I got to church way early on a recent Sunday. Prayed for everything from world peace to the Cardinals bullpen — that they don’t blow another lead today.
Waiting for Mass to begin.
I added up all the numbers on the hymn board. 3,474.
Read the bulletin, checked the birthday list. I fidgeted a little in the pew and my fingers curled around the hard wooden seat.
ABC (already been chewed) gum.
It was a good-sized blob. An inch or two in from the front. Smushed flat. And hard as a rock.
Gross, you’re thinking. He’s supposed to be thinking holier thoughts in church. C’mon, confess. You know you’ve done it, too. Or, if you happen to read this, you’ll probably be checking under your pew or your school desk or the conference table in your office tomorrow.
Gum chewers have left their mark just about everywhere. Thousands of years from now, when archaeologists are sifting through our stuff, they’re bound to notice all the gum stuck to the bottom of everything.
“Verrrrry interesting,” Dr. I.M. Chicklet of the University of Illinois at Bartelso will tell his colleagues at the 4736 Intergalactic Conference on the Demise of Ancient Civilizations. “I think I have discovered what ‘did them in’ back in the 2000s. It seems a tiny, gelatinous creature of unknown origins quietly but steadily invaded all segments of society, attaching itself by the cajillions to the very fiber of the population’s infrastructure.
“In other words, the little buggers were everywhere. And they gummed up the works. Apparently the extra weight caused airplanes to crash, buildings to crumble and continental plates to shift, hence earthquakes. ...”
One bored student in the audience will nonchalantly curl his fingers under his seat in the auditorium and discover in horror: “They’re back!”
That’s the kind of thing you think about when you come finger-to-glop with discarded gum.
It’s not only at church that I’ve noticed ABC gum. It’s all over ... or should I say all under? You’ll find it under movie seat arm rests, restaurant tables, workout machine seats, store shelves, computer terminals ...
With all of this gumming up my mind lately, I feel compelled to tell you few things I learned about gum over the years.
The folks at the the Wrigley company conscientiously print right there on the wrapper that you should “Save this aluminum foil to dispose of gum after chewing.” Who does that? Nobody I ever knew. It’s so easy just heave it into the trash can. Or to stick it under the table.
Gum worked well to hold posters on our college dorm room walls.
Never throw gum at your sister in a fit of rage. Some of the deepest trouble I was ever in came when I lobbed a pink glob of Bazooka bubblegum at my sister. No doubt, she had it coming.
She turned and whammo! The gum glommed onto her hair. The more she pulled, the more it strung out and clung to more and more hair. Mom had to cut out big chunks of hair to get all the gum. Sis cried.
There was some talk from my brothers on the jury of making me chew the gum with the hair embedded in it. But Mom settled for not letting me have gum for a long, long time. Sis wore a hat for a couple days.
Mom always said if I swallowed gum, it would stick to my heart. (“If you bite your fingernails, they go straight to your appendix” was another of her medical scare tactics.) It worked, but only after I swallowed substantial wads of gum as a child. I worry that someday my doctor will call all the other doctors into the conference room to look at my MRI. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” he’ll say. “Mr. Kuhl’s insides are all gummed up.”
Can I have a second opinion, doc?
“Yes, your appendix looks like a pincushion, too.”