by Peter Bridges
Thus was launched a distinguished career in the U.S. Foreign Service, a beginning that was typical in broad outline for many of his colleagues of the era. But Ambassador Bridges, in this somewhat whimsical account of his first post abroad, also provides the reader with an inside look at the operations of an American mission abroad in a place and time the like of which we probably will not see again.
Ambassador Bridges has contributed to American Diplomacy in the past, including Mr. Carr Goes to Prague (Fall 1998).
IT WAS JUNE 1959, and hot summer in Washington. I was completing my first two years in the State Department and waiting to learn what would be our first post abroad. I came home one evening to our little Virginia apartment which lacked air conditioning, and my suffering wife said ‘I don’t care where they send us, just so it’s not the tropics!’ Two evenings later I came home with our assignment: Panama. Well, we decided, it could hardly be worse than this. We outfitted ourselves for the tropics, as best we could afford. In my case this meant buying one more $40 lightweight Haspel suit to add to the two I had, plus new swimming trunks. And there we were on an October day with our two small children, heading south in a DC-7 to the tropics, which we imagined would prove less exotic and more Americanized than what we had seen of EuropeWe arrived at Panama’s Tocumen airport at six that evening, the hot sun almost down and the runway still wet from rain. At plane side we were met by my new chief, the First Secretary and head of the Embassy’s political section, and his pleasant wife. As we drove away from the airport towards Panama City the tropical night suddenly came down. The countryside was utterly black, with only an occasional candle or lantern visible in a roadside but, and the warm humid air was full of exotic smells. It was a new adventure for us; it excited me. But what my new chief and his wife were telling us was that we would be able to shop at the commissary and PX in the Canal Zone and they were well stocked; that there were two military swimming pools we could use in the Zone; that we would want to join the Fort Amador officers’ club, which had the only usable beach near Panama City. That was not the stuff of adventure; not what my wife and I wanted to hear on our first night at our new post in the tropics. I wondered what the future would bring.
We were to stay at the Tivoli Guest house until we could find a permanent place to live. This was a big old wooden hotel with a long veranda, on the Canal Zone side of Fourth of July Avenue which formed the border between the Zone and the Republic of Panama. The Tivoli was a vestige of the days before World War I when the Americans were building the Canal and President Theodore Roosevelt told the world ‘I took Panama.’ We settled into two high-ceilinged rooms. At the rear of the hotel was a quiet cool courtyard shaded by a great corotu tree. It was the kind of place we had hoped to find in the tropics, and no less pleasant for being a remnant of a semi-colonial past.
I had been assigned to Panama as Third Secretary of Embassy and Vice Consul, with responsibilities as a political officer, the most junior of three such positions in the Embassy. I was not well prepared to take on my new responsibilities. Two years earlier, our small class of new Foreign Service officers had taken a three-month orientation course at the Foreign Service Institute. We had toured the various State Department bureaus and several other federal agencies claiming an interest in foreign affairs. We had been told a little about protocol, and two entertaining gentlemen from the U.S. Information Agency had impressed on us how different foreign cultures and foreign usages might he from our own. A personnel lady had explained the pension system, which interested us little at this stage in our careers. We had also received instructions on bow to prepare travel vouchers.But what no one had impressed on us was that the President and Secretary of State needed from our Service succinct reporting on the world and effective representation of American views and policies to other governments. Nor did our course teach us anything about international law, though few of us had studied law before entering the Service. Nor were we taught anything about diplomatic practice, beyond an hour or two of instruction in preparing diplomatic notes.
Fortunately my first two years in the Service had been spent in the bowels of the department as the most junior of five officers on the Soviet desk. I had at least learned how the department functioned, and had come to realize that lengthy despatches from posts abroad were not going to reach the eyes of an over-busy under or assistant secretary while a terse, timely cable might. In the weeks before we left Washington I had also read all I could about Panama and our position there.
Our Embassy was in the Republic, but the Republic was cut in two by the Canal Zone, a belt of land five miles wide on either side of the Panama Canal which the United States held, by treaty with Panama, in perpetuity. The Canal and the Zone were administered by the Panama Canal Company, a corporation with a single stockholder, the Secretary of the Army; and the Governor of the Canal Zone was always a major general from the Army Corps of Engineers. We paid Panama not quite two million dollars a year for our position on the Isthmus, which was all we said we could afford; but we had not raised canal tolls since the canal was opened in 1914; low tolls benefited trans-canal traffic between the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the United States. It seemed the relationship between Panama and ourselves was at best tense. In the past, it had erupted into violence more than once.
