Gumming Up The Works.

So I was in the elevator pretending I was alone when the guy next to me offered me a rectangle of gum. Technically he offered me a “stick of gum”, but I think the flat rectangle that gum usually comes in stretches the definition of “stick”. I took it even though I don’t like gum because I felt guilty about having spent several seconds of the elevator ride pretending he didn’t exist. And I was pleasantly surprised to see it was an old-fashioned brand of gum, one of the ones I remember from childhood, and not one of the more recent, modern brands of gum that come in black packages and have commercials that associate gum-chewing with free-falling in interiors designed by H.R. Giger and other surreally dangerous activities. It’s strange to me to see so much gum and even candy advertising aimed at adults, treating it as something risky when everybody knows the most dangerous thing you can do with gum is fall asleep with it in your mouth causing it to become animate and crawl into your hair, second only to swallowing it because it will stay in your stomach for seven years unless removed by Donald Pleasance and Raquel Welch.

Anyway I swallowed the gum after it had lost its flavor which, with any gum, takes about thirty seconds. That’s also what I always did as a kid because I never had the foresight to save the wrapper so I could dispose of it cleanly. And it brought back a lot of memories. I’ve never liked gum but when I was a kid I always took it anyway whenever it was offered, mostly because I was polite and didn’t think I should say no to grownups, and even though I’d been warned never to take candy from strangers I wasn’t being offered candy. I was being offered gum which technically isn’t even really food. At best it’s an artist’s medium like paint or clay or dirty laundry—in other words things that you should never put in your mouth. That’s how I treated gum when I was a kid, anyway. When I didn’t swallow it, mainly because I found someone else’s gum on the ground of course I picked it up because it could be molded, stretched, and shaped. There’s a now infamous bit of family lore about the time I stretched strands and strands of gum across the back of my mother’s car because I imagined I was building spider webs and she was too busy driving to notice what I was doing.

Maybe I only remember that because the story’s been repeated so many times but I also remember that whole day building gum webs on trees and bushes and under the neighbor’s deck and in an art gallery where one sold for five figures. How I managed to find so much gum on the ground is still a mystery and maybe it’s all been exaggerated in my memory because when I was a kid time seemed to stretch out so much longer. An hour could last as much as three days. There are probably genuine psychological reasons for this. When we’re young every experience is not only new but we have so little in the way of other experiences we can relate it to so it’s a lot to take in. That flood of information can be overwhelming and make it seem like time is moving more slowly, especially to a developing brain. And I find I miss that feeling. Is there any way of getting it back, and does it require interiors designed by H.R. Giger?

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10 Comments

  1. Red

    You forgot about the inherent danger of biting your cheek. Ouch!

    Gum… I could write a whole post about it, but mainly, the gum tree at school. In high school, there was a random tree that you had to walk past between the main school building and the arts building, and all the choir students (choir was last period) would stick there gum on it as the passed from class to choir. I went back years later and it was SO GROSS! Years and years of teenagers’ used gum stuck to a tree!

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Biting one’s cheek is definitely dangerous. However I kind of admire the gum tree. It may not be the nicest thing but I’ve seen people do worse things with gum, and there is something cool about keeping up with a tradition for that long.

      Reply
  2. Arionis

    This is good timing. I often work with a contractor who is constantly offering me gum. When he did it this morning I began to wonder if he was just being nice of if he was implying that my breath stank.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      The truth is I don’t think anyone really likes gum so any time anyone has a pack they offer some to everybody else just to get rid of it as quickly as possible.

      Reply
  3. Mrs Fancy-Pants

    Ew. Yuck yuck yuck! You were a seriously gross kid!

    One of my kids ate gum. So I guess they have 6 years left before it gets evicted from their stomach.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Whether or not gum stays in your stomach for seven years, or even a really long time, is something I’ve always meant to look up but I never quite get around to it. I’ve also heard it also passes out of your system in about twenty-four hours, but I kind of like the idea of it staying there for years.

      Reply
  4. Ann Koplow

    I’ve always been afraid to swallow gum. Maybe I’m scared it will morph into a flavorless H.R. Giger alien and burst out of me, creating a sticky situation.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      For gum to morph into an alien and burst from your chest would be pretty tasteless.

      Reply
  5. Allison

    I love that song. The Lonnie Donnegan version is on heavy rotation in my playlist. I like gum because one of my meds gives me cotton mouth. Gum helps. I like Orbit. Sweet Mint, Bubble Mint or Peppermint.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      A few years ago I was taking medication that gave me cotton mouth and I found Biotene helped. Maybe I should have tried gum, though. I could get something useful when I was done chewing.

      Reply

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