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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 14, Issue 6 (September 1939)

Odd Jobs

page 54

Odd Jobs

Jobbers and Jibbers.

As one man's meat is another's mote, so is one man's job another's jib. Sailors and tailors, bakers and brokers, airmen and postmen are examples of opposing jiblets.

Life's Mammoth Circus provides acts which range from the depths of the sawdust to the heights of the Stardust.

Seldom can one performer understand why the other does the thing he does. The contortionist turns up his toes at the trapezist; the seal trainer considers the lion tamer a glorified cat's-meat-man.

It's odd how full the world is of odd jobs. We are prompted to ask:—

What impulse makes the diver dive,
The girder-galloper connive
To offer Fate an hourly query?
What makes the steeplejack so cheery?
What first induced these men to frisk
With Fate whilst here and there they whisk—
One up above, one down below,
Both up the pole if they are slow?
And men who hazard widowed wives
To gather tusks for dinner knives
By stalking elephants and rhinos—
What makes them start their jungle shinos?
The men who train the lions to mew
And teach that it's not nice to chew
Their trainers—surely they could see
A job less prone to R.I.P.
And why, forsooth, do parachuters
Jump out of things without their tutors,
When they could gain as much renown
By jumping up instead of down?
The men who tickle snakes—not half!
And steal their venom when they laugh,
The men who swing on high trapezes
In spangled tights and pink chemises,
The fellow who essays to split
The atom with a brace and bit,
The wrestlers who, like bounding kegs,
Complete their days with corkscrew legs,
The fellows who, ten thousand strong,
Do funny things that seem all wrong
To others who, for love or money,
Do different things which seem as funny!
Odd's life! Such jobs of work there be
That beat the band on land and sea.
In all the things man does—begobs!
He's sure to set himself—odd jobs.

Strange Queerers.

How do those strange people whose jobs look to us like a cross between Custer's Last Stand and a circus act start on their queerers? Take deepsea diving as an instance of starting life at the bottom. Do divers begin as cockle-gatherers and work their way down to octopusses? Or do they undergo a course of theoretical underwater gymnastics by walking about, up to their necks, in vats of treacle? How are parents to know that their son harbours an aptitude for amphibious pursuits? He may be quite a truthful lad. Even if he takes his bath in a manner suggesting “wonders of the deep” they probably think he is destined for plumbing or company floating. No sane parent would connect a child's propensity for blowing bubbles down the plug-hole as a sign of incipient deep-sea hitch-hiking.

“To gather tusks for dinner knives.”

“To gather tusks for dinner knives.”

Down to the Sea in Dips.

Yet one can imagine a boy with under-slung ambitions saying to himself: “If I never learn to swim and continually look on the damp side of things I, too, will one day go down to the sea in dips.” For, of course, it is fatal for a diver to know how to swim. He would immediately imagine page 55 that he was out of his depth and perish from a rush of water to the imagination. Certainly there are advantages in the profession. It must be easier for a young diver to work his way down the ladder of ambition than up; and it is a profession which is not hard on boots. Also, he doesn't have to worry about whether it is going to rain. Likewise, he is never incommoded by dry summers or a shortage of water. Diving is one of the few jobs where it is possible to keep a good man down while he rises to the top of his profession. He is free from traffic dangers—unless he gets run down by a sea horse.

A diver can walk about all day without meeting a soul he knows, and, apart from an occasional octopus or swordfish, he is not subjected to hangers-on, or bores.

Of course, it must be a little awkward for a man who likes his cup of morning tea—for it is only shipping clerks who can “go down to the tea in sips.”

But it is a strange job at which a man can never be successful until he is completely under.

Steeped in Steeples.

On the other hand, a boy with a leaning to steeples is determined to rise. He must of necessity be a bit of a snob, this being the only feasible explanation of his desire to keep his end up so immoderately. One can hear him saying: “Father, I am not like other boys. I get dizzy on the level. I suffer from lowtigo, which is the opposite of vertigo. Don't think that I want to look down on you and mother, don't imagine that I am uppish, but my soul is steeped in steeples.

How can you explain a boy like that? Never a hi-jacker in the family; born of respectable parents who had never aspired to anything higher than their hats; and here is their son with practically no roof to his head.

I'll warrant nobody has seen a young steeplejack learning his steeps. The only explanation is that they are kept inside the steeples until they learn enough about how to keep their ends up without visible means of support before they are allowed to break through the top. By this time they are middle-aged and are considered proficient to lounge about steeples until they wear them out.

“Putting the curl in tea-leaves.”

“Putting the curl in tea-leaves.”

About Daniel and Lion-el.

And then there are those people who prefer to gamble with their livelihood by pitting their aptitude against a lion's appetite. Fancy waking each morning with the thought: “I wonder how Leo's liver is this morning?” It is a query which would keep the average person in bed for the rest of his life.

It is bad enough to wonder how the boss's dyspepsia is reacting on his predatory instincts each morning. But to spend your life as a potential lion's lunch is too much like Daniel arriving at his place of business.

When you run up against a man interested in white mice it is ten to one that he is a lion-tamer who has lost his nerve.

A Job Lot.

Then there are the unsung heroes such as the men who fit bulls to nose rings; the fellows who are suspended over brewer's vats to drop the hop in; the men who squeeze into the boilers to fit the toots into locomotives; the daring tannin-ticklers who climb to dizzy heights to put the curl in tea leaves; the chaps who test ladders to see which end runs up and which runs down (if they start at the wrong end they're liable to get badly twisted).

Odd jobs—yes; but none so odd as the other fellow's.

page 56