It was seven o’clock on a Thursday morning when I first walked into the American Embassy on the sea front, a few hundred feet from the monument where Vasco Nufiez de Balboa stands looking proudly out at his great discovery—discovery for Europeans—the Pacific Ocean. The instruction of the junior political officer began. My boss the First Secretary explained what I already knew; that there were normally three officers in our section but for now there were just the two of us, plus Natalie Worcester who had worked there for years. She was married to a Canal Zone teacher, and she was both our stenographer and the person responsible for preparing our biographic reports on important Panamanians. She was quiet, and she knew a lot.So what was I supposed to do? Reporting and representation, the boss explained briefly. He and his wife were planning a reception for my wife and me, the following week, to introduce us to a number of influential people. I thanked him. Meanwhile, he said, today was a ‘weaker’ day. At least that was what it sounded like in his Louisiana accent; but I knew that he meant Weeka. In those days before optical character readers and computers made it possible to send cables faster than we could write or read them, embassies were instructed to send the department a summary and assessment of the local political scene, once a week, by diplomatic pouch. This was the Weeka, and of course it was supplemented by cables on urgent matters and by longer despatches reporting on various subjects in detail.
My boss said he would show me how he composed his, or rather our, Weeka. I could start helping the following week. It began with the scissors.
There were four or five American intelligence agencies, civilian and military, operating on the Isthmus of Panama. Each sent a lot of reporting to Washington on recent and potential Panama events, and they copied our Embassy with their reporting. My chief found it convenient to snip pieces from the various reports as they came in during the week. Then, on Weeka day, he would combine these snippets, using Scotch tape, with little paragraphs he pounded out with two fingers on his typewriter. Thus was the Weeka constructed. By late morning there were four or five pages of it, which the master let his apprentice read. What the master typed largely summarized the reporting in Panama’s numerous and generally unreliable newspapers. My chief had very little of his own to contribute. He handed the mess to Natalie to type in final form as a despatch to the department, and invited me to join him for a sandwich in the Embassy snack bar. Next day, he said, he would introduce me to an informal Friday luncheon group which included some of the Embassy’s most reliable contacts.
THE LUNCHEON GROUP turned out to be a pleasant one, although not all its members were acute observers of the Panama scene. We met not at a Panama City restaurant but at the officers’ club at Fort Amador, one of the two U.S. Army posts on the Pacific side of the Canal Zone. Besides my boss and me the group included Paul Runnestrand, longtime executive secretary of the Canal Zone government; Judge Crowe, who presided over the Federal District Court in the Canal Zone, an institution whose creation, Panamanians complained, violated the U.S.-Panama treaties; the counselor of the Peruvian Embassy, Alvarado, who became a good friend of mine; a well-born Panamanian named Arias, who did public relations work for Pan American Airways; and an engaging American lawyer named Henry Newell, whose Spanish and comprehension of the local scene soon struck me as extraordinary. It turned out that Newell’s mother was Panamanian.As the months went by, Henry Newell introduced me to some interesting and influential Panamanians. Some years after I left the Isthmus, he married Cecilia Remon, the widow of a President of the Republic who had been killed at the racetrack in 1955 by assassins who were never identified.
The luncheon conversation ran free after a couple of rounds of pisco sours. My boss casually—or rather, I thought, attempting to sound casual—asked Arias and Newell what was really going to happen on 4 November, the national holiday. I suspected that Messrs. Arias and Newell numbered among the ‘reliable sources’ cited in the Weeka. We were apprehensive about 4 November that year, because Aquilino Boyd and Ernesto Castillero Pimentel were threatening to raise the Panamanian flag in the Canal Zone, where our Canal Company insisted that only ‘Old Glory’ could fly.
Castillero was a small hunchbacked professor who was a fierce nationalist. Boyd, who owed his surname to an Irish grandfather, had already been Foreign Minister though still in his thirties. Our Ambassador, a career officer named Julian Harrington, had looked on Boyd as a sort of protegé when the latter was minister. Now, though, with the flag-raising business, Harrington had ended the relationship. (Aquilino Boyd served in later years as Panama’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, where a number of American officials, including me, enjoyed decent relations with him. Harrington had begun his career 37 years earlier as a clerk at Malaga and was now gouty and aging.)
