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 The plain man on a plain day wakes up, slowly or quickly according to his temperament1, and greets the day in a mental posture2 which might be thus expressed in words:  
“Oh, Lord! Another day! What a grind!”
If you ask me whom I mean by the plain man, my reply is that I mean almost every man. I mean you. I certainly mean me. I mean the rich and the poor, the successful and the unsuccessful, the idle and the diligent3, the luxurious4 and the austere5. For, what with the limits of digestion6, the practical impossibility of wearing two neckties at once, the insecurity of investments, the responsibilities of wealth and of success, the exhaustingness of the search for pleasure, and the cheapness of travel—the real differences between one sort of plain man and another are slight in these times. (And indeed they always were slight.)
The plain man has a lot to do before he may have his breakfast—and he must do it. The tyrannic routine begins instantly he is out of bed. To lave limbs, to shave the jaw7, to select clothes and assume them—these things are naught8. He must exercise his muscles—all his muscles equally and scientifically—with the aid of a text-book and of diagrams on a large card; which card he often hides if he is expecting visitors in his chamber9, for he will not always confess to these exercises; he would have you believe that he alone, in a world of simpletons, is above the faddism10 of the hour; he is as ashamed of these exercises as of a good resolution, and when his wife happens to burst in on them he will pretend to be doing some common act, such as walking across the room or examining a mole11 in the small of his back. And yet he will not abandon them. They have an empire over him. To drop them would be to be craven, inefficient12. The text-book asserts that they will form one of the pleasantest parts of the day, and that he will learn to look forward to them. He soon learns to look forward to them, but not with glee. He is relieved and proud when they are over for the day.
He would enjoy his breakfast, thanks to the strenuous13 imitation of diagrams, were it not that, in addition to being generally in a hurry, he is preoccupied14. He is preoccupied by the sense of doom15, by the sense that he has set out on the appointed path and dare not stray from it. The train or the tram-car or the automobile16 (same thing) is waiting for him, irrevocable, undeniable, inevitable17. He wrenches18 himself away. He goes forth19 to his fate, as to the dentist. And just as he would enjoy his breakfast in the home, so he would enjoy his newspaper and cigarette in the vehicle, were it not for that ever-present sense of doom. The idea of business grips him. It matters not what the business is. Business is everything, and everything is business. He reaches his office—whatever his office is. He is in his office. He must plunge—he plunges20. The day has genuinely begun now. The appointed path stretches straight in front of him, for five, six, seven, eight hours.
Oh! but he chose his vocation21. He likes it. It satisfies his instincts. It is his life. (So you say.) Well, does he like it? Does it satisfy his instincts? Is it his life? If truly the answer is affirmative, he is at any rate not conscious of the fact. He is aware of no ecstasy22. What is the use of being happy unless he knows he is happy? Some men know that they are happy in the hours of business, but they are few. The majority are not, and the bulk of the majority do not even pretend to be. The whole attitude of the average plain man to business implies that business is a nuisance, scarcely mitigated23. With what secret satisfaction he anticipates that visit to the barber’s in the middle of the morning! With what gusto he hails the arrival of an unexpected interrupting friend! With what easement he decides that he may lawfully24 put off some task till the morrow! Let him hear a band or a fire-engine in the street, and he will go to the window with the eagerness of a child or of a girl-clerk. If he were working at golf the bands of all the regiments25 of Hohenzollern would not make him turn his head, nor the multitudinous blazing of fireproof skyscrapers26. No! Let us be honest. Business constitutes the steepest, roughest league of the appointed path. Were it otherwise, business would not be universally regarded as a means to an end.
Moreover, when the plain man gets home again, does his wife’s face say to him: “I know that your real life is now over for the day, and I regret for your sake that you have to return here. I know that the powerful interest of your life is gone. But I am glad that you have had five, six, seven, or eight hours of passionate27 pleasure”? Not a bit! His wife’s face says to him: “I commiserate28 with you on all that you have been through. It is a great shame that you should be compelled to toil29 thus painfully. But I will try to make it up to you. I will soothe30 you. I will humour you. Forget anxiety and fatigue31 in my smiles.” She does not fetch his comfortable slippers32 for him, partly because, in this century, wives do not do such things, and partly because comfortable slippers are no longer worn. But she does the equivalent—whatever the equivalent may happen to be in that particular household. And he expects the commiseration33 and the solace34 in her face. He would be very hurt did he not find it there.
And even yet he is not relaxed. Even yet the appointed path stretches inexorably in front, and he cannot wander. For now he feels the cogs and cranks of the highly complex domestic machine. At breakfast he declined to hear them; they were shut off from him; he was too busy to be bothered with them. At evening he must be bothered with them. Was it not he who created the machine? He discovers, often to his astonishment35, that his wife has an existence of her own, full of factors foreign to him, and he has to project himself, not only into his wife’s existence, but into the existences of other minor36 personages. His daughter, for example, will persist in growing up. Not for a single day will she pause. He arrives one night and perceives that she is a woman and that he must treat her as a woman. He had not bargained for this. Peace, ease, relaxation37 in a home vibrating to the whir of such astounding38 phenomena39? Impossible dream! These phenomena were originally meant by him to be the ornamentation of his career, but they are threatening to be the sole reason of his career. If his wife lives for him, it is certain that he lives just as much for his wife; and as for his daughter, while she emphatically does not live for him, he is bound to admit that he has just got to live for her—and she knows it!
To gain money was exhausting; to spend it is precisely40 as exhausting. He cannot quit the appointed path nor lift the doom. Dinner is finished ere he has begun to recover from the varied41 shock of home. Then his daughter may negligently42 throw him a few moments of charming cajolery. He may gossip in simple idleness with his wife. He may gambol43 like any infant with the dog. A yawn. The shadow of the next day is upon him. He must not stay up too late, lest the vigour44 demanded by the next day should be impaired45. Besides, he does not want to stay up. Naught is quite interesting enough to keep him up. And bed, too, is part of the appointed, unescapable path. To bed he goes, carrying ten million preoccupations. And of his state of mind the kindest that can be said is that he is philosophic46 enough to hope for the best.
And after the night he wakes up, slowly or quickly according to his temperament, and greets the day with:
“Oh, Lord! Another day! What a grind!”
How to Live on 24 Hours a Day
老妇人的故事 The Old Wives' Tale
A Man from the North

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