What would obnoxious gum chewers, chompers, and smackers do if they couldn’t chew gum to make them look and sound so obviously obnoxious? Likely they would engage in some equally annoying and mindless habit. In the olden days (before chewing gum), obnoxious men chewed tobacco. I’m not sure what such women did back then to share their impudent attitudes with the world. Maybe they fanned themselves obnoxiously and whipped their parasols through the air like equator-crossing, polywog-hazing buccaneers. But I would gladly see a return of chaw-spitters and parasol-impalers if we could rid the world of obnoxious gum chewing!
Gum chewing, in some form or another, has existed in the world for as long as mankind. In 2007, Finnish students found 5,000-year-old lumps of birch-bark tar with tooth marks, and archeologists concluded that these ancient globs were used as a type of chewing gum by those troglodytes. Sales of this birch-based ‘xylitol gum’ have surged in Finland following that announcement. A few months later, those same students found stone-age tooth marks on lumps of clay, clumps of seaweed, and wooden speartips, and afterward sales of those items tripled. It seems that the Finns will chew on anything!
Modern chewing gum came about in the 1860’s when massive imports of Mexican chicle failed to make a cheap replacement for natural rubber. A man named Black Jack Adams bought up all of the wasted stock of chicle, added such delicious flavors as pine sap and hard-boiled eggs, and his New York chewing gum phenomenon exploded on the American market.
When I was a little kid, I used to buy packs of Topps baseball cards with sticks of bubble gum in them. Sometimes I could stick a penny in a drug store gumball machine and get a handful of enjoyment. When I was a little older, I bought sticks of Wrigley’s Doublemint gum in packets of five for 5 cents. (But, in typical modern fickleness, Wrigley’s has nowadays ruined Doublemint by dying the sticks green instead of their former and proper natural gray, and they’ve messed with the flavor. Baboons!)
And what on Earth did Wrigley’s do to Big Red? It used to be my favorite gum back in the 70’s and 80’s, but Wrigley’s has now packed so much cinnamon flavor into each stick that it burns a hole through my tongue and my poor piece of gum tumbles through my melted neck hole. This always causes me some little sheepishness and embarrassment, and Millie refuses to call the doctor for me any longer if I chew Big Red. So I’ll not say “goodbye a little longer” for long-lasting, Big Red freshness anymore!
Wrigley’s has also seen fit to supplement the natural sugar of its brands with artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and acesulfame potassium (Ace K). I’m not sure why. Would those who enjoy artificial sweeteners not prefer to chew Wrigley’s sugarless Extra? And dieters who won’t buy artificial sweeteners would seemingly choose to avoid chewing a sugary gum altogether. I don’t get it, and I find this so annoying that I will only buy Clark’s Teaberry from now on, a natural and un-modernized product—that is, if I buy sticks of gum at all.
The particularly obnoxious habit of blowing bubbles with chewing gum began with the introduction of Dubble Bubble in the late 1920’s. Walter Diemer, the gum’s inventor, taught salespeople how to blow bubbles so they could teach customers. For once we have a single culprit to blame for our problems! Thank you very much, Mr. Diemer, for spawning millions of gum-smacking teenaged delinquents over the course of nearly a century!
Nowadays people can buy all sorts of bizarre flavors of gum, often with newfangled gum technology such as ‘flavor crystals’. I don’t think flavor crystals last one bit longer than old-fashioned sugar. But maybe I’m wrong: I haven’t performed a systematic comparison of the longevity of different types of gum, and I won’t even waste my time, either!
Swarms of starving dieters are feeding their repressed junk food fantasies with sugarless gum packed with ridiculous dessert flavors such as Mint Chocolate-Chip Ice-Cream or Strawberry Shortcake. Today’s youngsters (under 40) are sweeping up increasingly odd flavors such as the froufrou Golden Peachy Pineapple Paradise with a Cherry on Top and the “extreme” Polar-Blue-Comet-Cataclysm-Minty-Frostbite.
The other half of gum-annoyance stems from the way people dispose of their gum. Because of a widespread phobia that swallowed gum will collect in the body for all time, people tend to spit out their gum in public places or squash it under tables in restaurants. But gum is perfectly swallowable. I often ingest gum without any harmful side-effects, unless it’s Big Red.
On the rare occasion that I make the mistake of taking a delightful jaunt through my local McDonald’s drive through, I can’t help but observe the sizable and growing collection of chewed-up wads of white, blue, red, and yellow chewing gum that join the wood mulch and the cigarette butts that together make up McDonald’s idea of landscaping. Two or three months will pass between my visits, but when I foolishly return, the enlarged collection greets me like recurring Big Red heartburn. I wonder if the same four or five jackasses are spitting their gum into this growing collection just to take satisfaction as they watch it grow and grow like a Chia Pet until the mess covers everything. Cigarette smokers would never take this satisfaction: they toss their butts aside like mindless butt-littering machines, never giving it a thought. (Culvers, by the way, would never let their restaurants grow gum and cigarette heaps around their landscaping. Maybe I’ll write more about this subject on another day.)
So what can we do about this horrible problem?
Singapore bans all gum unless it’s sugarless and prescribed by a doctor or veterinarian. I can only wonder if gum smuggling is a problem in that place, and if they beat people with canes for violating the ban. I’m not sure if I would like these kinds of anti-gum laws passed in the United States. Americans would rather burn down the capital than give up their gum. But a gum-free Singapore does sound like a dream-come-true.
As much as I don’t like meddlesome, nanny-state laws, I would not object if my state of Indiana passed a gum-deposit tax. Each pack of gum would cost twice as much, but the people would get 50 dollars a pound for returned old gum, and Indiana could use these ABC heaps to help fill in the potholes on country roads. Little kids would scrape sidewalks and parking lots to earn some extra money, and the problem would clean itself.
Gum-deposits wouldn’t stop those horrible gum chompers and smackers, though. After all, gum doesn’t annoy people, people do! Maybe we could simply outlaw gum chomping and smacking, and the blowing of gum bubbles. I don’t think such crimes would warrant jail time: that would be ridiculous! But maybe police could issue fines akin to parking tickets. That might give these obnoxious gum chewers something to think about!
 Associated Press. “Scientists Find Ancient Chewing Gum in Finland.” Msnbc.com. NBCNews.com, 20 Aug. 2007. Web. 05 June 2013. http://www.nbcnews.com/id/20365582/ns/technology_and_science-science/t/scientists-find-ancient-chewing-gum-finland/
 Check under the “Ingredients” tab. http://www.walgreens.com/store/c/wrigley%27s-doublemint-gum/ID=prod4084446-product?tab=ingredients
 Prontes, Isabel. “Teaberry Gum Ingredients | EHow.” EHow. Demand Media, 05 Nov. 2010. Web. 05 June 2013. http://www.ehow.com/list_7451830_teaberry-gum-ingredients.html
 Back in 1994, Michael Fay made Singaporean judicial caning famous in the United States. Singapore authorities caned him four times for stealing road signs and vandalizing cars, but Fay returned to the US as a national hero, touring the country in a silver 1995 BMW 3 Series Convertible donated by Idaho Senator Larry Craig, with parades and fireworks held in Fay’s honor. His home town of Saint Louis erected a twenty-eight-foot-tall bronze statue of Fay getting caned, called “Freedom Knows No End”. Ironically, after just two years, several college students from UMSL stole the statue as a prank. Afraid of getting caught, the students ditched the statue into the Mississippi River where it remains to this day, sinking in the muck and surrounded by Asian carp. Wikipedia Contributers. “Michael P. Fay.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 23 May 2013. Web. 05 June 2013. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_P._Fay