My Gum Problem

Today’s post comes from Steve Grooms.

I was a weird sort of kid. I wasn’t comfortable with other kids my age. If I saw someone walking toward me on the sidewalk, I’d cross the street, pretending to be on an urgent errand. You could call me “shy.” “Weird” might be more accurate.

One reason for avoiding other kids was that I talked to myself as I walked. I told stories,
improbable fantasies in which a kid who looked like me did heroic acts. I engaged in conversations and arguments. And I brooded about various issues.

An issue that troubled me especially in the 1950s was chewing gum.

If there is data to show how many kids chewed gum back then, I haven’t found it, but far more kids chewed than now. Almost everyone chewed. In some schools at the start of the day the teachers ran a gum patrol, walking around with tissues and ordering kids to get rid of their gum. Some kids bluffed by claiming they weren’t chewing. If they later got caught, the consequences were not pretty.

I looked down on kids addicted to gum. The act of chewing gave them a vacant, bovine expression. I wasn’t alone in this. In Hollywood films from that time, if the audience was meant to see a character as shallow and stupid that character would chew gum.

My real problem, however, was with used gum, discarded used gum. Nobody had a good way to dispose of stale gum after the flavor was gone. Some kids just spat it out wherever they were. If you walked the sidewalks of my home town you inevitably would step on a sticky, icky lump of old gum. It would adhere to the sole of your shoe, a repulsive gluey blog that you didn’t dare touch.

Kids spat out their gum because we all knew how dangerous it was to swallow gum. It was common knowledge that gum had magical powers to defeat our bodies from digesting it. Lumps of swallowed gum wouldn’t break down but would drift in our bodies, inevitably lodging in the worst possible place: the appendix. There the swallowed gum would join all the other gum you had swallowed in your lifetime, stretching the appendix until one day—kablooie—the appendix would blow.

Death by Dentyne!

A horrifying discovery!

And even that wasn’t the worst of my chewing gum problem. What I hated most of all was the way kids parked used gum on the underside of restaurant tables, school desks or the counters of soda grills. If you ran your hands along the under side of a table you would discover a densely packed minefield of discarded gum, all dry and hard, stuck there forever. To my mind, this was more disgusting than picking your nose in public.

And the under surfaces of virtually allrestaurant tables were covered with these nasty little gum boogers.

This depressed me. If young people were going to be so gross and lazy, I reasoned, how could anyone believe they would solve really difficult issues? I wanted to believe that my generation would get some things right that previous generations had screwed up. But all those wads of dried gum mocked my idealism. Modern kids were obviously disgusting slobs.

Now let’s move ahead about sixty years in time.

About a month ago I tested my sense that things were better. I cautiously slid my fingers under a table top in a restaurant, feeling for lumps of old gum. No gum. None! I tried it again at a different restaurant. And another. No gum. None at all!

I have proved—to my own satisfaction—that teenagers no longer defile tables and counters as they once did. Mankind has made a giant stride forward. That leaves some challenges still needing to be worked out—issues like world peace, economic justice and global warming—but I have high hopes.

When have you worried about something that turned out to be no problem?

53 thoughts on “My Gum Problem”

  1. I had ulcers in my youth. I just read an article about the little thing that kicks in on your body when you feel stress and how if that runs on a continuous basis you get the consequences. I tend to run on 14 cylinders and have e art of procrastination down to an exact science. I like to put things on the back burner and not get incapacitated by he thought that the other shoe is going to drop. life is crazy enough without considering how crazy it could be if all the crazy options kicked in. I could imagine the end of life as we know it and begin the sky is falling routine until I was a wad of spent anxiety waiting for the trip to the great beyond.
    I wish sometimes I was one of those people who just sat and relaxed with no back issues percolating away in the fringe. Dream on.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. One of my sainted aunts once told me, “a person always worries about the wrong thing-thing you’re about won’t be the thing that gets you”, snd she’s absolutely right.

    So when a random worry occurs to me, I give it a good hard worry so it doesn’t actually get me.

    It’s worked so far….

    Liked by 3 people

    1. One of my sainted aunts once told me “the thing you are proudest of . . . that’s the thing that gets you.”

      Actually, I have no sainted aunts, but I wish I did. Meanwhile, watch out for that thing you think is your special virtue. There’s a good chance that’s the thing that’ll do you in because you are busy worrying about the wrong thing.


      1. I grew up in Iowa with conservative parents. Pride in my virtues is low on my list of worries, but I’ll give it some attention today, just in case.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. Of course, I wasn’t talking about you. My point, if it is not already clear, is that most people understand they have weaknesses or faults, but also that they do some things well. What we need to keep a sharp eye on is that thing we think we do well. The guy who is proud of adhering to good core values needs to be careful about being harshly judgmental. The guy who is proud of being candid needs to worry about hurting others by blurting stuff out. People who are good at appreciating the perspectives of others are at some risk of not taking stands when maybe they should.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Well yes, but one can never have too many worries, just in case 😉

          And those of you concerneda out a possible billionaire presidency? My only child, the s&h, turns 18 too late to vote, but in plenty of time to suffer all the adult consequences of that election.

          I’m worrying enough for all of you, you’re welcome 🙂

          Liked by 4 people

      2. “My sainted aunt” in two posts! I haven’t known others to use the expression except my father. However, it wasn’t until after he died that I figured out what he was saying. I always thought it was “my sain tadan”. It certainly never made any sense.


