Most of us follow, what they call in advertising, a “goat path.” This is a well-defined pattern of moving through the world, whether literally, as in my walk to work, or more figuratively, the pattern of interests, social networks, and respective behaviors that compose your identity and from which we hardly stray. Most advertising reinforces these patterns or speaks to common desires, but a decent advert is going to shift your goat path, if only for a minute, to create a new desire not normally within your focus. This is tough to do well and rarely happens.
My walk to work takes about 45 minutes. Lately, it’s slightly longer as I shuffle on snow and ice. Outside Vic’s apartment is the synagogue of the big-hatted Jews which is next to a school for troubled kids. The classes have not started and the kids are smoking in a group outside. On the shortcut between Green and St. Paul, I usually pass a father and his grade-school son who are waiting for someone. I turn left and walk past two parks and public housing. I cross Commonwealth Avenue to the cleared sidewalks of Boston University and head to the BU Bridge. I prefer the Charles River side of Memorial Drive as it is quieter and has my favorite view of Boston. This week, the sidewalk was finally plowed.
This is the detritus of my goat path and the people who share it with me. At once fairly typical, and yet, also unique to my particular walk in Boston. To-do lists, a parking ticket, salt bags, a student card. I suppose an anthropologist could puzzle and grid out some findings. If your are inclined to litter, it’s more likely you’ll drop your candy bar wrapper at least one block from the drug store you bought it at but within four blocks. Certain litterbugs and alcoholics are traceable by the uniqueness of their litter: the student walking to class dropping their Japanese candy boxes or the drunk heading to camp under the bridge tossing their mini-bottles of liquor. Students drop pencils at MIT and mailmen don’t give a damn about rubber bands around mailboxes. The thing that pleased me most was a rose-colored piece of cellophane that was once a candy wrapper.
There were a few things I would have liked to find but did not:
- A winning lottery ticket
- The fortune from a Chinese cookie
- The Daily Racing Form (I like the idea of old guys playing the ponies.