The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 12, Issue 1 (April 1, 1937)
Life'S Little Loads
Life'S Little Loads
(Perpetrated and Illustrated by Ken Alexander.)
Ordeals and Raw Deals.
Life would fall flat with a moan like a punctured pie were it denuded of the little odd ordeals that punctuate the earnest exigencies of existence.
The little annoyances that confound complacency are the spice in life, the condiments in consciousness and the buzz in being. They are cautionary concepts, peripatetic pin-pricks, designed by Destiny to keep existence on the jump and the heart a'hopping.
No human being is content in contentment for any length of time. He imagines that he could be perfectly happy being perfectly happy. But he is wrong. It would make him miserable. Hence the trifles that trip, the rifts in the loot, the little things that discount.
Such trifling tribulations are various and variegated. What is one man's pleasure is another man's poison. What is benediction to Brown is a jinx to Jones. What gingers up George irritates Irwin. Plantaganet's pleasure is odium to Oswald; and so on.
A Barber Cue.
We know of a man who revels in having his hair cut. The barber's fibbling fingers bring benediction to his brain. The sibilant scissors lull his bean to beautitude. While the lambent lock falls fluttering to the floor heart and head grow lighter. The ecclesiastic eloquence of his tonsorial nibs, whispering the inspired low-down on the fifth race, is muted music to his ear. His soul is somnolently sublimated and he realises that he would be a better man if his hair grew quicker.
On the other head we know of a man who shuns the shears as sedulously as Samson should have done. The barber's titillate touch is like beetles on his bean. His cranium crawls, his scalp creeps up and down the back of his neck, and the voice of the barber is like an east wind moaning round a morgue. To him, barbery is barbarous. And yet, no doubt, he gets a morbid kick out of imagining that the barber might make a clean sweep of his hair with a single stroke round about the collar stud. The imagined menace in the barber's eye as he fondles the forelock probably gives a spice to life that many men with less imagination have travelled thousands of leagues to find, The man is fortunate who can extract from the innocent ecstacies of a barber a thrill that lesser men must seek among the head-hunting Knoblifters of Darkest Delusia.
While There's Life There's Soap.
We speak now of those rugged cut-and-thrust, slap - and - slosh bristle-bruisers of the old school whose old school tie was the “Jolly Roger” and the battle cry “while there's life there's soap.”
Beaten by a Whisker.
Having back-heeled you into the whiskorial chair they gave your face a derogatory look and dived for the “makins.” They sloshed into the soap-soup and made for you like a white-washer intent on completing a sixty-hour job in a forty-hour week.page 43
“Nice day,” they would bark and, when you opened your mouth to confirm the perjury—slosh!—you were scuppered to the tonsils. They treated your face like a gate, slamming it back and forth until your neck felt like a cork-screw. Then they shored up your chin and smacked your Adam's apple as though they hated fruit. Next they got at you with their bare hands and made a scrubbing-board of your face. They man-handled your nose, pulled out your upper lip and let it go back with a “woosh,” and left you blowing like a soaped geyser while they took the edge off the cutlery. Only barbers with an inferiority complex used sharp razors. A sharp razor tended to give the victim the false impression that he was a better man than the barber. They wanged their steel up and down the leather until it sang “I'll pull you through, sonny boy,” in “A” blunt. Then they stood over you and waved their hardware as though selecting a suitably vital spot for a quick take-off.
“Looks like dirty weather,” they prophesied while they stretched your ear until it looked like a book-mark, and skidded round it with the cut-and-come-again.
When the barber gave you back your face, except the bits that he had taken a dislike to, you felt fit for anything. You had tasted cold steel —and hot soap—and were a better man for it.
One of the major ordeals of manhood is fatherhood. It is a poignant truism of life that you can't achieve fatherhood without becoming a father. The young father must pass through the fires of fatherhood before he can claim the glorious privilege of boring his friends to beers with accounts of the extraordinary qualities of his offspring.
“It's a boy,” you simper. Friends do their darndest to look glad that it is a boy. By the time they have drunk to its success, to its childhood, to its boyhood, to its manhood and its old age they really do look glad. Some of them seem willing to drink it into its grave but it dawns on you that perhaps you are doing your child a wrong by allowing its future to be practically pickled in alcohol. So you turn your face to the nest. Wobbily winging your way you meet a father whose paternal record would look like a page out of the Year Book—a man who has been practically dogged by fatherhood. He receives your tidings in the manner of a hero of a hundred campaigns learning of a minor skirmish.
“So now I'm a father,” you babble. He looks at you more in sorrow than in alcohol. He squeezes your arm as one who says, “Brother, we all have our burdens, our sorrows and our trials; but we must be strong.” Then he brightens and says, “There is one thing to be thankful for, you can never be a mother.”
All's Swell That Ends Swell.
Fatherhood is one of the ordeals that have put man where he is— wherever he is. No man can really claim to be a man until he has experienced the contemptuous affection of a growing family. No man can be really great until he accepts the cold fact that his paternal authority—the only thing he really could claim as his own—is slowly slipping from him.
There are other ordeals such as house-hunting, dentist-dodging, bill-paying and connubial conciliation—all painful but useful—but of these later.
Ordeals, poor deals, and raw deals, they keep man from growing so contented that he has time to grow discontented.page 44