I was going by train to London. I didn't have the trouble to take anything to eat with me and soon was very hungry. I decided to go to the dining-car to have a meal.
As I was about to seat myself, I saw that the gentleman I was to face wore a large beard. He was a young man. His beard was full, loose and very black. I glanced at him uneasily and noted that he was a big pleasant fellow with dark laughing eyes.
Indeed I could feel his eyes on me as I fumbled with the knives and forks. It was hard to pull myself together. It is not easy to face a beard. But when I could escape no longer, I raised my eyes and found the young man's on my face.
"Good evening," I said cheerily, "Good evening," he replied pleasantly, inserting a big buttered roll within the bush of his beard. Not even a crumb fell off. He ordered soup. It was a difficult soup for even the most barefaced of men to eat, but not a drop did he waste on his whiskers'. He kept his eyes on me in between bites. But I knew he knew that I was watching his every bite with acute fascination.
"I'm impressed," I said, "with your beard."
"I suspected as much," smiled the young man.
"Is it a wartime device?" I inquired.
"No," said he; "I'm too young to have been in the war. I grew this beard two years ago."
"It's magnificent," I informed him.
"Thank you," he replied. "As a matter of fact this beard is an experiment in psychology. I suffered horribly from shyness. I was so shy it amounted to a phobia. At university I took up psychology and began reading books on psychology'. And one day I came across a chapter on human defence mechanisms, explaining how so many of us resort to all kinds of tricks to escape from the world, or from conditions in the world which we find hateful. Well, I just turned a thing around. I decided to make other people shy of me. So I grew this beard.
The effect was astonishing. I found people, even tough, hard-boiled people, were shy of looking in the face. They were panicked by my whiskers. It made them uneasy. And my shyness vanished completely."
He pulled his fine black whiskers affectionately and said: "Psychology is a great thing. Unfortunately people don't know about it. Psychology should help people discover such most helpful tricks. Life is too short to be wasted in desperately striving to be normal."
"Tell me," I said finally. "How did you master eating the way you have? You never got a crumb or a drop on your beard, all through dinner."
"Nothing to it, sir," said he. "When you have a beard, you keep your eyes on those of your dinner partner. And whenever you note his eyes fixed in horror on your chin, you wipe it off."
Date: 2015-01-11; view: 790