“The strap-scorner prefers to wedge herself comfortably in between two or more persons.”

By Gregory Clark, November 27, 1920.

Conductors and Motormen are Not to Be Blamed If They Get Grouchy as a Result of Their Daily Contact With These Pests.

Conductors and motormen come in for a lot of criticism.

But what about certain types of the citizenry which add to the gayety of nations on street cars?

There is the Knee-Leaner and the Crowd-Wiggler; there is the Strap-Scorner, usually of the gentler sex, who rather than go to the trouble of hanging on to a strap, prefers to wedge herself comfortably in between two or more persons, and there sway at peace, taking all the jolts nice and softly against one or the other of her neighbors.

Then there is the Tram Somnambulist, who, the instant he gets into a car, seizes a strap and goes into a trance. These Somnambulists are a very common variety, and when five or six of them go to sleep just inside the back door of the car, it is almost impossible to shove past them to the freer forward end of the car; and no amount of shouting by the conductor or jostling even by expert Crowd-Wigglers can disturb them in their trance.

Then there is the Foot-Flattener. This is usually a middle-aged or elderly lady. She staggers up the aisle of the car making every effort to tramp on men’s feet. And when she succeeds, she turns furiously and gives her victim a fierce glare, thereby making everyone else in the car think the victim had his feet sprawled out in the aisle, or even had deliberately attempted to trip her. This Foot-Flattener is a very strange type. You would think her trampling accidental unless you studied her. No doubt her vicious conduct could be traced, psychoanalytically, to an early disappointment in love, or to mal-feeding when an infant. It is a form of misanthropy, unquestionably.

There is also the anxious lady who in a crowded car works her way up to the front; six or eight blocks before her own stop, and there stands firmly fixed in front of the door. Everybody who has to get off at the intervening stops lines up behind her thinking she is going to get off, and only discover her to be one of the fifty-seven varieties of street car Whiffenpoofs when the motorman starts the car again. Then they fight their way past her, but it doesn’t make her stand aside. She is determined not to miss her stop.

But the Whiffenpoofs are not all ladies. Take the Knee-Leaners: Middle-aged men, who seem obliged, every time anyone crowds past them, to lean their knees against those of the person sitting in front of them.

The best procedure for a young lady who suspects she has a Knee-Leaner in front of her is to draw a hat-pin absently from her hat and hold it in her hand.

One of the worst types of men is the one who reads his paper as if he were in his study at home. He turns the pages, no matter how crowded the car. And anyone who does not lean away to enable him to turn the page is liable to get an elbow in the eye.

Then there is the hearty gent who looks like a contractor, who conceals a lighted cigar-butt in his hand. He does not smoke it. He just conceals it under his palm. And what is more deathly than the fumes of an expiring cigar – a contractor’s cigar?

Nor should the Ogler be forgotten, the smartly dressed man who on entering the car, carefully surveys all the ladies present and then seats himself opposite the prettiest one and proceeds to stare fixedly at her throughout the journey. Personally, whenever I see an Ogler, I go and hang on the strap in front of him and treat him to close-up of my coat buttons.

My favorite hate, however, is the expert Crowd-Wiggler, male or female. These are the ones who work their way slowly up the crowded car, picking the spots and the instants when the crowding is worst to heave themselves into it, and squeeze and squidge themselves amid the helpless strugglers.

Have we not been working in a wrong direction when we criticize the conductors and motormen? Are those ungentle ones among them not soured by daily contact with these many varieties of street car Whiffenpoofs?

“And treat the Ogler to a close-up of my coat-buttons.”

Editor’s Note: A wiffenpoof is a generic term for an imaginary creature. You can tell in these very early stories that Greg used to take the street car to work.