Discarded, It Finds Its Way

From rubbish on a plane to wrapping paper in prison

Robert Butler
3 min readApr 14, 2022


Prison doors

Each person who heard the funny remark at the barbecue heard it in their own way and, if prompted, would have given their own account of it.

Imagine someone passing the remark on to someone who passes it on to someone else — a single moment could go through a series of translations, each time a slightly different version coming into existence.

But it’s the boy in the classroom in northern France who writes down his version of the conversation in his exercise book. What he’s written down gets transcribed and that transcription gets sent to the printers and the printers send back hundreds, maybe even thousands, of copies of this version.

A simple thing — a pun at a party — keeps changing its form as it goes from a spoken remark at a barbecue to a memory in a boy’s mind to handwriting in his exercise book to print in a magazine.

It is only one single copy of the magazines — the latest incarnation of this pun — that we’re following here. A copy of the school magazine is making a 3,500 mile-journey to the United States.

When the businessman from the small town in northern France lands at JFK airport, he absent-mindedly leaves his copy on his airplane seat. His wife had given a copy to him — just as he was leaving the house — because she told him there was a poem in it by their son.

After the passengers disembark, the cleaning staff work their way down the aisles collecting the rubbish and this copy is picked up and thrown in the rubbish bag.

We cut to a highway and the back of an open-top truck that’s transporting waste paper.

At the recycling plant, an employee is sitting outside the office, reading a porn magazine. His boss steps outside the office and yells at the guy to get back to work.

The employee hides the porn magazine by putting it inside another magazine that’s lying around as waste paper. It’s the school magazine from France. He takes this double-sized magazine back inside and — out of sight of his boss — casts the school magazine aside and returns to looking at pictures of naked women.



Robert Butler

Tell me who to read. Just no-one explaining how to get 1000 followers in half a day