Chi­cle­pho­bia, By Gum!

The Compass - - EDITORIAL - My Im­per­fect Slant Harold Wal­ters

“Harry, my hor­rid honey,” said Dear­est Duck, “if you scrib­ble about that sub­ject I’m leav­ing you.” “A tad harsh, my Duck,” said I. “I swear I’ll go straight home to mother!” “My Duck?” “Well, if mother was still with us I would,” said Dear­est Duck, scrav­el­ling from the room chok­ing back the sounds of im­mi­nent retch­ing.

“My Duck…,” said I.

Dear­est Duck is chi­cle­pho­bic.

She is among the thou­sands of pho­bic hu­mans af­flicted by a fear chewing gum. Truly. And would you won­der? Lis­ten to this: Mod­ern chewing gum is made from “bu­ta­di­ene-based syn­thetic rub­ber”.

Bu­ta­di­ene-based syn­thetic rub­ber!

Does that sound like some­thing sen­si­ble to stick in your chops and chaw?

Hu­mans have been chewing gum for ages — at least since the Ne­olithic Age when a favourite gummy treat was birch bark tar. The ev­i­dence is in­dis­putable — an­thro­pol­o­gists have found wads of chewed tar stuck to the un­der­sides of Ne­olithic school­boys’ desks. “Harry!” “My Duck…?” No, not Dear­est Duck. Just my nog­gin re­act­ing to 50 years of be­havioural con­di­tion­ing.

The Aztecs also en­joyed a stick of gum. Their favourite chew was chi­cle, gooey ooze from the bark of cer­tain tropi- cal trees — some­thing like myrrh, I s’pose.

I ‘ low they were the peo­ple who in­vented Chick­lets, eh b’ys?

Speak­ing of myrrh. Amer­i­can Indians worked their jaws on lumps formed from the sap of spruce trees — myrrh.

In an­cient times, be­fore Mr. Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit made mo­nop­o­liz­ing in­roads into out-har­bour shops,

it wasn’t un­com­mon for folks des­per­ately seek­ing oral stim­u­la­tion to soak a knob of frank’um in their cheeks un­til it soft­ened enough to chew — spruce gum by an­other name, eh b’ys?

When I was a bay-boy still grind­ing my milk teeth, Pappy kept a ‘ baccy tin of frank’um on our win­dowsill, al­ways at hand should one of us feel the urge to ex­er­cise our mo­lars. Truly. Hey, re­mem­ber the Alamo? Davy Crock­ett and his bud­dies made their last stand at the Alamo de­fend­ing Texas against a hard thicket from Mex­ico — Gen­eral Santa Anna.

It’s hard to say who won that fra­cas. Texas re­mained free but Davy and all hands die in its de­fence. Santa Anna, how­ever, de­spite lay­ing se­ri­ous kick-ass on the Alamo’s ram­parts, was cap­tured by Sam Hous­ton.

What does the Alamo have to do with chewing gum? Noth­ing. How­ever — and this must be true be­cause I learned it at Mr. Google’s house — Santa Anna chewed chi­cle while he was Sam Hus­ton’s pris­oner…

… and some ob­ser­vant en­tre­pre­neur saw Santa Anna’s jaws in mo­tion, learned the par­tic­u­lars, then in­vented chewing gum. Truly…maybe. So, about chi­cle­pho­bia — fear, or ab­so­lute dis­gust in the pres­ence of chewing gum.

First, though, a tid­bit of celebrity trivia.

Oprah Win­frey — Dear­est Duck is in cel­e­brated com­pany — is chi­cle­pho­bic and it’s her grand­mother’s fault. When Oprah was a lit­tle girl she’d some­times dis­cover granny’s pre­vi­ously chewed gum lined off in the kitchen cup­boards, stored for fu­ture ac­tiv­ity. Now that’s dis­gust­ing. No won­der wee Oprah de­vel­oped a pho­bia.

If Dear­est Duck ever reads th­ese scrib­bles she will brain me for cer­tain be­cause…

… be­cause — per­versely, I s’pose — I won­der if Oprah’s granny lodged her den­tures along­side her hoarded gum?

Yet chewing gum sales are still prof­itable.

Folks still do dis­gust­ing things with it, es­pe­cially re­gard­ing dis­posal meth­ods.

I’m not even go­ing to men­tion the con­tin­u­ing pop­u­lar­ity of school desks as dis­posal sites. No, I’m not.

Lit­tle kids, for whom gum — es­pe­cially Dou­ble Bub­ble — is a new ex­pe­ri­ence, will glutch the rub­bery wads when the sweet­ness dis­solves de­spite parental warn­ings that their bums will seize up and poop­ing will be im­pos­si­ble.

Such kiddy be­hav­iour isn’t ter­ri­bly dis­gust­ing, I s’pose.

Cer­tain adults, on the other hand, grown-ups who should know bet­ter, con­stantly, and ubiq­ui­tously, ex­hibit re­volt­ing be­hav­iour. They act like camels, ru­mi­nants ru­moured to ex­plo­sively ex­pel their cuds — to spit out the mashed con­tents of their gobs.

This in mind, pic­ture a newly paved park­ing lot with a cou­ple of strate­gi­cally placed garbage can. Pic­ture the ex­panse of brand new un­sul­lied as­phalt.

Imag­ine time-lapse photography mon­i­tor­ing the park­ing lot. Peo­ple pop out of their cars and spit out their gum onto the pave­ment, wil­fully ig­nor­ing the garbage cans. Tires flat­ten the dis­carded gum to the size of loonies and, over time, cre­ate acreages of…well, gum dol­lars. Gum dol­lars! Now that’s dis­gust­ing. Granny’s stowed gum gen­er­ated Oprah’s chi­cle­pho­bia. Dear­est Duck? I’m too gut­less to ask if, as an im­pres­sion­able girl-child, she ex­pe­ri­enced some trauma in an as­phalt field of gum dol­lars.

Thank you for read­ing.

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