Asking For A Pass by Bill Nye
Story type: Essay
The general passenger agent of a prominent road leading out of Chicago toward the south, tells me that he is getting a good many letters lately asking for passes, and he complains bitterly over the awkward and unsatisfactory style of the correspondence. Acting on this suggestion and though a little late in the day, perhaps, I have erected the following as a guide to those who contemplate writing under similar circumstances:
Office of The Evening Squeal, January 14, 1886.
General Passenger Agent, Great North American Gitthere R.R., Chicago, Ill.
Dear Sir.–I desire to know by return mail whether or no you would be pleased to swap transportation for kind words. I am the editor of “The Squeal,” published at this place. It is a paper pure in tone, world wide in its scope and irresistible in the broad sweep of its mighty arm.
I desire to visit the great exposition at New Orleans this winter, and would be willing to yield you a few words of editorial opinion, set in long primer type next to pure reading matter, and without advertising marks.
My object in thus addressing you is two-fold. I have always wanted to do your road a kind act that would put it on its feet, but I have never before had the opportunity. This winter I feel just like it, and am not willing, but anxious. Another object, though trivial, perhaps, to you, is vital to me. If I do not get the pass, I am afraid I shall not reach there till the exposition is over. You can see for yourself how important it is that I should have transportation. Day after day the president on to the grounds and ask if I am there. Some official will salute him and answer sadly, “No, your highness, he has not yet arrived, but we look for him soon. He is said to be stuck in a mud hole somewhere in Egypt.” Then the exposition will drag on again.
You may make the pass read, “For self, Chicago to New Orleans and return,” and I will write the editorial, or you may make it read, “Self and wife” and I will let you write it yourself. Nothing is too good for my friends. When a man does me a kind act or shows signs of affection, I just allow him to walk all over me and make himself perfectly free with the policy of my paper.
The “Evening Squeal” has been heard everywhere. We send it to the four winds of Heaven, and its influence is felt wherever the English language is respected. And yet, if you want to belong to my coterie of friends, you can make yourself just as free with its editorial columns as you would if you owned it.
And yet “The Squeal” is a bad one to stir up. I shudder to think what the result would be if you should incur the hatred of “The Squeal.” Let us avoid such a subject or the possibility of such a calamity.
“The Squeal” once opposed the candidacy of a certain man for the office of school district clerk, and in less than four years he was a corpse! Struck down in all his wanton pride by one of the popular diseases of the day.
My paper at one time became the foe of a certain road which tapped the great cranberry vineyards of northern Minnesota, and that very fall the berries soured on the vines!
I might go on for pages to show how the pathway of “The Squeal” has been strewn with the ruins of railroads, all prosperous and happy till they antagonized us and sought to injure us.
I believe that the great journals and trunk lines of the land should stand in with one another. If you have the support and moral encouragement of the press you will feel perfectly free to run over any one who gets on your track. Besides, if I held a pass over your road I should feel very much reserved about printing the details of any accident, delay or washout along your line. I aim to mould public opinion, but a man can subsidize and corrupt me if he goes at it right. I write this to kind of give you a pointer as to how you can go to work to do so if you see fit.
Should you wish to pervert my high moral notions in relation to railways, please make it good for thirty days, as it may take me a week or so to mortgage my property and get ready to go in good style. I will let you know on what day I will be in New Orleans, so that you can come and see me at that time. Should you have difficulty in obtaining an audience with me, owing to the throng of crowned heads, just show this autograph letter to the doorkeeper, and he will show you right in. Wipe your boots before entering.
Daniel Webster Briggs,
Editor of “The Squeal.”
It is my opinion that no railroad official, however disobliging, would hesitate a moment about which way he would swing after reading an epistle after this pattern. Few, indeed, are the men who would be impolitic enough to incur the displeasure of such a paper as I have artfully represented “The Squeal” to be.