior, people would like him, and would be impressed with the sort of man I could attract. It would be said that I wasn't married only because I had very high standards, or, at worst, because I was "too choosy."
On the other hand, Brad had an imagination and sensitivity that enabled him to think of really wounding things to say about people. He would certainly be tactful on the night of the party, but he might easily get to know the people I worked with. If he did, he would eventually say something devastating about someone, very possibly about me.
It was close to a toss-up, and I discussed the issue with Janey. She said, quite sensibly,
"If you're right about him, you have something to lose. On the other hand, even if he makes a great impression and says only good things about you, you don't come out much ahead. You already have the respect of the men around here."
I knew she was right, but I found myself leaning the other way. If I took Brad, he would be attentive to me, and would display exactly the right degree of affection. He was very far from being the sort of man who would trail after some other woman. As I said to Janey,
"I just can't stand having people think that no man's ever wanted me. If I show them Brad just once, they won't think that any more."
Janey laughed and replied,
"Well, that can be important, too. If it were me, I'd go and get myself a great new dress."
I agreed entirely, and undertook a trip to the city just for that purpose. After several stores and much trying on, I came away with a simple little silk dress in pale yellow with a skirt that floated around me. The shoes to match were expensive, but it was worth it. When dressed in my new outfit, no one would ever recognize that naked girl in the old college photograph.
On the night of the party, Brad looked very much the college professor he might have been. People in the business world may have some doubts about the kind of person who's willing to try to get along on an academic salary, but there's also a good deal of grudging respect for the intellectual.
With any luck, no one would find out that Brad was now only trying to flog textbooks. He could say that he was in publishing, and no one was likely to press him further. While I couldn't actually ask him to conceal the manner in which he made his living, such an evasion in these circumstances would probably be second nature to him.
We hardly got past the Halvorson's doorway before we confronted a gaggle of wives. As always, I was polite. I even made a show of friendship, particularly when the husbands were looking on. If one of these wives made a scene when she got home, her husband would protest that I had gone out of my way to be nice to her. He would privately put her reaction down to jealousy, and might even be brave enough to tell her so. Little would he realize that, after that initial burst of good feeling, I had ignored his wife, and the other wives, in order to bestow my admiring glances on my colleagues.
All this was a little hard on Brad, or would have been if he had been less accomplished socially. After all, he knew no one, and there was nothing much for him to do while I was busy making the male egos grow. However, the men were interested in seeing what kind of man I had turned up with, and, one by one, I could see them engaged in earnest conversation with him. I had the impression that Brad was being Socratic, and that my colleagues were explaining their lives to him. For the rest, he was rather clever at inserting himself into groups of women who were talking about babies and cooking. I did hear Donna Maloney address an extraordinary remark to him,
"It's nice of you to take an interest in us, Mr. Herbstreit. But, you see, we've been ignored by the men so long that we've learned to talk exclusively about homemaking. Having made this adjustment, we've found that we can no longer talk about anything else."
Donna, a pretty woman, finished with a vixenish little smile. Brad responded easily,
"I'm a homemaker myself. My little dog has a very sensitive stomach, but I find that, if I add just a dash of oregano to her crunchies, she's ever so much brighter, and more regular besides."
That drew a laugh, even from Donna, and Brad had no further trouble. Largely because of his influence, there was a period during which the men and women actually mixed together.
We left about midnight, along with most of the others. As soon as we got into his car, Brad said,
"My God, Adrienne, those women don't much like you."
"The men don't care whether their wives like me, so I've never made much effort with them."
"I see. I think there may also be another reason."
With that, he stopped the car on an empty shopping street, pulling in to the curb almost at a right angle. Leaving the car running, he got out and escorted me along the sidewalk. Once he had positioned me carefully facing one of the plate glass store windows, he said only,
By virtue of the headlights, I could see my reflection in the window, my legs clearly outlined despite my skirt and slip. I burst out,
"You should have told me!"
"I didn't notice until we got to the party, and it was too late then. It looks like you're the Mata Hari of Stockport."
