Life can turn on a sixpence. That was the case on August 6, 1889 when, replete with electric lights and lifts throughout the building and bathrooms with hot and cold running water in most rooms, Britain’s first luxury hotel splashed onto the world stage. Being a privately held property, the Savoy also re-wrote the rules of the road. When approaching and leaving the hotel, it was much easier to do so on the right-hand side of the road, and so it was. As an added benefit for those bedecked in silk slippers, when being chauffeured in a horse-drawn carriage, the lady or dignitary would sit behind the driver such that the doorman was able to open the door without walking around the coach. As such, said occupant could alight from the carriage directly into the hotel. Or at least that’s how the Savoy’s Press Office tells the history.
There’s scant evidence to suggest embellishment. By a Special Act of Parliament, traffic retains the privilege of driving on the right side of the road when entering Savoy Court from the Strand Theatre. Conveniently, for the drivers of black cabs, they can deposit their fares outside the theatre and gather a fresh fare at the hotel without having to do anything but turn on a sixpence. But therein lies the rub. So snug is the roundabout at the grand hotel’s main entrance that vehicles must operate in a circle of only 25 feet to navigate the tight turn. To this day, it remains the law that all London hackney carriages turn inside this constricted circle. There are, of course, practical benefits as per The London Bluebird blogger: “Not only does this make changing direction along London streets more convenient, but it makes parking a doddle.” That very ease is what put, “turn on a sixpence” on the vernacular map. It’s not that anything but an insect could turn on the space of a coin of 19 millimeters, but it did make a point.
While turning on a sixpence, or the Americanized “dime,” is a desired dexterity in race cars, sailboats and the like, it’s not a term a central banker would want assigned to the longest U.S. labor market expansion in history. Indeed, Jerome Powell and his colleagues at the Federal Reserve, are petrified at the prospect of the job market turning on a dime into contraction after an unprecedented 113-month run of gains. But that is what appears to be in the making in the aftermath of not one, but two, black swan events – the dual outbreaks of the Coronavirus and the oil war.
Danielle DiMartino Booth is CEO and Director of Intelligence at Quill Intelligence
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