The November Fourth celebrations were to include a morning parade in the old quarter of Panama City, which the President of the Republic, together with foreign ambassadors, would review from the balcony of his palace. Neither Arias nor Newell, nor the combined powers of our intelligence agencies, could forecast just what Boyd and Castillero would do on the fourth, or whether serious trouble would result. The day before, I told my boss I would walk down to see the parade. He was planning a day in the Zone, and did not demur. As I walked toward the palace I had the impression that I was the only gringo in the crowd of darker skinned people. I found a place on the sidewalk near the cathedral and was watching Guardia Nacional units with a good band march by, when a well-dressed woman came up to me and said in Spanish that I seemed to be a North American. She told me quickly, quietly, that this was no place for me; I should leave before there was trouble. I decided to take her advice, and began walking back toward the Tivoli Guest House. (Some time later I met the lady again, and we became friends; she was Panama’s first woman judge.)
As I neared Fourth of July Avenue, with the modern building of Panama’s National Assembly on my right, I saw in front of me several groups of mainly dark-skinned, barefoot boys from the nearby slums, a type known pejoratively as cocos pelados or ‘peeled coconuts’ to well-to-do Panamanians. The cocos pelados were throwing rocks at a line of Canal Zone police in gas masks who were facing them along the avenue. Behind the boys, closer to me, a group of six or eight lighter skinned, better dressed men was egging them on: ‘Hurrah, boys, give it to the Yankee imperialists!’ My first look at elemental Panama politics. The trouble was, I was on the wrong side of the line. Eventually there came a lull and I made my way across the street. A few minutes later I found a taxi to take me to the Embassy. It was closed for the holiday, and the only people inside were a Marine guard and our Deputy Chief of Mission, John Shillock. The DCM had decided trouble was likely, and so had come down to the Embassy rather than accompany Ambassador Harrington to the President’s palace.
I had just finished telling Mr. Shillock what I had seen in town when, looking out the window, we saw Aquilino Boyd walking along the sidewalk below. As usual there was a Guardia Nacional car with two agents parked nearby—and now we saw the car drive off. John Shillock, a veteran of 30 years in Latin America, said ‘I think I know what’s going to happen now’, and he phoned down to the Marine that we could expect some visitors outside and that he should in any event keep the door locked and barred and stay at his post.
Several minutes later a group of 50 or 60 cocos pelados came walking up Avenida Balboa. They walked across the Embassy lawn to our flagpole, pulled down our flag, and tore it up, with appropriate shouts about Yankee imperialism. I had expected to see Aquilino Boyd egg them on, but he kept a distance, perhaps discomfited by seeing the deputy to his onetime friend the Ambassador staring down at him. Eventually the barefoot patriots departed, and so did Boyd. As I was helping John Shillock write a reporting cable to the department, Paul Runnestrand in the Canal Zone phoned with more news. A couple of hours earlier, Boyd and Castillero had led an automobile caravan into the Zone, stopping every so often to plant small Panamanian flags by the roadside and running into trouble at every stop with the Zone police, who pulled up the flags. I was not attracted by either side of this affair. Planting little flags in the Canal Zone seemed childish; pulling down and tearing up our flag I thought atrocious. But neither did I see much virtue in the Canal Company’s insistence that only the American flag could fly in the Zone—an insistence based on a provision in the Treaty of 1903 that the United States should enjoy all the rights in the Canal Zone that we would possess if we were sovereign there. The Panamanians of course said that this meant we were not sovereign there.
This argument had gone for over four decades, but now it grew sharper. There was no more stone throwing after 4 November, but it appeared that every Panamanian without exception backed Boyd’s and Castillero’s doings and agreed that Panama’s flag must fly—along with ours, most agreed—in the Zone. Only a dreamer could imagine that a time would come when only Panama’s flag would fly there—when indeed there would be no more Canal Zone.The next several months were a time of stiff relations between the two republics, but my wife and I, who had rented a hillside apartment with a view over the sea, found it easy to make friends in Panama. I wanted to get to know a broad range of Panamanians, but the friendliest were those from the upper classes, whose nationalism was coupled with a strong desire that we would see them as our country’s best Panamanian friends and allies. These people, known by the lower classes as rabiblancos or white-tails, sent their children to study in colleges in Texas and Louisiana; their wives went shopping in Miami; the men had their annual checkups at the Ochsner Clinic in New Orleans. Nor were they averse to marrying off a child to an American. If chaos ever came to the Isthmus, one could hope to get the family to the north through this ‘Yanqui’ connection. I met a lot of such people, but I rejected from the start the idea that these well-to-do Arosemenas and Arias were the only Panamanians we should deal with—the only Panamanians whose interests mattered.
