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The Plumber

Jack Holzman plumbers and plumbing supplies, up there in Human Str. on the ground floor of the building better known to the gambling fraternity of Krugersdorp as the tattersalls, which was on the first floor.

Being a plumber was not on my list of careers I dreamed of following. Geniuses like me were made for higher destinies. I would never look down on anyone who followed the career of plumbing. I was born with an innate sense that all men deserve my respect. Being born of a different colour or gender or level of intellect, was not a reason to treat a person with disrespect.

The first inkling that I was not a genius came in STDV, when the new system of grading children according to IQ was introduced. I attributed my low score to my characteristic of having an attack of nerves whenever faced with tests of any kind.

It is true that my scholastic achievements up to that time weren’t wonderful, to say the least. As always even to this day I had an explanation for everything, as if I was an expert. My explanation for poor scholastic performance did not include a low intelligence quotient. The fault lay with me being worried about matters outside school, like my physical appearance, the fate of the universe, the health of my parents and pet animals. I also had weak eyesight and I tended to be easily distracted by pretty girls in the classroom.

Unfortunately I didn’t share my explanations with my parents and they remained mystified by my poor scholastic achievements until one bright day the school principal called them in to reveal the results of the IQ test. There, in black and white, was irrevocable proof that they were the parents of a rather dull witted child. They were delighted; a dumb child is much less of a concern than a mentally disturbed child or one who couldn’t see properly.

Problem solved, no more pressure was put on me to try and improve my grades. All that remained now was to wait for the day when I’d be old enough to be legally

taen out of school, to learn a trade or to work in my father’s timber yard. In the meantime I’d be placed in a class of dullards. My friends, however, all had high IQs and I was upset to be separated from them, which wasn’t much help in proving that I was actually the genius I knew myself to be.

My good nature kicked in; I decided to give up my dreams of being a writer and movie producer and accept my future with a smile and a shrug of my shoulders. I adopted the mindset of a socialist, proud to be one of the working class. My best friend M in fact had deliberately chosen to make a career out of being a tradesman, despite his high intelligence. We were unique in a society that respected learning and the higher professions, like medicine, accountancy, engineering etc.

Although my parents sold building supplies, they didn’t have a high opinion of someone working in a shop. Their dream was to have children in high ranking professions like doctors or lawyers. My brother’s high IQs gave them hopes for attaining their ambition.

With my low IQ I was ideal for the business. All I needed was to learn a trade associated with it and failing that to gain experience in working in a business that sold building supplies.

At the end of STD VII, at six o’clock in the morning, dressed in my new blue jeans overall, carrying the lunch box my mother had prepared for me I joined my fellow workmen on the back of Mr. Holzman’s truck, to begin my apprenticeship as a plumber.

We climbed off the truck in Sterkfontein Rd. where a new room had been built adjoining SOS butchery, which happened to belong to my friend A’s father. Before being plastered and painted, a water pipe had to be inserted into a channel in the new blue brick wall. My job was to chase a groove, by means of a chisel and a heavy that the pipe would fit in snugly.

Holding the hammer in my right hand, blow after blow I hit the chisel in my left hand. By the end of the day I had made a groove about 5 inches long. Looking on, the foreman shook his head, saying “tut tut”. The next day Mr. Holzman’s truck didn’t come to fetch me for work; my plumbing days were over.

My failure to make the grade as a plumber wasn’t serious. The next step was to get me into a job as a salesman in a building supply company, similar to the one my parents operated. An important looking stout man interviewed me in his office at Federated Timbers. All was set for me to leave home and live in Germiston with my Aunty Sara and uncle louis.

My old uncle, a man of few words, his big belly protruding, as he sat in the middle of his shop, coughed, waved smoke out of his eyes and addressed my mother. Put that child back in school. My parent’s plans came to nought and my life was set on a new track.

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