September 10th, 2010

Friday’s Four Cents: Something to Chew On

I’ve been literally chewing on this topic for a while, so if I sound a little worked up, please forgive me.  I just bought a pack of gum before my flight this morning and I’m already down to my last piece.  What is it about pulling out a pack of gum that makes every random stranger think that they are entitled to a piece?  Every time I go to pull out a new piece, I see expectant faces eagerly looking at me, as if they knew I was reaching into my pocket because of some silent gum radar.  If I don’t offer, they sit there and watch me chew and I can see their hatred build like the saliva in my mouth.  If I do offer, suddenly I’m out a pack of gum.  And gum isn’t cheap anymore.  Like everything else these days, they are charging more for less.  Remember the heavy duty packs of Doublemint where they would cram 150 pieces into a pack?  Now I’m lucky if I get twelve.  That’s not a lot of gum!

I remember when Mrs. Hollenbach told me that I could chew gum unless I had brought enough for everybody, but that was in the second grade!  Now that I’ve grown up, I just assumed everyone was responsible for providing their own gum.  Am I charged with providing gum to my seatmate or should I follow elementary school logic and bought enough gum for everyone .

The only other similar product would be cigarettes and though I don’t smoke, I know people who do and I’ve been around them when complete strangers have bummed cigarettes.  The difference between cigarettes and gum is that there’s a camaraderie amongst smokers, like a clandestine little club, all members of an outlaw group of society.  Everyone chews gum.  Sure some chew more than others, but have you ever known anyone to turn you down when you offer them a piece of gum?  No.  If you offer a piece, everyone always accepts.

Granted, gum has come a long way.  Flavor crystals, taste that lasts forever, and  gums that cleanse your mouth have upped the ante, but show hesitation at giving in to someone’s supplication and the common refrain is “it’s just a piece of gum.”  It might not have been a huge deal when a pack of gum was 25 cents, but with packs costing a few dollars, you realize that the inflation rate on “just a piece of gum” is astronomical.  My stance is that if you wanted a piece bad enough, then you can go out and buy your own pack!  If that makes me a bad person, then so be it.

— Marc

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