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 Chapter 17

The Senate Office

Barbara was the first to get up in the rather spatious old-fashioned hotel room. The rising sun was starkly visible through the thin curtains, and she looked down on the early traffic in the street. She had been in London and Paris several times, and, while there was less charm and atmosphere in Washington, it was more exciting. She wondered idly if Moscow would be the same as she turned and looked at the others, still asleep in the double bed.

     Momentarily disturbed by the disorder of the trundle bed from which she had emerged, she quickly made it. The night before, she had volunteered for it because she didn't want to sleep with Luda. It wasn't from fear of a lesbian advance, but from the suspicion that Luda would be a tempestuous sleeper. She now saw that she had been correct.

     Rachel, looking as if she had hardly moved in the night, was on her left side, black hair partially covering her white face. On the other side, Luda, herself even more disordered than the bed, had fallen half out of it with one long leg and foot actually resting on the carpet. It was remarkable that anyone could sleep in that fashion, and, in fact, she was beginning to make noises.

     Barbara and Rachel had a fairly well established getting-up routine, taking turns in the bathroom, and Luda seemed willing to let them finish before she did whatever she did. Barbara, for one, luxuriated in the kind of bathroom she hadn't been in recently.

     It was when they were starting to get dressed that there was a discussion. Luda had been in a telephone conversation with Harry Jamieson late the previous evening, and the arrangement was for all three of them to come to the Senate office, open on Saturdays. They would there learn the procedures for volunteers. Barbara, thinking that something must have happened for Luda to be having chats with a senate chief of staff, agreed good naturedly. Rachel was delighted.

     Luda said that all the people at the office were fairly dressed up, so they put on stockings before deciding which of the few costumes they had brought to put on. Barbara had the feeling that Joan would compliment them even if they came down in Minnie Mouse outfits.

     Mr. Jamieson was a cheery and expansive young man who evidently prided himself on making people feel at home. He made a show of equal attention to each of the three visitors, but it didn't fool Barbara. She and Rachel settled down on a black leather couch with sheafs of papers describing the duties of all the staff members. The idea was that each staffer would require assistance at times, and, when sick or otherwise absent, a substitute. Jamieson said that they could fit themselves in wherever they liked. Barbara immediately spotted "liason with the IRS" in one job description, and whispered to Rachel, "This must be where influential tax cheats come to get lenient treatment when they get caught."

Rachel tittered in an unsenatorial way, but quickly recovered herself. A little later, she said quietly to Barbara, "He's supposed to be the General Motors senator, but there's nothing in here about cars at all. Only agricultural things."

Suddenly, with a shock, she discovered that Jamieson was right behind them. He laughed and explained,  “North Dakota is all farms. But votes are traded. We vote for bills that are of no interest to North Dakota, and, in return, other senators vote for things that affect, either our agriculture, or the automotive industry. It's quite a stable arrangement."

Barbara, consciously summoning up tact, replied, "I see that you do a great deal to help your constituents in the state."

"We have very few, in comparison with other states. So we can spend much more time on each of them. And that makes the senator very popular in the state. There are joys in representing a state that has hardly anyone in it."

This was said with another laugh, and it seemed to express an odd mixture of public service and cynicism. When he drifted off, Rachel said to her, "They've really built up a system that seems to make everyone happy."

"I gather that young people tend to leave the state, so the people left there will gradually get old together."

"Sure, but only at a snail's pace."

Just then, the senator blew in, dressed for tennis. He struck Barbara as a vigorous man in his fifties. Luda had told them that he looked like a horse, but it really wasn't that bad. Apparently warned of their coming, he introduced himself before anyone could interpose, and     remarked that a more youthful appearance was exactly what his office needed. He certainly did have a strange voice, but, again, it wouldn't cause the average person to flee. Barbara replied, "I hope our inexperience won't interfere with the operation."

"No, there are too many people with entirely too much experience in the senatorial offices. The wrong kind of experience."

Everyone laughed, Barbara not missing the implication that too much experience in Washington might be connected with corruption.    

     Jamieson then brought Luda, out of the inner office, and the senator said, “Then we're all here except for the other lady, Cynthia, who was here yesterday."

"She's not training to be a volunteer, but she said she'd be here for lunch."

     The senator beamed in a way that struck Barbara as jolly, and she suspected that they were to be taken to lunch. He then went into his inner office, and they returned to their volunteer preparation.

     After an hour, a quite elegant Miss Ogilvy, about thirty five, sat down on the couch opposite them. She began asking the obvious questions about home and college, but Barbara could see that she was quite intrigued with Rachel. After a few more questions, she said,  "Of course, someone of your ability should finish college, and then go to graduate school. But you could certainly come here in summers, and on vacations. For all we know, you might get tempted into politics."

"I'm really just taking one week at a time with no idea where it might lead. But I'm certainly enjoying it."

"And so you should. What about you, Barbara?"

"I'm afraid that I'm a pretty conventional soul. But I am curious about things, and I'm finding all this exciting."

Miss Ogilvy then explained, "The difficult thing in Washington is that no grandiose plan is ever put into action in anything like its original form. It’s even worse if it has a lot of inter-dependent parts. Then, when the senators from, say, Alabama and Oregon, sabotage one of the parts, the whole thing fails completely."

“That must be frustrating."

"Yes. I mention it because smart imaginative people are likely to produce plans of exactly that sort. The plodders who settle for a little here and a little there are likely to be more successful."

As the discussion continued, Miss Ogilvy never commented directly on Senator Munson, but she did allow, "No senator can be pigeon-holed as easily as you'd think. There are so many kinds of arrangements and shifting alliances that even the most conscionable ones at times take positions that can't really be justified."

As she stood, a good six feet in heels, she said, "Give this a try. If you think it isn't good for you, we'll certainly understand."

After they were sure that she was gone and that no one was behind them, Rachel whispered, "How can someone so intelligent and enlightened be part of an operation like this?"

"I think she told us. Even in the middle of an ethical chaos, some good things can be done."

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