It was foolish of Brad to have enlightened me. He had behaved so beautifully that I was thinking of bestowing on him the Great Reward. The little scene on the sidewalk broke the mood, but I again invited him in for coffee. My first act was to disappear into the bedroom and put on another slip. Then, once seated with coffee, it was impossible not to try to find out exactly what the women had said. He allowed,
"None of them said anything about your clothes. I don't recall that any of them mentioned you by name."
"What did they say, then?"
"One of them said that a woman in this business has to be either a bitch or a floozy to succeed, and that it helps to be both. But another one disagreed. I think she was the hostess, Halvorson's wife."
Barbara Halvorson was the only one of the wives that I had tried to cultivate. Her husband was the only one I could learn from, and it was important to be welcome in her home. I also happened to like her. It was good if she had come to my defence. I said,
"Her name is Barbara, a tall blonde woman."
"That's her. She said a woman could succeed by being a corporate cupcake."
"What does that mean?"
"From the context, I gather that she doesn't think you're sleeping with her husband, but does think that you flirt a lot. She didn't seem to resent it particularly, not the way the others do."
"I had hoped for something a little more positive from her."
"It may have been quite positive. People don't usually contradict others, and she must know how they feel about you. Her idea may have been that a corporate cupcake is one that the others needn't worry about."
"So she's trying to get the others to substitute contempt for outright hatred in their attitudes toward me?"
"The fact that all of this was said in front of you makes it worse. They must've known you'd tell me."
"Not necessarily. I was pretty much one of the girls by this time. They were very angry, at their husbands as well as you, and they'd had a few drinks. They weren't being real careful about what they said."
"I did decide fairly early on not to talk children and cooking with them, but I didn't want them to hate me. It's amazing that they can be that angry and show it so little. They all smile at me when they see me."
"Those women are good at concealment. I dare say they'll have sex with their husbands tonight even if they have to grit their teeth to do it."
"Yes. There are advantages in not being married."
"You aren't angry at me, are you?"
"You were perfect at the party, and I'm very grateful for that. But I do wish you'd been a little more tactful with me afterward. You probably don't realize what a shock it is for a woman to suddenly discover that everyone can see through her clothes. Still, not many men could have dealt with that group as well as you did."
I went over to Brad's chair and kissed him. He pulled me on to his lap, but, after a very pleasant half hour in which I remained mostly dressed, I sent him home.
The phone rang just as I was about to go to sleep. I was pretty sure that it would be Jackie. She and I have a convention of calling any time, even in the middle of the night, if something goes seriously wrong. It had. She had had a major and probably permanent break-up with Max, the man she had gone with for some years. She said,
"There was something I'd thought many times, but I really became convinced of it tonight while I was with him. He even admitted it."
Jackie was having some trouble talking, but I encouraged her. She went on,
"I finally realized that, if he ever did marry me, he'd keep thinking of reasons not to have children until it was too late."
I consoled her as much as I could. Max was very talented, a composer whose works were beginning to be performed. Everyone liked him, and he, in turn, had always seemed to care rather deeply for Jackie. But not quite enough, apparently, to face having children. She said,
"He might possibly have been willing if I'd promised that I'd do absolutely all the caretaking, and that children would never ever interfere with his work. But, even if I had promised that, he probably wouldn't have believed me."
Jackie sounded very bitter indeed. I sided with her against Max even though I suspected that he had never said anything to give her false hope about her prospects for motherhood. I said,
"The mere fact of his spending so much time with you really constituted a commitment. He knew he was keeping you from seeing anyone else."
Jackie was crying as she replied,
"The trouble was that he was so damned interesting. I never gave anyone else a chance."
"There's plenty of time left. You're only thirty two."
This turned out not to be the right thing to say. As I tried to undo the damage, I realized that thirty two seemed much older to Jackie than to me. I had always been the one who was less keen to have children. I hadn't wanted them at all in my mid-twenties, and, while I had recently changed my mind, I still had some misgivings. Jackie had wanted them always, not enough to give up a good job or to marry just anybody, but persistently and consistently. She now wanted them with a terrible urgency.
When I warned Jackie about getting involved with the wrong man before she had recovered from Max, she replied,
"For two cents, I'd find someone in a bar, or anywhere, who seemed to have reasonably good genes. I could get pregnant and then get rid of him."
