The Mysterious Tiny Pocket in Your Jeans

Every single pair of jeans in the world has this tiny pocket inside the front right pocket. It’s just a fact of fashion, like jogging bottoms don’t have flies or that socks have heels and toes. We all know that it’s there, and while we mostly just ignore its entire existence, we’ve all had that moment of confusion. Why is it there? What is it for? Why is it so small?

Most people have never used it, but some have tried to come up with uses. Some are attempted answers to the origin with various success, and some are simply trying to find any good use. There is a clear reason for it to be there, one revealed in the pockets name, but first let’s look at the guesses and ideas.

Some people call it a condom pocket, and there a numerous reasons that this cannot be the origin and it a terrible idea. For one thing, jeans were invented in the 1800s and while condoms as we know them were beginning to be invented, latex condoms weren’t invented until the 1920s and condom use wasn’t socially acceptable or well known until the 1980s. As well as the likelihood of the pocket being for condoms being practically zero, keeping a condom in a trouser pocket is going to damage it and make it unsafe to use. Just like in a wallet as you open and close it, a condom in your jeans pocket is being subjected to repeated friction as you move your legs, wearing the thin latex even thinner and making it far more likely to tear when used.

A lot of people call it a coin pocket, and say it’s for keeping small change. One problem with this is that coin purses have existed for much longer than trousers, let alone jeans, so it’s a bizarre reason to design a tiny pocket. The other problem is the size and placement of the pocket makes it really hard to get said money out. People who claim this as the truth don’t tend to use it, as it’s just impractical. It is, however, also known as a coin pocket, and it has developed a coin usage.

There is, in the USA, a tradition of challenge coins; coins issued by mostly military organisations to prove membership. The challenge is presented at a bar, when one person with a challenge coin gets it from their pocket and taps it on the bar. All others present must produce their own coins, if they have them, and tap them too. If one person doesn’t have a coin, they buy everyone else a drink, but if everyone has a coin the challenger buys everyone else a drink. The usefulness of this small pocket to hold challenge coins has been officially recognised, but this still isn’t its original name and function.

Of course, for people who don’t care what its purpose is, it can still be a useful pocket. While keeping condoms in there is a bad idea, there are plenty of other small things people like to have on hand that fit nicely in this tiny pocket. Some small pocket knives and flashlights are specifically designed for it, and it’s a good size to keep other tools and trinkets like bottle openers or a ring you’ve had to take off for a while. It’s also perfect for keeping your keys, maybe with the keychain or fob hanging out for easy access if you have the same problem as you would with money. Things like chapsticks also sit nicely and easy to access in them too.

But what is it actually called, and what is it actually for? It’s simply called a watch pocket. Before we had wristwatches and long before we carried the time around on our phones, people wore pocket watches and had loose watches to tell the time. Jeans were invented for cowboys and frontiersmen, and keep their watches safe and close to hand they were designed with a small pocket to keep their pocket watch in. Searching for “tiny jeans pockets” brings up countless articles that point this out, all referencing back to the Levi Strauss blog entry explaining the name. Doing an image search for the same even brings up pictures of pocket watches in watch pockets. It’s all so simple, and the fact we don’t use pocket watches in day to day life is probably also why it’s not a well known fact.

The Reality of Fundraising

I started a fundraising job on a Monday, and handed in my uniform on the Thursday. The reason isn’t particularly a fault on my part, nor any fault on my team or supervisor, but a fundamental issue with the role; people are really horrible. I applied for the job because I wanted to do something that made me feel happy and like I’d made a positive difference. Instead, only four days in, I felt awful in myself and disgusted at humanity.

To be clear, the job was as far from ‘chugging’ as charity fundraising can be. I was paid an hourly wage, rather than on commission. We were indoors, at a train station, with a clear area in front of a large sign and two tables. We followed the PFRA code of conduct; not stepping in front of or obstructing people, not taking advantage of vulnerable people and never trying to guilt people into signing up. The company’s own code of conduct and system for rating fundraisers focuses on long term donors, so it was in our own interest to ensure people were genuinely happy to sign up and so wouldn’t cancel it as soon as they got away.

