Zone Policeman 88; a close range study of the Panama canal and its workers eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 220 pages of information about Zone Policeman 88; a close range study of the Panama canal and its workers.
because placards on the wall sternly warn him not to sleep on the bare mattress; and the New York Sunday edition that had served me thus far I had carelessly left behind at Corozal police station.  To be sure there were sheets for sale in Empire, at the Commissary—­where money has the purchasing-power of cobble-stones, and coupon-books come only to those who have worked a day or more on the Zone.  Then the Jamaican janitor, drifting in to potter about the room, evidently guessed the cause of my perplexity, for he turned to point to the bed of the absent “Mitch” and gurgled: 

“Jes’ you make lub to dat man what got dat bed.  Him got plenty ob sheets.”  Which proved a wise suggestion.

Empire hotel sat a bit down the hill.  There the “gold” ranks were again subdivided.  The coatless ate and sweltered inside the great dining-room; the formal sat in haughty state in what was virtually a second-story veranda overlooking the railroad yards and a part of the town, where were tables of four, electric fans, and “Ben” to serve with butler formality.  I found it worth while to climb the hill for my coat thrice a day.  As yet I was jangling down a Panamanian dollar at each appearance, but the day was not far distant when I should receive the “recruits” hotel-book and soon grow as accustomed as the rest to having a coupon snatched from it by the yellow negro at the door.  Uncle Sam’s boarding scale on the Zone is widely varied.  Three meals cost the non-employee $1.50, the “gold” employee $.90, the white European laborer $.40, and negroes in general $.30.

That afternoon, when the sun had begun to bow its head on the thither side of the canal, I climbed to the newly labeled census office on the knoll behind the police station, from the piazza of which all native Empire lies within sweep of the eye.  “The boss,” a smiling youth only well started on his third decade, whose regular duties were in the sanitary department, had already moved bed, bag, and baggage into the room that had been assigned the census, that he might be “always on the job.”

Not till eight that evening, however, did the force gather to look itself over.  There was the commander-in-chief of the census bureau, sent down from Washington specifically for the task in hand, under whom as chairmen we settled down into a sort of director’s meeting, a wholly informal, coatless, cigarette-smoking meeting in which even the chief himself did not feel it necessary to let his dignity weigh upon him.  He had been sent down alone.  Hence there had been great scrambling to gather together on the Zone men enough who spoke Spanish—­and with no striking success.  Most noticeable of my fellow-enumerators, being in uniform, were three Marines from Bas Obispo, fluent with the working Spanish they had picked up from Mindanao to Puerto Rico, and flush-cheeked with the prospect of a full month on “pass,” to say nothing of the $4.40 a day that would be added to their daily military income of $.60.  Then there were four of darker hue,—­Panamanians and West Indians; and how rare are Spanish-speaking, Americans on the Zone was proved by the admittance of such complexions to the “gold” roll.

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Zone Policeman 88; a close range study of the Panama canal and its workers from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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