Monday, April 2, 2012

gum ...

Gum is revolting. There. I said it. I hate gum. Before I tell you why I hate it, I need to vent about this gross … ummmm … what do you call it? Food? Candy? Treat? What the fuck is it? Where is “Gum” categorized in the game “Animal, Vegetable, Mineral?”Nowhere. It’s just “Gum.” It’s just gross.

The very thought of gum can fill my mouth with warm, salty saliva; the warning sign that my stomach is about to empty itself as quickly as it can. Even the word “gum” is gross. It’s an ugly word. Like most German words. (Nichts für ungut, meine deutschen Freunde.) Say “gum” ten or twenty times and the word gets uglier. I mean it. Say it. Here, let me help you:

Gum, gum, gum, gum, gum, gum, gum, gum, gum, gum, gum, gum, gum, gum, gum, gum, gum, gum, gum, gum, gum, gum, gum, gum, gum, gum, gum, gum, gum, gum, gum. Gum. Gum. Gum. Gum. Gum.

I think I am going to be sick.

*     *     *     *     *

When I was young, I babysat two kids who lived down the street. My sisters also babysat them. They were like “hand-me-down” kids in need of sitting. The oldest, a little girl named Heather, had a little brother named David, and when Heather asked for a piece of gum, she would spell it.

“I want some gee ewe emm.”

I can still hear her spoiled, little girl voice saying that. The tone, the inflection, and the pitch creeps me out almost as much as those twin ghost girls in “The Shining.”

If I think about it long enough – which I don’t like to – I can hear her chewing her “gee ewe emm;” loud smacks with every move of her jaw, her wide-open mouth, her lack of manners. Those who smack and pop their gum make me want to smack and pop them. And, of course, when I encounter such an unfortunate, I fixate on them. There is no, ‘Live and Let Live’ credo when it comes to my life being intruded upon by an annoying subway rider who smacks and pops their gum. I summon as much power as possible to try to burn holes in them with my eyes. It never seems to work.

Many people seem to forget manners when chewing gum. It’s as if gum wrappers had one or more of the following directions on them:

“For maximum enjoyment, chew with your mouth open and smack your tongue off your mouth’s roof with each chew.”

“To enhance flavor, allow a piece of product to hang outside corner of mouth while chewing."

“Blowing bubbles and popping your gum is not only fun, but it makes you a more interesting person that others enjoy being around!”

“Chew until there is absolutely no flavor or color left. Consistency remains forever as is and will not disintegrate, dissolve, or pulverize from any chewing action. Chew until satisfied and either add another piece to increase enjoyment or discard unwanted chewed gum.”

*     *     *     *     *

There are gum discards everywhere! Look at the sidewalk in any heavily trafficked area and you’ll notice hundreds – if not thousands – of black dots. These are old pieces of gum. Discards. Cast aways. Garbage. Trash. Litter. Gum. It’s absolutely disgusting.

Everyone has accidentally touched the underside of a table, desk, chair, or bar and found a gum discard. In one millisecond you first think, “What is that? A rough patch of wood or something I need to attend to?” and then immediately, gum chewer or not, you recoil and think, “OH MY GOD! That’s a piece of fucking gum! Gross!” There is no better reason to carry Purel.

Two places are attractions for gum discards. There is "Bubble Gum Alley" in San Louis Obispo, California, and the mother of all gum discards, "The Gum Wall" in Seattle’s Post Alley. Touted as the most “germ infected” tourist attraction in the country, people put their gum on this wall for fun. This wall is my torture nightmare. More than being eaten by bears, I am deathly afraid of being pushed against this wall, face first, eyes and mouth forced open. While some tortures may be more painful, this is THE worst kind of torture possible.

Bubble Gum Alley -- San Louis Obispo, California

The Gum Wall -- Seattle, Washington
(photo by Victor Grigas, Dec 2011)

Oh my god. I taste salt in my mouth.