I started with enthusiasm and a good outlook. It was more hours and better hourly rate than my last job, my team was friendly and had a positive attitude and my boss seemed absolutely lovely. It was for a well-known charity that works in a field no one can not care about and is making a real difference. I know I have a genuine smile and friendly demeanour, and I know I don’t care about looking like a fool or talking to strangers.

I was prepared for rejection. It can take a hundred “hi, how are you?”s to get someone to stop, and it can take ten conversations with someone who stops to get a sign up. The more people you try and talk to, the higher your chances of getting sign ups. I had no problem with people ignoring me or replying with “no” or “I’m busy”. In fact, people who had clearly seen me suddenly pretending they hadn’t was pretty funny.

It was the sheer amount of people looking at me like I was something they stepped in, or like I was personally insulting them. As factually as you can understand that it’s not personal, that it’s not about the charity let alone you, that it’s probably about the state of their day so far, it wears you down. I had a woman happily talk to me for ages, then look horrified and angered when I mentioned that we were looking for donations; the sheer audacity Cancer Research must have, in her opinion, to not simply pay people to stand in the train station and tell her personally about cancer and how we’re improving the treatment, but to ask her to help!?

There were a few people who reacted in anger, not just to me mentioning money, but from my apparent rudeness in daring to say “good morning” or even be standing still and not talking to them. One person told me to “fuck off” and one person nearly walked into me then looked at me in disgust. It really is surprising how close people will walk to what is obviously a charity stand when they can’t stand being greeted by charity fundraisers. Walking between us and the tables, walking through the one-person-wide gap between the tables and the banner, even resting their stuff on the table and looking at our leaflets. All just to glare and stomp away when talked to.

So it wasn’t the job I thought it would be, and it was harder from a keeping happy and positive side than leafleting on the street was. People are happier for some kid in scruffy clothes to push leaflets trying to sell them things into their hands right outside the small entrance to the train station that they are for a smartly dressed person working for a good cause to greet them when they walk past the easily avoidable stand. So much, so tiring.

At least I could go home knowing that by doing a good job I was saving lives, right? Well, I could have, had I been doing a good job. I got one sign up on my first day, a great start, and another on my second. Two thirds of the way into my three in three days starter target. Okay, so they were both people that clearly walked by us wanting to donate; it took barely any explanation and just the mention of the sign up form. And then, nothing. I came in on my third day ready to get my third sign up in the first hour. I was following all my coworkers advice and greeting every person I could. Nope. I wasn’t making the difference that I was hoping. It was definitely a downer, due to my high hopes and the expectations day one gave me.

I was still determined, then one person just… broke me.

He stopped to tell me why he refuses to donate to or support Cancer Research. He lectured me about the animal testing he says they do. I haven’t looked it up yet; it’s not important. I would agree that unnecessary animal testing, that is, testing on animals for non-life-saving reasons such as cosmetics or for testing things that are already proven, is unnecessary and I would not support it as I would prefer it did not happen. I feel the creation of life saving cancer treatments is at the very least in a grey area, as we can hardly go from theoretical to human testing.

He told me that animal testing is ‘bad science’ because animals and people are not the same. Ignore the fact that humans have had pigs’ hearts as transplants, and the success of medicine tested on animals, apparently. He skipped over my attempt to change the subject. No, all animal testing is useless and by definition animal abuse; it’s not just the medicine testing, he insisted that all animal testing is in battery-style cages and they use beagles and cut their vocal cords so they can’t cry. He painted a Nazi-esque sociopathic doctor doing it for the hell of it, and told me repeatedly that I am promoting animal abuse for fundraising for Cancer Research.

Bear in mind, of course, he is just some man with nothing to back up his statements, who has gone to the shorter, white and apparently female fundraiser, not the black man around his height. It’s me he wants to lecture and harass and tell to quit. Shaken, but not quite beaten yet, I asked him what the alternative is, hoping for him to stumble over the idea of testing on humans.

