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The Dubious Future
by [?]

The reader will see by the questions I ask that I am a true scientist. Give me an overcoat pocket full of lower-case interrogation marks and a medical report to run to, and I can speak on the matter of science and advancement till Reason totters on her throne.

But food and oysters do not alone affect the great, pregnant future. Our race is being tampered with not only by means of adulterations, political combinations and climatic changes, but even our methods of relaxation are productive of peculiar physical conditions, malformations and some more things of the same kind.

Cigarette smoking produces a flabby and endogenous condition of the optic nerve, and constant listening at a telephone, always with the same ear, decreases the power of the other ear till it finally just stands around drawing its salary, but actually refusing to hear anything. Carrying an eight-pound cane makes a man lopsided, and the muscular and nervous strain that is necessary to retain a single eyeglass in place and keep it out of the soup, year after year, draws the mental stimulus that should go to the thinker itself, until at last the mind wanders away and forgets to come back, or becomes atrophied, and the great mental strain incident to the work of pounding sand or coming in when it rains is more than it is equal to.

Playing billiards, accompanied by the vicious habit of pounding on the floor with the butt of the cue ever and anon, produces at last optical illusions, phantasmagoria and visions of pink spiders with navy-blue abdomens. Base-ball is not alone highly injurious to the umpire, but it also induces crooked fingers, bone spavin and hives among habitual players. Jumping the rope induces heart disease. Poker is unduly sedentary in its nature. Bicycling is highly injurious, especially to skittish horses. Boating induces malaria. Lawn tennis can not be played in the house. Archery is apt to be injurious to those who stand around and watch the game, and pugilism is a relaxation that jars heavily on some natures.

Foot-ball produces what may be called the endogenous or ingrowing toenail, stringhalt and mania. Copenhagen induces a melancholy, and the game of bean bag is unduly exciting. Horse racing is too brief and transitory as an outdoor game, requiring weeks and months for preparation and lasting only long enough for a quick person to ejaculate “Scat!” The pitcher’s arm is a new disease, the outgrowth of base-ball; the lawn-tennis elbow is another result of a popular open-air amusement, and it begins to look as though the coming American would hear with one overgrown telephonic ear, while the other will be rudimentary only. He will have an abnormal base-ball arm with a lawn-tennis elbow, a powerful foot-ball-kicking leg with the superior toe driven back into the palm of his foot. He will have a highly trained biceps muscle over his eye to retain his glass, and that eye will be trained to shoot a curved glance over a high hat and witness anything on the stage.

Other features grow abnormal, or shrink up from the lack of use, as a result of our customs. For instance, the man whose business it is to get along a crowded street with the utmost speed will have, finally, a hard, sharp horn growing on each elbow, and a pair of spurs growing out of each ankle. These will enable him to climb over a crowd and get there early. Constant exposure to these weapons on the part of the pedestrian will harden the walls of the thorax and abdomen until the coming man will be an impervious man. The citizen who avails himself of all modern methods of conveyance will ride from his door on the horse car to the elevated station, where an elevator will elevate him to the train and a revolving platform will swing him on board, or possibly the street car will be lifted from the surface track to the elevated track, and the passenger will retain his seat all the time. Then a man will simply hang out a red card, like an express card, at his door, and a combination car will call for him, take him to the nearest elevated station, elevate him, car and all, to the track, take him where he wants to go, and call for him at any hour of the night to bring him home. He will do his exercising at home, chiefly taking artificial sea baths, jerking a rowing machine or playing on a health lift till his eyes hang out on his cheeks, and he need not do any walking whatever. In that way the coming man will be over-developed above the legs, and his lower limbs will look like the desolate stems of a frozen geranium. Eccentricities of limb will be handed over like baldness from father to son among the dwellers in the cities, where every advantage in the way of rapid transit is to be had, until a metropolitan will be instantly picked out by his able digestion and rudimentary legs, just as we now detect the gentleman from the interior by his wild endeavors to overtake an elevated train.