I developed a short list of relatively honest, well regarded Panamanians who were something other than rabiblancos and whom I wanted to befriend. One was a young university professor, said to be the most popular and principled man in that institution. We met, and found that we did not agree on much but that we could discuss frankly the many problems between our two countries, all of them relating to the canal. National elections were held. The professor s small party joined with others in a coalition which obtained a majority of seats in the National Assembly. Rumor had it that my friend would become vice minister of education; but instead he became collector of customs at Tocumen Airport. I suspected, but had no proof, that he had taken the customs job because it would provide illicit income. He and his wife had lately had us to dinner, and now we offered dinner to him and his young wife on his birthday, inviting also several of his friends. After dinner the men sat on our balcony and made a proposal to me: the United States should quietly finance an apartment complex for them. We were, after all, friends; and what were friends for? The evening left me wondering where I should find an honest man in Panama.
In fact, I knew such a person, though I did not much like him. He was Carlos Garay, the desk officer for United States affairs in the Foreign Ministry. His father Narciso Garay had been one of Panama’s first foreign ministers. The son was a pale bachelor with a large mustache who always wore a splendid white suit, with one sleeve pinned in. Garay had lost his right arm, and three fingers from the other hand, in an automobile accident which killed the woman he loved. He was a bitter man, and beyond his own tragedy he was bitter about us. Carlos Garay knew every detail of the vexed relationship between our two countries, beginning with Panama’s declaration of independence from Colombia in 1903 and the first treaty between us, a treaty signed for Panama not by a Panamanian but by a Frenchman, Philippe Bunau-Varilla, who, all Panamanians agreed, had signed away more Panamanian rights than any native Panamanian would have done. It seemed to me that we had more problems, big and little, with Panama than we did with perhaps any other country including the Soviet Union.
TO CARLOS GARAY it was all a catalogue of wrong deeds by the Colossus of the north. Garay and his ministry protested against our selling postage stamps in the Canal Zone, robbing the Republic of revenue; protested against our permitting Chinese truck farmers to grow and sell produce in the Zone, taking business from Panama City shopkeepers; protested against our establishment of a Federal District Court in the Zone, run by my friend Judge Crowe; protested against our continued operation of the railroad across the Isthmus, which competed with Panamanian bus companies. In the Panamanian view none of these activities was sanctioned by any of the bilateral treaties, and they harmed Panamanian interests. Garay got particularly worked up over the Federal Court, which often tried Panamanian citizens on what Garay insisted was Panamanian and not American soil. I did not like Garay’s hard and bitter way, but we maintained a polite relationship. And, although I did not say so to Garay, I thought that the United States could easily change several practices which damaged our relations.The most important of these was the Canal Company’s method of hiring persons at the professional level. They would not hire Panamanians for responsible positions, on grounds of national security. But even if one thought this reasonable, and I did not, there was the additional fact that the Company hired Americans locally where possible. This policy had resulted in the creation of a colony of Zonians, people whose families had lived in the Canal Zone for two and often three generations. They held American passports, but many or most of them visited the United States only when they were forced periodically to take home leave. Nor were they all North American by origin; many had Panamanian mothers or grandmothers. But they hated the Panamanians in the Republic. Their fatherland was the Zone, the ten-mile-wide strip between the seas. And although few of these people ever went to Washington, they had found their voice in the Congress, among members easily swayed by arguments that a change in hiring practices would weaken security. The Zonians also disliked our Embassy. We did not, admittedly, stand up for them. We were more concerned about overall American interests.
Fidel Castro had come to power in Cuba some months before I reached Panama, and there was a certain amount of pro-Fidel feeling in Panama, as elsewhere in Latin America. It had one pitiful result. A group of students in Santiago, the capital of Panama’s Veraguas Province, decided to emulate Fidel, took whatever rifles and shotguns they could find in town, and went up into the low sierra from which they sent a manifesto down to Santiago, proclaiming revolution and calling on the peasants and townspeople to join them. Two companies of the Guardia Nacional, Panama’s combined military and police force, were sent into the sierra where they found and soon killed all the young men.