        1. This post responds to madislandgirl’s – my 18-year old granddaughter and I are gaga over Bernie so it’s fun to text back and forth about his burgeoning support base. Like last night – 28,000 people at his rally. The media, of course, barely mentioned it. We will, of course, vote for Queen Hillary if it comes to that to prevent a sociopath becoming president!


  3. The gum chewing girl and the cud chewing cow are somewhat alike, yet different somehow. And what is the difference? I think I know now. The intelligent look on the face of the cow.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. I have a theory, Wes, that part of the appeal of gum is that chewing it erases your expression, making it difficult for others to read you. Why would this appeal to young folks? Because they worry so much about what others will think of them. They can use gum to hide the fact they don’t know what to do with their faces.

      Similarly, what group has recently taken up chewing gum? Baseball players. Why? Because tobacco kills, so they can’t chew that, and chewing makes their faces unreadable (which is good when things get tense).

      Liked by 2 people

  4. In an interesting change of school philosophy: teachers now selectively encourage gum chewing in school. They have figured out that it gives fidgety kids something to do, helps quiet some part of the body/brain for those kids who need help with that to concentrate, etc. This is not to say that Darling Daughter is allowed to blow bubbles in class nor is cracking your gum acceptable – I find it interesting though, that she will say things like, “I have a test in ____ today, so I’m going to pack a stick of gum in my bag.”

    I’m not much of a fretter, so worry is not high on my list of activities. I figure I survived the Reagan and Bush II years, and so did humanity (mostly). Not entirely un-wounded, but the world continued to spin and art continued to be made.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. An IRS audit. It’s turned out that I had made an error and they owed ME money. Less than a hundred dollars and the agent said it was likely that I wouldn’t be audited again for at least three years. Nope. Audited again the following year and this time I owed them less than fifty bucks. At the time an employee business expense was allowed to be calculated on a per-day basis but the daily allowance went down after so many consecutive days at the same location. Supposedly, a person needs less to live on after being in one city for three months. It’s seems as though I’m on a good list with the IRS as those were the last audits I’ve experienced.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. It’s much better to owe a bit. Soooo many people are soooo pleased as to how much they “get back” in taxes. I always say, “Did the government send you a thank you note for the interest free loans?”


  6. I wanted to comment on the photo at the top of this piece. It is my favorite photo of the relationship I have with my daughter. I had just told her, “Molliwog, there is one and only one correct way to blow a bubble. And I’m going to show you how.” And my skeptical daughter is thinking, “Daddy, you are so full of s__t!”

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Weight. I wish, when I started to worry about the first 5 or 10 extra #s, I would have just relaxed… Maybe the other 20 #s would not have joined them. Will think more…

    Nice timing about the gum, Steve! I agree it’s not as bad as it used to be, but CBS Sunday Morning this week had a spot called Wacky Jobs: The Gum Buster, about a guy with special equipment who goes around cleaning up discarded gum!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. My Wasband was a genius in his field (quantum psychology, don’t ask), and had friends who were right up with them. Although I liked them well enough, I was apprehensive about meeting and spending time with them because I was afraid I would have nothing to say in any conversation we would have. It turned out that I can talk my way out of a paper bag…

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I saw an interesting segment of the cable show, Mythbusters, in which they tested the notion it is easy to fight your way out of a paper bag. It turns out to be more of a challenge than we usually think! But yes, you do have what the Irish call the gift of blarney!

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Last month I got worried about my current temp job ending, because they’d hired new people and the department was (at long last) fully staffed or close to it. Then this week they told me to work off the general queue of incoming items, instead of working only with one smaller team. Once I got a look at that, I realized that not only will they not be getting rid of me any time soon, I may only be leaving in a box…

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Wouldn’t you better off financially, CG, if they hired you instead of working as a temp? Or are you not interested in a full-time, long-term position?


    1. I had an irrational fear as a child (about 8 or 9 years old) that I would “have to get married” before I graduated from high school. I had no understanding of why that happened to some older girls I heard my mom talking about in shocked and disapproving tones. Once I got some education I figured out what the grownups were talking about and I stopped worrying.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You just hit a cord in me. For many years, my mom told me over and over that getting involved with a boy, I’d get in trouble. I finally lived out her pronouncement and ended up pregnant at 19.


      2. It really is too bad that in some parts of this country, there are those who seek to keep young women from the enlightenment yoy got.


  10. I may be neglecting the trail, but I’m still here and planning to host BBC on Sunday 4/17 at 2:00 (right?). Let me know if you need the address and/or directions. (caroline dot wolfe at gmail dot com)

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Saw a barn swallow this morning. The ‘Advance’ advance scout I presume… but he sat on the wire and chittered at me for a good 30 seconds.
    Nice. There is hope.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Dear Baboons:
    I am in a reflective mood and have been doing work on a potential submission to the Trail. I seek information as to how that might be done.
    Thank you for being gentle souls.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. At the very top left to of the screen you will see the Word Press W. Touch the W and you will see a drop down menu which, at the bottom, says blog posts and add. Touch the add, and it will take you to a screen in which you can type your post. You will see another button on the left that says submit for review . Do so.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. This post reminds me of a Weekend Update bit from Saturday Night Live years ago, reporting on the death of chewing gum heir Philip Wrigley. It was said that in accordance with the family’s wishes, his remains would be stuck to the bottom of a lunch counter.

    Liked by 1 person

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