Monday, October 18, 2010

Gutter Talk

I was just past the 6 kilometer mark of my daily 8 kilometer run through the neighborhood and its environs. That's about 3 miles for the less metrically inclined.

Suddenly, in the gutter, I spied something. It looked like it was a colorful medallion that had fallen off a car.

I ran a bit further thinking about it. How it was bright and blatant. How exactly it might have come loose and then wound up resting  in the gutter. How I'd be foolish to defer further investigation until my evening walk.

What if it was gone by then?

I paused my stopwatch, turned around, went back. I pocketed it. Then I ran home.

What I Had
So someone had lost a piece of their Mercedes. I turned the medallion over and noticed that the plastic tabs were broken off. Plastic? On a Mercedes?

I once owned a car made in Sweden. It had beautiful medallions fore and aft. Eventually the one on the trunk became all silver. The enamel image of a royal looking lion on the metal disk had cracked and crumbled off. It cost me $40 to replace it.

The Mercedes medallion, belonging to a car worth at least one-third more than my old Swedish trooper, was worth about forty cents.

All About Gutters
Oscar Wilde said, "We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." (Lady Windemere's Fan, Act III) I suppose an archaeologist trying to understand American life could do worse than undertake an examination of our gutters. What we leave behind there does give an indication of what has momentarily been important to us. Then we used it up or changed our minds.

Gutter debris particularly fascinated me as a child. Years later I realized that some of my favorites have gone away forever.

    Remember this fine technology?
  • The long snarled trail of magnetic tape that leads eventually to a smashed cassette shell. When is the last time anyone has seen that?
  • The rejected CD, famous for appearing in shiny fragments against asphalt, is a rare find these days, replaced by the MP3 and iPod mode of musical playback.
  • A crushed can. Aluminum is valuable. It doesn't stay on the ground long. Collected, recycled.
  • String. What has happened to string?
  • Pennies. I don't think people carry change like they used to. So they don't drop it by accident.

What I'm left with is gutter classics. I suppose they'll never leave us.

  • Dried earthworms who avoided drowning in the last rain only to become elongated brittle pasta noodles in the sun.
  • Clumps of lawn clippings.
  • Mounds of mud.
  • Fast food wrappers.
  • Cigarette butts.
  • Used condoms.
  • Doggie doo-doo

My Best Gutter Story
Recently my son and I were going for an evening walk around the neighborhood. We were immersed in conversation about technology, especially how Macs compare to PCs, a discussion that has the potential to ignite into the same kind of unfortunate back and forth as two people discussing politics or how people used to debate Ford vs. Chevy. It's rather ridiculous arguing about computers, like wanting to settle once and for all who has the better toaster.

I had just made a particular pronouncement about Mr. Jobs and the latest iteration of Apple products for computing when we came to something lying in the gutter. It was a magazine. I reached down and picked it up.

It was a copy of Macworld.

At this point I hummed the Twilight Zone theme music...woo-de-woo-dew/woo-de-woo-dew

Shaking off our disbelief, we looked at the address label and realized that the magazine was supposed to have been delivered to a mailbox just steps away from us. Apparently the mail carrier had fumbled it out of his truck without noticing . We put the Macworld in the Mac Person's Mail Box (or is it iBox?) and carried on with our walk.

All of us are in the gutter. Some of us are looking at computers and the ornaments on our cars. But most days, honestly, I prefer stars and the attendant mysteries that pour out of the cosmos.- V.W.


1 comment:

  1. Regarding things that one sees while running: in our old neighborhood in Tallahassee, which was in fact kind of the hood, we saw microwaves ALL THE TIME. Seriously, at least 1 per run. Usually sitting next to the trashcan, not in it. I'm guessing that was because people moved in and out of those places all the time, and different roommates had microwaves, or something along those lines.