No. He instead tells me cancer is hereditary and that by “allowing people to carry on living” after being diagnosed with cancer we are just causing it to stay in the gene pool. Lifestyle factors aside, I was suddenly aware I had been confronted by a man who was genuinely arguing in favour of eugenics. You expect to meet the worst people that exist if you work in a prison or with dangerous people; a social worker, a police officer, an addiction counsellor. This man was just some man in a suit, going to work through Victoria station.

My team leader told me you get people like that sometimes. I’m not going to lie, I cried. I handed in my uniform that same day, and hope to never meet anyone that horrifying again.

The Bees by Laline Paull – a book review

A gripping novel about the life of a bee. It’s literally about a bee in a hive of bees, and yet I could not put it down. The snippets of reviews on the cover and inside covers include the legendary Margaret Atwood (author of The Handmaid’s Tale), compares it to Animal Farm, and hint at the ways it discusses our own society. It is definitely as well written and exciting as they all say… but perhaps I missed something, as while I devoured the tale I saw no parallels with our own existence. The characters have incredibly human-like emotions, motivations and actions, but are strongly and undoubtedly apian.

Paull’s understanding of bees is seemingly unending, and I felt not only entertained but educated. The details about the caste-like kin structure of the hive, the ways they communicate, the movement and appearance of their bodies, are so precise and realistic that I almost felt to-scale myself. You might know that all but the drones are male, and that only the queen bee lays eggs, but by the end of this book there will definitely be some facts you’ll be surprised to learn. On the other side of that coin, some facts about bees that are basic knowledge to humans are shocking plot twists; despite knowing exactly what was happening or what secret was being hidden, the tension and the mystery were palpable and thrilling.

The true existence of bees in this novel is not only illuminating, but interesting in thoughts of humanity. It may not hold a mirror to our lives but the gender politics, religiousness and strict social roles have clear messages for us and dystopian tones.

Bees are a strong matriarchy, but the book still shows a reverence for maleness that we also find insidiously hard to avoid. While their ruler and god-head is the obviously female Queen, the drones are all revered, worshipped and waited on hand and foot (or rather, foot and foot, as they’re bees). This revelation about the gender roles in apian society saddened me, if I’m quite honest, but without spoiling the story it has a kind of satisfying twist ending that some might know about.

The structure of society, both the ‘kin’ hierarchy and the connection to the queen, are overtly religious and smack of horrifying, dystopian theocracy. The Queen is immortal, holy and without flaw. Her connection to them is that of a living Goddess, blessing them and being prayed to daily. The female society addressing each other as sister (though, as all were laid by the Queen, they literally are) feels very nun-like, and the highest ranking bees are called Priestesses. While I find the idea of religion being used to create a dystopia dull, as it can be heavy handed and (ironically) preachy, but this is one of the best examples. It doesn’t feel like a “religion is bad and dystopias are caused by religion” lecture, but just one aspect of the terrifying lives of bees and a coincidental truth.

Our protagonist, born to be the lowest class of humble cleaner but destined to ascend that role and achieve greatness, is a very strong dystopia stock character. It’s a well-used and stark mark of a totalitarian society, and strikes everyone with goals with horror. Every single bee has her life’s role, duties and social status decided before birth, pigeon holed into a physically distinguished caste. True to Paull’s gentle touch throughout the book, however, this isn’t portrayed as utterly evil and unbearable. The cleaners are shown to be incapable of the tasks higher roles require, and content to clean as their instinct commands them. Even our chosen one main character, who surprises everyone be being able to talk, make royal jelly, make wax, and forage, finds solace in tidying and camaraderie most in her own kin.

All of the issues presented are simply the way that bees are; this is less a cautionary tale of a twisted, worst-case-scenario than it is a story of a generic society with a corruption problem and a rebel who makes changes. I had that pure reading experience, emotionally invested in the characters, caught up in the narrative and my mind full of images of bees. Whether or not the morals or themes appeal, it’s a great story that happens to have a non-human setting. It’s more than worth the read; it’s worth the accolades and prizes it got and you’re missing out.