I traveled when I could to Veraguas and other parts of the interior, the area between the Zone and the Costa Rican border, which the Pan-American highway made relatively accessible, although much of the road was then still unpaved. Our Embassy contained a large element from the US Agency for International Development, whose members clearly accomplished little. Many of them did not even speak Spanish. I liked to travel to the interior with two American military officers who made up the US Army Mission to Panama, which I thought the only effective aid element we had in Panama. They were both veterinary officers, and their Mission had been created during the Second World War to inspect Panamanian beef for consumption by the 100,000 American servicemen who were occupying Panama. Now; the two officers were mainly engaged in running an artificial insemination program, which was injecting into Panama’s small native cattle a strain of the disease—and heat—resistant Santa Gertrudis breed developed in Texas. By 1960 Panama, which had been importing beef, had begun to export. The Panamanian ranchers ran big ranches and many were powerful people. One, Rodolfo Chiari, became President while I was in Panama. These ranchers complained to us about the problem of squatters, poor peasants who had no title to the land but were nevertheless present in numbers on the big ranches, where they practiced primitive cut-and-burn agriculture which soon rendered the soil infertile. But land titles in Panama were seldom clear. I learned that many of the big ranchers similarly lacked title to the land they used. But they were a boon to the national economy and the squatters were not; and the ranchers had the power. (In more recent years, many poor peasants have moved from the interior into the virgin forests of Darien, between Panama City and Colombia, which new roads have made accessible; and there they continue to cut and burn and ruin the land.)
Panama was a continuing series of interesting if modest adventures. My Russian was fluent, and I spent one day in the canal on the bridge of a Soviet freighter bound for Vladivostok with a cargo of Cuban sugar, serving as interpreter between the ship’s captain and the canal pilot. I became interested in the Cuna Indians, an admirable nation who inhabit the San BIas Islands along Panama’s Caribbean coast and also the valleys of the Bayano and Chucunaque rivers, which flow through Darien into the Pacific. I spent several weekends in San Blas villages, chartering a small plane to fly to landing strips along the coast which our military had built during World War Two. Another weekend I traveled with a young Canadian missionary, in a slim long piragua made from a single tree trunk and powered by an outboard motor, up the Bayano to primitive Cuna villages little touched by the outside world. The results for reporting to Washington may have been meager, but I came to know Panama better than most foreign diplomats.
After some months I was happy to say goodbye to my chief the First Secretary, transferred to South America. He was replaced by Edward Clark, an energetic man who had served in Panama before and now renewed his friendships with many leading Panamanians, including the President of the Republic. The vacant number-two position in our section was filled by Neil McManus, a hard-working and good-natured Irish-American who ended his career a decade later as our Consul General at Belfast. Most importantly, Ambassador Harrington went into retirement and was replaced by a Republican political appointee named Joseph Farland, who as ambassador to the Dominican Republic had made a name for himself by standing up to the dictator Trujillo. Joe Farland and his wife got off a Panama Line ship in Cristobal harbor and were met by his new staff and by a large and friendly crowd of Panamanians. Many of the latter were carrying signs which, instead of expressing anti-gringo sentiments, said ‘Yankee Stay Here! Don’t Go Home!’
What this meant was that the State Department had decided for reasons of economy to close the American Consulate in Colon. Cristobal and Colon (which in English would be Christopher and Columbus) were twin cities at the Caribbean end of the Canal. Cristobal, in the Canal Zone, was the deep-sea port. Colon, the larger place, just over the border in the Republic, could handle only shallow-draft coastal shipping but had once been a prosperous place. The opening of the railway from Colon to Panama City, in 1853, had made the trans-Isthmian route the fastest way from the eastern United States to booming California; but that had lasted only until 1869 when the first transcontinental railway was completed in the United States. Later the construction of the canal, and then military and civilian works during World War Two—including work on a never finished third set of Canal locks—had brought prosperity back to Colon. And for decades cruise ships had stopped regularly for a day at Cristobal so their passengers could tour and shop in Colon. But after 1945 canal employment had dropped sharply, and the cruise ships had stopped coming. Colon had opened a new Free Trade Zone, but in most of the city, which received an average 140 inches of rain a year, the mould was literally growing up the walls. Now, the Panamanians complained, the American government, by closing the Consulate it had opened there even before the railroad was built, was going to show that it thought Colon was finished.
