14 August 2014

I find the Gilded Age novelist William Dean Howells to be the best corrective to today's jargon-loving cabals of "disruptive innovators."  The following comes from Chapter 13 of The Minister's Charge (1886, set in Boston):

A horse-car came by, and Lemuel stopped it.  He set his bag down on the platform, and stood there near the conductor, without trying to go inside, for the bag was pretty large, and he did not believe the conductor would let him take it in.
The conductor said politely after a while, "See, 'd I get your fare?"
"No," said Lemuel.  He paid, and the conductor went inside and collected the other fares.
When he came back he took advantage of Lemuel's continued presence to have a little chat.  He was a short, plump, stubby-mustached man, and he looked strong and well, but he said, with an introductory sigh, "Well, sir, I get sore all over at this business.  There ain't a bone in me that hain't got an ache in it.  Sometimes I can't tell but what it's the ache got a bone in it, ache seems the biggest."
"Why, what makes it?" asked Lemuel, absently.
"Oh, it's this standin'; it's the hours, and changin' the hours so much.  You hain't got a chance to get used to one set o' hours before they get 'em all shifted round again.  Last week I was on from eight to eight; this week it's from twelve to twelve.  Lord knows what it's going to be next week.  And this is one o' the best lines in town, too."
"I presume they pay you pretty well," said Lemuel, with awakening interest.
"Well, they pay a dollar 'n half a day," said the conductor.
"Why, it's more than forty dollars a month," said Lemuel.
"Well, it is," said the conductor scornfully, "if you work every day in the week.  But I can't stand it more than six days out o' seven, and if you miss a day, or if you miss a trip, they dock you.  No, sir.  It's about the meanest business I ever struck.  If I wa'n't a married man, 'n if I didn't like to be regular about my meals and get 'em at home 'th my wife, I wouldn't stand it a minute.  But that's where it is.  It's regular."

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