*      *      *      *      *
When my dog Victor was a puppy, he often found freshly discarded gum on the warm sidewalks of Irvine, California. If I did not watch closely, I’d eventually find him smacking his lips as he chewed, a confused and elated look on his face. I’d scream “Drop it! Drop it!” with no result, so I would reach into his mouth and take it out. What horror: people-chewed and then dog-chewed gum, that sometimes had a minty smell!

Oh my god. I taste salt in my mouth.

When I was little, we labeled discarded wads of chewed gum, no matter where found, “ABC Gum,” or “Already Chewed Gum.” One of my sisters (maybe both, but I am not certain) loved to find ABC Gum and try it for herself. “Mmmmmm … ABC Gum!” she’d squeal as she pulled it from the water fountain basins at Rosemary Elementary School and promptly pop it in her mouth.

Oh my god. I taste salt in my mouth.

In high school, before I met and fell in love with my first boyfriend, I dated this horribly trendy mod girl. Yes … I dated girls. I wanted to try to fit in. Besides, she drove a cool scooter and wore awesome Creepers. Keep in mind, however, that I was also sleeping with most of the New Wave boys who I met at The Upstart Crow, a coffee shop/bookstore that was the misfits’ hangout.

Anyway, this same girl joined me at a school dance. I remember vividly the incident that prompted our breakup.

We drank bottles of Peppermint Schnapps and Bartels & James Wine Coolers and got pretty buzzed by the time we were standing in line to enter the Cafetorium. We kissed. (Being buzzed made kissing girls a bit more palatable.) She was chewing gum. Our lips locked and our tongues did what tongues do while kissing. She placed her gum in my mouth.

Oh my god. I taste salt in my mouth.

Done. Goodbye. Drive that little scooter away, but first, can you give me a ride to The Crow?

*     *     *     *     *

It is a social norm that one offers others a piece of gum when taking one out to masticate. How polite. When offered, I always decline. Most people get a quizzical and confused look on their face, as if gently thinking, “Are you a freak, I am offering you gum? No one turns down gum. What the hell is wrong with you?”

“Are you sure?” they ask.

“Yes, I am sure. I don’t chew gum.”

“You don’t chew gum? Why not?”

I share with them this true tale:

When I was little, I chewed gum. I liked it. Hubba Bubba was a favorite. Chewels and Freshen Up were awesome. Dentyne, Wrigley’s, Razzles, and Blow Pops, and that pink, hard-as-a-rock crap with the comic strip in the wrapper. I chewed ‘em all. Then I got braces.

I loved my braces and I did not chew gum when I had them. The day they came off, I marveled at how smooth my teeth felt and I licked my teeth until I nearly cut my tongue.

I rode bikes with my friends to the nearby 7-11 to buy gum. Off we peddled to Campbell Park. Oh! The joy! That Hubba Bubba was the best thing I had tasted in months! I chewed and chewed and chewed and chewed. Four, five, six, maybe countless pieces filled my mouth and I went to town. What fun! What freedom!

Shortly, in the summer sun, I got a familiar funny feeling. I said to myself, “Oh my god. I taste salt in my mouth” and promptly threw up on my white and blue terry cloth OP shirt and my starch-stiff 501 blue jeans.

And since that day, "gee ewe emm" has disgusted emm eee -- period.


  1. How about a styrofoam cup a quarter filled with pepsi soda and chew. The cup is in a trucker's cab, whose been runnin' a load straight threw for three and a half days. And the guy forgot his toothbrush after leaving home.


  2. Very amusing! I also hate gum! When you are on the phone at work, you always know when there is a gum chewer on the other end! Disgusting! The sound of a cow chewing it's cud would be more appealing!

  3. I used to chew two packs a day. I'm not even being cute, I no longer do that. I don't chew gum at all. But now that i have stopped I see how gross it is for others.. ewwwwwww

  4. ABC = Already Been Chewed
    ALmost too much info for MOM - but Laughed and laughed - I am in Oceano - next to SLO - geeeeeee! Should I go see the landmark?????

  5. Say Goodbye a little longer
    Make it last a little longer
    Give your breath long lasting freshness with Big Redddddddd!

    off the the corner store to stock up on Big Red!