I was worried and tried to get her to come on for a visit. She said she would like to, but couldn't leave work just then. We finally agreed to spend a couple of weeks together in July. It was almost three when we finally hung up.
In the next week, David Larsen continued his series of interviews. At the Halvorsons' party he hadn't said much, and had looked uncomfortable. Now, as he went from one interview to another, he looked even less happy. He dutifully joined the group at the cocktail lounge after work each day, but it was easy enough to see that he hated the whole atmosphere.
Fridays were, naturally, the most boisterous and most unpleasant times at the lounge. Our two alcoholics came into their own, and the others provided company and encouragement. Even Bret Halvorson, without drinking much, seemed to think it important to slap backs and talk about professional sports.
On the next Friday, I really did have to work late. I offered to lock up, but Larsen, also with some things to do, said he would remain. As the others left, they urged us to catch up with them at the lounge. That was a particularly unappealing prospect since some of them would, by that time, be drunk.
It was a half hour later, when Larsen and I both ended up in front of the coffee-maker, that he said abruptly,
"I've found out why Halvorson didn't want to be in charge here."
Larsen was almost bursting with pent-up frustration, and, trying tactfully to dam the flood, I replied,
"It seemed to me, when I came here two years ago, that he was the most able person. I imagine he just wants to keep his clients."
Larsen wasn't willing to let it go at that and said,
"Halvorson's good. I have no problems there. But you, with only a couple of years' experience, are the next best. The rest of them are no more than a drinking and social club. This would be a better branch if it contained just you and I and Halvorson."
I knew that this little speech constituted a gross breach of the managerial principle of not talking with one subordinate about the others. But, in the circumstances, it was probably inevitable. Here was a man, with not even a wife to talk to, who had just found himself stuck with something no one else had wanted. I asked only,
"Does Bret know you feel that way?"
Larsen shook his head shamefacedly. He had bared his soul only to me. He then added,
"I assume that he didn't take the job partly because he knew what the others were like. But he seems friendly with them. He's out drinking with them now."
"I don't think Bret's under any illusions, but the present situation is pretty good for him. He wants to work in a pleasant atmosphere, so he's nice to the others. It doesn't cost him anything, and I think he actually likes some of them. He could go on forever like that."
"I imagine he could, but I can't."
I was struck at that moment by the fact that Larsen and Halvorson were both of Scandinavian origin. Although they were quite different sorts of men, they shared a sense of personal distance and reserve which might prevent their ever talking directly with one another about anything sensitive. But, of course, they could talk with a woman. On this occasion, I knew exactly what Larsen wanted to know. He wanted to know whether Halvorson would mind seriously if he, Larsen, fired some of the others. I replied,
"Even if your general impression of our staff is correct, which it probably is, I dare say that you aren't yet in a position to really point fingers at individuals. Bret could help you there, but ...."
"I could hardly expect him to help me make personnel decisions. If he were willing to do that, he'd be the manager."
"Anyhow, after your series of interviews are over, you may know these people reasonably well."
There was no immediate reply. Larsen, having exploded, was now trying to think things out. He might have preferred to do it in private, but it was too late for that. He said,
"I can't go just by results over a limited period. Whoever turns over the least gets fired. That could be unfair."
I said nothing at this critical juncture. He continued,
"Whenever you fire a broker, you risk alienating and losing his clients. The real question is whose clients could be most easily switched to someone else. For example, if we fired you, we'd immediately lose Heston, not to mention all your yuppies."
It was no more than the truth, and I nodded modestly. Larsen then went off on another tack.
"I'm tempted to fire the obvious alcoholics, but they're often the people who do inspire loyalty in their clients, specially when the clients are drinking buddies."
I finally replied,
"I can't answer any of those questions for you, but I can find out some of what Bret thinks."
"Whatever you do, don't make it sound as if I want to know."
I smiled and reassured him. The conversation then turned inevitably to the problems of divorce. Remembering that Larsen thought me young and inexperienced, I decided not to be overly gentle with him. I asked,
"Is your wife now less attractive than she was when you married her?"
That brought him up short.
"You don't think I'd leave just ..."
