Scenes from the Cash Struggle: Yesterday at Wall Street

cramer.jpgYesterday afternoon, as the Dow plunged 800 points before rebounding to a still-troubling 370 point deficit, the media was on Wall Street like ants on a picnic. Coiffed reporters dashed this way and that, looking for panicked traders to interview. News vans lined Broadway, and anyone wearing a suit and not in full gallop got a microphone straight to the kisser.

The tourists who normally crawl the neighborhood, meanwhile, were relatively unscathed.

"When we got here, we saw the camera crews and wondered what the hell happened," said Jason Perry, 24, visiting from San Diego with a female friend. “Then we realized it was the Stock Market crap. I don't really worry about it. It hasn’t affected me yet. I still haven't gotten my financial aid for college yet, but if that doesn't go through I will be pissed.”

Meanwhile, TV reporters were getting into position for the final bell, waiting for traders to pour out of a door on the corner of Wall and New Streets.

"Why is every waiting around?" asked a passing woman.

"Where have you been?" snapped a cameraman.

The bell went off, and camera crews jostled even more strenuously for space at the barriers. Wearing their blue jackets, traders began emerging from the building.

"Can you tell us how it was in there?" a reporter asked.

"Hectic," said one trader.

"I have to go to my lawyers to count the money I lost," said another.

"It was fun."

"Wonderful."

"We’re not allowed to talk."

"A little rally at the end."

The parade of traders slowed to a trickle. Nearby, a crowd of cameras had gathered around on young broker who said his name was Jason Nolan. "People need to stop viewing the bailout as saving Wall Street fat cats and as helping the American people," Nolan explained, as someone behind him held up a sign: "Prosecute the C.E.O.s"

Meanwhile, outside a Goldman Sachs building, a line of black town cars and one Prius were waiting for customers. And waiting.

"This is the worst time ever for drivers," said George Waziji, who has been driving Wall Streeters around for a year. "I took this job because I needed flexible hours. I’m in school but I’ve been waiting here for two hours and nothing. No one thinks about how this affects us. I have to pay car insurance and gas, that is easily $600 to $1,000 a month for each. I used to have more business when I drove people from Chase and Lehman."

The driver waiting in the next car, who didn't want to give his name, said that he’s been driving for 20 years. It's pretty obvious how things are changing, he said. "You don’t need a college degree to read the people’s faces. It’s almost like September 11."

Suche Singh was another 20-year veteran. "The business has been dead for weeks. I’ve been here six hours and there is no where to go. Before I’d pick up 9 to 12 people a day. Now if I’m lucky it’s 4 to 6."

But Singh says he tries to remain positive, knowing that his options for other employment is scarce. "Maybe after the election the economy will get better."

Luis, in the next car, said he'd been parked outside the building since 8 am. It was close to 5 pm, and he'd driven only three people all day.

"In order for you to make money at this job, you need to be working 15-hour days. Now we are waiting two to three hours for one pick up, that’s $20. After I pay my base, pay for gas, I may have $10 for me."

He showed a parking ticket he received for stopping in the no-standing zone that serves as the informal town car stand.

"I don’t know how I’m going to pay a $115 ticket if I’m making $60 a day. The people on Wall Street, they don’t care what happens to us. I’m going to leave this job in a couple months."

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