In succeeding weeks we heard intimations that there might be anti-US demonstrations again this year on 4 November. Not over the flag issue, but because we were closing our Colon Consulate. My new ambassador made clear to Washington that he did not think that was a good reason to have demonstrations. We should keep the Consulate open. Sorry, said the State Department, but we have transferred the consul and vice consul and there are no replacements… but if you think it important, we do not mind if you send an Embassy staff member to Colon to maintain an official presence. The next week I began commuting across a continent, perhaps the only member of the American Foreign Service ever to do so. The Panama Railroad train left Panama City at 0700, four old coaches and a diesel locomotive, and after a pleasant hour’s trip through the forest and along Gatun Lake I would reach Colon where Victor Lambert, the Consulate’s only remaining Panamanian employee, would meet me in the consulate Ford and we would driveto the Consulate and raise the flag. Our premises consisted of two buildings which had once been the residences of senior army officers, with an acre of gardens bordered by a former 16-inch gun emplacement. The gun emplacement was now inhabited by large parasol ants which periodically invaded the garden and were in turn attacked by Victor with chlordane.
I enjoyed having my own post, although it was a little one, as a vice consul aged 28. I traveled up and down the Caribbean coast of the Republic, once even traveling with Mr. Farland on a navy minesweeper—there was no road—to the ancient town of Nombre de Dios, named by Columbus on his last voyage. Soon 1 had made friends with Colon’s business and politicalleaders, including Jose Dominador Bazan, a colonense who was Second Vice President of the Republic. Most evenings I took the train home, but occasionally my wife would leave our children with the maid in Panama City and join me for an evening in Colon. When the November holidays came—the fourth was the national holiday, but Colon also celebrated the fifth as Colon Day—I left my family at home and moved into the Consulate for three days. The holidays would be special this year. The Canal Company had softened its stand on flags, and had agreed that on the fifth, after a ceremony at Colon’s city ball, Colon’s officialdom could march into the Canal Zone behind the Panamanian flag.
On the fourth I wore my best Haspel suit to an official reception and luncheon in Colon. But formal dress in Panama was a white suit, and that was indicated for the fifth. Soon after we had come to Panama my wife had found me some good linen, found a Hindu tailor, and for $40 the tailor made me a handsome white suit. I wore it once, the maid washed it and it shrank a little, I wore it again and the maid washed it and put it away. White-suit occasions were not frequent.
On the morning of the fifth I woke up early in Colon, had coffee and a mango, shaved, showered, and put on my white suit. Incredibly, awfully, it had shrunk again, and drastically, at its last washing. The jacket sleeves ended unacceptably far above my wrists, the trousers above my ankles. I was due at City Hall at 10.00 and the invitation said white suit. The Second Vice President would be there; everyone who counted would be there. The Cuban Consul would certainly be wearing his white suit; all the consuls would. I found that by pulling the trousers down below my waist I could almost achieve a respectable trouser length. If I kept my arms somewhat retracted in the sleeves, I would not look exactly like a teenager who had sprouted Out of his clothes. I dressed, and drove to City Hall.
I made a quick entrance on arriving—the Second Vice President inquired politely if I had hurt my shoulder, as I tried to retract my arm after shaking his hand—and took my seat with the other consuls. After long oratory we went down to the street. The notables began arranging themselves for the march, behind the Colon firemen’s band and the honour guard with the flag. I stood on the curb watching. The Second Vice President came over to me and said ‘But you’re going with us!’ No, Vice President, this is your day. ‘But you are; we would feel insulted if our friend the Vice Consul didn’t come. This is an historic occasion!’ Yes, but it’s your occasion, not mine. ‘Bridges, you wouldn’t want to insult us?’ No, Vice President, I’ll come.
The band began to play a march. Maneuvering the waist of my trousers down below my navel again, I joined the other white-suited gentlemen. The Vice President was on my right, the Provincial Governor on my left. Off we stepped. The Cuban Consul was in the row just behind me, and I wondered if I heard him say something about gringo tailors. That no longer bothered me. What bothered me now was what the Canal Company people, a jingoistic lot, would say if they saw the American Vice Consul marching into the Canal Zone behind the flag of Panama. We rounded the corner of Front Street and the Zone was just ahead of us. Standing on the corner was the head of the Atlantic Division of the Canal Company, looking straight at me. I winked at him as we passed. He did not wink back.
An hour later I got back to the Consulate and quickly phoned Ambassador Farland to tell him, before Tom CaIdwell could, about my forced march. Well, he said, CaIdwell had already phoned him, pretty angry, but he had told CaIdwell that he shouldn’t be upset. Sometimes in diplomacy people might be forced to do things that others might find funny. I sat looking at my white trouser cuffs up near my knees arid thought, Funny is the word.