A while ago, I noticed a small hole had formed in the right-hand front pocket of my black jeans. In fact, I didn’t just notice it had formed, I noticed it as it formed, slowly, over a period of time. Each time I wore the jeans, I’d be reminded that this hole was developing, but then I’d forget about it and not take any action to prevent it getting worse.
Then it happened. I reached into my pocket to grab some change (I was in the Wilmington Arms, it was about a quarter to four on the nineteenth of June), the fabric which had been wearing thinner and thinner over the past few months finally gave way. A five pence piece slipped down my leg and fell out of the bottom of my trouser leg. It rolled across the floor. I waited five minutes to see if anyone had noticed and then went to pick it up.
I moved my change from right-hand front pocket to left-hand front pocket, but then forgot to mend the hole. “Oh yes, I’ll fix that when I get home” I thought. I never got round to it.
I’d had the jeans for quite a while. They were T-000 tapered skinny jeans from Uniqlo. I liked them.
On Saturday, I decided to go into Kingston. Why shouldn’t I? I am a grown man, I don’t have to explain myself to you. I got the 213 bus. I sat upstairs. I felt an itch, fairly high up on my inner thigh. I innocently scratched the itch. I did nothing at all inappropriate. However, I did detect that the fabric was now beginning to wear thin here as well. It wouldn’t be long before these jeans could no longer be worn in public without risk of arrest. I went into Uniqlo and bought a replacement pair of identical jeans.
I walked around the shops. In Oxfam, I saw a nice leather satchel which was similar to my own bag, but black (mine is brown) and a bit bigger. I had never been completely satisfied with my bag as it had been a rushed purchase (the strap of my previous bag having broken one lunchtime, forcing me to buy a replacement the same day. It had also been raining that day, and so I was determined to buy a new bag from the first shop I went to. Fortunately, this was Topman, rather than Holland & Barrett or somewhere like that, and so the selection wasn’t too bad, but still, the bag was far from ideal). I put my replacement jeans into my replacement bag, and it occurred to me that I was essentially building a spare James Ward kit. Perhaps these could be stored strategically around London in case of emergency.
I wandered down to the river. I saw a small board attached to a lamp-post inviting people to dispose of their chewing gum. The sign had been placed there by a company called GumTarget:
GumTarget is an effective way to reduce chewing gum litter and promote responsible disposal. GumTargets act as a visual reminder and motivate the chewer to dispose of their gum in the right way.
The theory is that rather than simply having a small bin in which people can dispose of their gum (and which will normally be ignored), by having something which engages people, you can reduce the problem of chewing gum litter. It’s the sort of “nudge” approach which Richard Thaler probably approves of. You subtly make people want to use the chewing gum disposal facilities provided by making it very very slightly more fun than just using a bin.
The sign I saw had presumably been paid for by Marmite, and was a continuation of their “Love Marmite/Hate Marmite” campaign. This campaign is based on the idea that because of the strong, distinctive flavour of Marmite, it tends to provoke one of two reactions. People either love it, or they hate it. The GumTarget sign I saw on Saturday had only received one vote:
I have no idea who is responsible for that vote, but it’s probably one of the most brilliant things I have ever seen. It reminds me of the time Jason Donovan was on Something For The Weekend. He was cooking some recipe with Simon Rimmer, and one of the ingredients was anchovies. “The thing about anchovies”, Jason said, “is that people either love them or hate them”.
“Yeah, I guess” Rimmer replied. “So, do you like anchovies?”
“Hmmm, I’m not really bothered either way” said Jason.
I love Jason Donovan for this. He says the single most predictable thing you could possibly say about anchovies, and yet he is so dull, he can’t even bring himself to form an opinion on anchovies and therefore manages to render his previous statement completely meaningless. It’s an extraordinary performance.