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July 20, 2010

As I get older I find myself chewing less and less gum.  I do still chew gum now and again, but not much.  When I was a kid I was big on the individual really hard pieces of Bazooka that you could buy for a penny, then they jacked up the price to a nickel, but did, to be fair, give you substantially more gum.

The kind of gum that I never liked, but still insisted on eating was the horrible piece of crap that they would include in packs of baseball cards.  It was disgusting, but what was I supposed to do, throw it out?

Notably, a while back, someone who must really like me bought me a big box of Fruit Stripe Gum. I had fun working my way through that.

So the other night we’re walking with some friends up Park Avenue in the lower 30’s and someone notes the morass of black spots that litter the sidewalk and we discuss how amazing it is that all those spots are old chewing gum.  Who’s chewing that much gum, and who is spitting all of it out in such close proximity?  What’s the deal?

Well, apparently we weren’t the only one pondering these weighty questions, because yesterday Ralph Gardner Jr. had a whole column in the Wall Street Journal about this bizarre scourge on the sidewalks of New York.  Some choice excerpts:

Like most New Yorkers, at least those marginally aware of their surroundings, I hate the plague of chewing gum that seems to have infected just about every square foot of every block in every neighborhood of the city. Some areas are better off than others. For instance, Park Avenue co-ops, whose porters, handymen and supers keep constant vigil over their sidewalks and have their own high-pressure equipment, enjoy relatively gum-free sidewalks (and thus, I would argue, a subtly better quality of life than the rest of us).

Just beyond their property lines, the march of spots and stains resumes. And in the city’s high-traffic areas—subway platforms and the pavement in front of the Port Authority bus terminal, for example—fuggedaboutit. There are fewer barnacles clinging to the Maine coastline than there are people’s ground-in gobs of gum on a mid-Manhattan street.

People have asked: “Where does it all come from? Since there’s so much of it, how come I don’t see people spitting out gum willy-nilly? Why do I get gum stuck to the bottom of my shoe only occasionally, rather than every time I set foot outdoors?”

These are essentially Talmudic questions well beyond my training or intellectual capacity. All I know is that it’s everywhere and I hate it.

Gardner then went out and got an outfit called Gumbusters to go out and demonstrate its patented (or maybe not) gum removal techniques:

Here’s how it works, and indeed it did work. I know. I took a go at it myself: You place the wand over the target wad of gum that looks like it’s been there since the Cretaceous, so bonded to the sidewalk is it; flick a switch on the handle that bakes it with steam to soften it up, to show it you mean business, to force it to release its grimy little grip from our destinies. After a few seconds of that, you hit the environmentally safe chemical switch while simultaneously rubbing the target with the brass bristles and, voila! “That gum is busted!” Mr. Mulé boasted.

So there you have it. The straight dope on chewing gum.

And, as a special bonus, check out this oddly compelling bubble-blowing video:

5 Comments leave one →
  1. July 20, 2010 10:47 am

    I’ve often wondered about the gum on the street myself. I wonder if they can get Bill Murray to star in the Gumbusters film. I’m pretty sure Rick Moranis would be up for it. Harold Ramis will have to diet though.

  2. Fat Al permalink*
    July 20, 2010 11:20 am

    Speaking of the Gumbusters film, I should have pointed out the Gumbusters video:

  3. July 20, 2010 12:40 pm

    Shit, I’m at work and the video is blocked. I’ll watch it tonight after the bar.

  4. July 21, 2010 11:01 am

    That Mule guy cracks me up!

    • Fat Al permalink*
      July 21, 2010 11:08 pm

      Not to mention Ms. Serena Solomon.

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