ON OUR WAY
"NEW YORK isn't the United States," said Mr. Keen one day. "Let's take the old jitney and have a look around the country.''
One morning at daybreak we started out. We drove into a tunnel on one side of the Hudson river and came out on the other side, in another State!
Speeding southward we mounted an 'aerial' highway which stretched for miles and miles. It bridged city after city, over which we passed.
A red light stopped us at a crossing. A seedy looking man approached and asked us for a lift. I instinctively opened the door and moved over to make room for him. The man jumped in. Mr. Keen didn't seem to like it.
For a while we drove along in silence, then Mr. Keen said:
"How far are you going?"
"To tell you the truth, I really don't know," said the man. I looked at him in astonishment. Then he said: "You see, I have no place to go to."
"Out of a job, huh?" asked Mr. Keen.
"Yep, I was too good."
I thought he was joking, but his voice didn't sound like Americans when they joke.
"I worked for a big manufacturer as chief engineer," he explained. "I was their expert on electric bulbs. I made them so well that the life of the bulb was practically unlimited. You know what that means? The company fired me. They got another guy; he was not so ambitious. He made them a bulb that would wear out sooner -- without fail. And that's not all. You should see their warehouses! Loaded with models of patents that they buy up left and right to keep them off the market. Well, after all, those are only the fat guys who are out solely to make money. But, when you get your own fellow professionals, other engineers, scientists coming out with proposals to place a ban on all inventions for the next fifty years -- then you realize what you're up against."
"Well," said Mr. Keen, "they still build good roads. And did you see that tunnel we came through?"
"Sure," said the man, "they are building roads. They are building tunnels. They are building battleships too and aeroplanes and bigger and better guns. Roosevelt just appropriated two and a half billion dollars for the coming war. As Coolidge said: 'We can't afford both civilization and war.' So the Hell with civilization!"