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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 7, Issue 2 (June 1, 1932)

Keeping Up with The Times

page 49

Keeping Up with The Times

Ancient Moderns.

We talk of the trend of modern times as if modern times were something new, whereas Modernity is as old as the history of Cheops or the mystery of sausages. Every era of existence has boasted its modernity from the moment Adam raised Cain when he considered Eve was dressing above her means.

The truth is that all “moderns” have always flown off the handle because the handle belonged to a stick in the mud. They represent the natural human reaction to inaction. To-day they precede precedent, to-morrow they are as outworn as unbrowsed eyebrows, original skin, and face values generally. They only serve to show that we are here to bray and gone to-morrow.

Looking back on the ancient “moderns” is like getting a glance at to-morrow yesterday, or collecting the spirit of recollection through a petrol pump. For who to-day is more “modern” than Christopher C. Columbus was, when he set out to lay the foundation of the great American gum-booting industry? What was more up to the time-table than Noah, when he launched his famous joint-stock company and made Arrowroot a houseboat word? What of Alexander (the dead one) who toured India with his rag-time band and played “Havoc” with variations wherever he went? How about Cleopatra—well, perhaps there was a little too much “how” about her. Consider Robert Bruce who introduced the money-spider into Scotland, George Washington who invented truth-in-advertising, and Methuselah who introduced life insurance. What of Lot's lot when his wife asserted her feminine franchise by proving herself to be the salt of the earth and a pillar of society?

After all, the only essential difference between the ancient moderns and the modern ancients is that the first are historical and the last are hysterical.

The Course of Events.

Every word has been the last word since the first word took the air, and the last of the last words is as far distant as the utterance of an unformed thought of an unborn dumb-waiter.

Modernity is a synthetic synonym for Progress, and Progress is a Purveyor of Pace. Pace is a manifestation of Modernity and an emissary of Emancipation. Pace is the goggle-eyed god of the modern mile-masticator. It is accepted by him as a matter of course and by the pedestrian as a matter of curse. Time-slaving and time-saving are the primary industries of the infuriated futurists and internal combustioneers. But all things being sequel, and time being only the ticking in man's mental mattress, he is no wealthier by saving it than he would be by waiving it.

No doubt speed is merely man's gesture of revolt against the ambulatory limita- page 50 tions of his perambulatory pebble-pounders, which are about as adequate to cope with the perpetual commotion of his daily delirium as the frost-bitten flippers of a senile seal. Consequently man has made the world a place fit for horrors in his endeavour to override Nature's under-estimate of his understanding.

“Methuselah introduced life insurance.”

“Methuselah introduced life insurance.”

Per Petrol Motion.

What becomes of all the time he saves per petrol motion? If Time were jam he might spread it to advantage over his daily dread, but being a prodigal son-of-a-gun, he wastes more time than he saves, and his celerity is as little use to him as a water-blister in the Sahara. The situation is summed up with celerity by the Bard of Bowser, in free air, thus:

“Where are you going to my pretty mad?”
“I'm going a'gadding sir, by gad!”
“But why all the scurry and why all the buzz?”
“Well, why not, I ask you, when ev'ryone does?”
“But why in the name of all reason and rhyme,
“Do you spend your brief brevity cutting down time?”
“Oh, ‘can’ all the carping and don't be a ‘fuzz,’
“Why not, you old fossil, when ev'ryone does?
“You surely don't want me to get on the ‘blink,’
“And use my mentality merely to think,
“When Time is important and Rush is the rage—
“Go step on the gravy and be your right age!”

History and Histrionics.

Contemporary existence is a contagious disease, or a gold rush for wheel or woe. But has it not always been so? Perhaps the Present is no more perfidious than the Past. Our scuffle with the “ad valorem” is only a repetition of the ancient repertoire, and if history were free of histrionics it would prove that the dead past was not so dead. But history is only hearsay, and hearsay is the shadow-soaring of ghosts and, like the tales of “the men who go down to the spree in sips,” must be taken with a good deal of water. The past looks passable only because it is past; otherwise it has no visible means of disport, apart from the persistent prestidigitators of the Past who proclaim that nothing borne of man since the whiskers of Dundreary fell before the blade of Monsieur Gillette, can be worth the hoot of a boiled owl or the wheeze of a hoarse radish. But sufficient unto the dough is the weevil thereof, and let the dread past bury its dread. One day the present will be the past and the future will be the present, and:—

When we are gone sing no sad songs for us,

Our problems won't be worth a tinker's cuss

With those who go to make posterity, And pound Life's speedway with celerity. They'll merely shrug and go their divers ways,

Perchance remarking, “thems was good old days.”

The Iron Horse, or Loco-moke, of To-morrow.

Life is a perpetual moving-day, and perhaps the only permanency is the permanent way. The permanent way is
“The train of to-morrow.”

“The train of to-morrow.”

page 51 permanent because, like bread and breath, it is a primary essential of existence. The egotists of the air will have their fly and die, because they seek to found fact without foundation. They will continue for a space to span space and play “wings” with their playthings, but the railway train is more concerned with solid facts than airy notions. It is built, not for an age, but for the ages; its principles are fundamental and fundamentals are the only permanent boarders in the human hostlery. Like beer and beards, it improves with time, but is never likely to be pushed out of the procession during the march of progress. Let us imagine the train of the future—say in the year 2032, to save any argument later on. The engine will be a wedge-shaped missile propelled by propellers. It will be gyroscopic and telescopic to keep its end up both ways, and it will attain a speed which will make air travel appear like a bluebottle wading through a glue bottle. The carriages will be tubular and will float on cushions of oil supporting wheels as large as a song cycle, but more even. Every unit of the train will be fitted with low-set glider wings and there will be no bridges, for the train will attain such speed that it will fly across all chasms and other geological gashes. The wheels and the rails will be magnetized so that the train will impinge on the opposite rails without difficulty. There will be no stations because stations would appear with such frequency that one place would be as good as another. Passengers will be supplied with parachutes and air suits and when they wish to alight they will stroll through trapdoors onto the roof and take the air


without damage to life or limb. The guard will punch tickets with an air pistol, for the train will travel so fast that he could never get through it before it reached its destination. Freight will be shot out at intervals in pneumatic torpedoes, without occasioning any stop. The whole business will be so comfortable that in comparison a flea in a wool pack would be an insomnia patient. Seats will be full length pneumatic paillasses suspended from the ceiling and every passenger will view the scenery through a delayed-action periscope so that the scenery will not move past the vision as fast as the train moves past the scenery. At the termination of the journey the slice of scenery that has not caught up will be presented to him on a film so that he will be able to get an additional thrill by viewing it in his leisure. Safety will be insured by the use of a separate track for every train, and a jumping apparatus to enable the train to spring over any obstruction or trespasser on the track. Locomotives will still be propelled by steam, but there will be no coal or firing up, for steam will be manufactured by chemical reaction and pass through a compressor before use. Goodbye kissing at railway stations will be forbidden on account of the danger of starting a kiss at Wellington and finishing it with some person or persons unknown at Waipukurau, with the usual social complications. This will be a shame, for one often scores a kiss in public on a railway station that one would not get even in private elsewhere. If any reader doubts the authenticity of the above description of a railway train in 2032, all I will say is, “wait and see.”