Collector: So yeah, I remember when we were hanging out that you, like, had us walk around the poles if we both went on opposite sides of it. Is that something you do with everyone or, like, how did you learn that?
Informant: Yeah! So, when I was in sixth or seventh grade, my best friend did it because she was superstitious. And she was superstitious because her mom was, so like it kind of passed on to me. But now it’s basically conditioned in me so I always do it.
Collector: so what does it even mean to split the poles?
Informant: So if you’re walking with someone or a group of people and you pass by a pole or trash can or anything that’s an obstacle, you all need to walk on the same side of the obstacle or you will split with the person who walked on the other side. And by split, I mean no longer be friends. Like there will be a big fight in the future or the people will just stop talking with each other. So you have to walk on the same side because then you’ll lose each other.
Collector lives with the informant and is best friends with her. The practice was viewed many times as they were together and the collector wanted context for it. This explanation was prompted by the collector’s question about the origins of the custom. At this point, the custom is a habit for both the informant and the collector, who both make conscious efforts to walk on the same side of the pole. If one of them is on the wrong side by accident and realizes after the fact, they will go back and walk around on the correct side of the pole to undo the mistake.
In this case, I feel that the act of “splitting the pole” is seen as homeopathic magic, as the physical, bodily splitting represents the metaphorical and emotional split as well. However, in this case, it isn’t a representation of the person that is being performed upon, but instead the people themselves representing a future version of themselves. The tangible, current action of walking on either side of the road is a representation of the future emotional split that could happen as a result of the gesture.