He trailed off confusedly, his eyes looking pained and his mouth open. I replied,
"Either the wife finds someone else and leaves, or she goes downhill enough so that the husband's no longer willing to make the effort needed to hold things together. Sometimes he finds someone else before he leaves, but I'd guess that you haven't."
"You're a pretty honest man, David. I didn't think you would. But you still have a lot of guilt, and you're worried about the children."
It is, of course, fatally easy to predict what people in the middle of a divorce are thinking and feeling. However, they always seem to think that they're unique. The result is that anyone with the most ordinary powers of intuition appears to have extraordinary sensitivity and sympathy.
Larsen's children were both boys, aged twelve and fourteen. I could imagine him, with a baseball cap set squarely on his head, endlessly pitching balls for them to hit. He'd be encouraging and not overly instructive. Despite the fact that he didn't have much fun about him, he'd make it fun for his boys. I said to him,
"You'd be a good father to boys. Are they coming to visit soon?"
It turned out that the boys' mother would probably not try to poison them against David, and that they would be coming in a month's time.
When we finally left the office, it was dark. As we got into our cars in the parking lot behind the building, it was clear that we had established a line of communication relatively free of obstacles.
My conversation a couple of days later with Bret Halvorson was the complement to the one with David. At one point, Bret smiled and said,
"I knew what you had in mind when you invited me for a drink, Adrienne. With some girls it might have been sex, but, with you, it's business. Even my wife recognizes that."
"I had a talk with David Friday about our branch."
"I knew you would when you and he stayed behind Friday."
"Can you also guess what he said?"
Bret gave me a somewhat crooked smile and replied,
"Probably, but I'd rather have you tell me."
"Okay. He said that this would be a better branch if it contained just you and I and he. I don't think he seriously intends to fire all the others, but he wants to know whose clients could be switched to someone else. He's also quite a prim man who doesn't like alcoholics. But he realizes that they may be good salesmen."
"That last is mostly a myth, at least in this business. Lots of salesmen can be drunks and be effective, but a broker is special. If a client once sees him drunk, he'll always wonder what may be going on in his account. Even if he likes the broker enough so that he'd never voluntarily take his business away, he may be relieved if someone else does it for him."
There was a pause while Bret let this sink in. It didn't sound as if he were setting up to defend anyone at all. It seemed safe for me to say,
"I guess what he needs to know is simple. Is there anyone whose sudden departure would upset you?"
"No one outside of present company. I may make some show of sympathy, partly for my wife's sake. She's friends with most of the other wives. But that shouldn't be misunderstood."
The very next day, when David drove me to pick up my car at the repair shop, I said,
"Bret doesn't mind if you fire everyone but us. But the wives are going to kick up a hell of a fuss, even if you only fire a couple, and Bret's wife is friends with all of them. So, to satisfy his wife, Bret is going to have to act unhappy about it. Knowing the way this office works, I'm sure anything he says will be exaggerated. The upshot is that, sooner or later, you'll be told that Bret has said various negative things about you. Reports like that should just be ignored."
"When Bret says he doesn't want to take responsibility for firing anyone, I can see that he means it."
"Certainly. He's a real individualist, neither a leader nor a follower. He just wants to do his own work, and it's to your advantage to let him do it."
At that moment, there was a look about David that suggested that he might become rather bossy in time. I had taken him up a little short in defense of Bret, and he didn't like it very well. However, it was important to retain initiative. I said,
"If you do want a leaner team here, you might take over some accounts yourself. You could do a much better job with them than is presently being done."
Oddly enough, David, straight arrow that he was, was inordinately sensitive to feminine compliments. He bucked up immediately. When we arrived at the repair place, he jumped out of his car and followed me in.
It was nice of David to go in with me. A professional woman, picking her way in high heels between pools of oil and grease, looks so out of place that her normally authoritative clothes make her look ridiculous. And then, when the mechanic charges her for re-setting her gummidge, she must either pay with whatever dignity she can muster or reveal her total ignorance. I have seen better women than I reduced to hysteria in such circumstances. One of them, in the course of being cheated, tripped over a grease rack and ended up sitting in a puddle of oil to the amusement of the assembled mechanics and loafers.
David's mere presence caused them to find a mistake in the bill they had planned to give me. Having paid, I got into my car to join the others at the cocktail lounge. David went home.