Friday, October 30, 2009

Chew on This

We’ve had a pretty heady month by Daniel P. Daniel standards with our excellent discussion on the origins of human morality (big round of applause to TJ and Bill, everyone), so I thought that it would be nice to take it down a couple of notches and revert back to old form. Get back to the basics so to speak. What’s on the table for this week, you ask? I’m not going to talk about what’s on the table; rather I think a discussion about what’s going on under the table is in order. How’s a frank conversation about blow jobs sound? Good? I thought you might like that. Actually I’m not going to be discussing blow jobs directly. {Boo…Hisss…} Yeah, I know I get you all excited about it then I snatch it out of your hands. If you’re married you’re probably used to it. No, the topic of discussion for this round is something very closely related to hogan smoking. In fact, many of you are slobbering all over it right now. It’s something so pervasive and seemingly miniscule that you don’t really notice it until you start looking, then you realize that it can be found everywhere. It’s one of those things that we somehow manage to ignore even thought it is everywhere, and once you notice it, it drives you nuts. So let’s talk about gum. Yes, chewing gum. Hey, wait a minute…get back here…

Humans have been chewing gum for thousands of years to quench thirst, freshen breath, clean our teeth, annoy teachers and help suppress our ravenous oral fixation. The first known types of gum were made from tree sap. Mmm, tree sap. Then we moved on to wax and chicle, a type of sap from the sapodilla tree of Mexico and Central America. Here’s an interesting tidbit: about 150 years ago chicle was introduced to an American candy maker who then launched us into the modern gum era. Who was this intrepid soul that introduced the Mexican chaw to the Americas? None other than General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. Remember the Alamo! {POP!} Nowadays modern gums
are made from industrial plastic resins or rubber so they last longer without breaking down in the harsh environment of the human mouth.

The desire for the everlasting piece of gum has led us into the era of the super gum that never breaks down because it is made from synthetic chemicals. Now we can chew and chew and chew until eventually we suck all of the flavor out of the gum, but the gum base will essentially remain unchanged forever. I think we all knew that weird ass girl in high school who chewed the same piece of gum for nine months, right? She probably still has it in her curio cabinet next to her collection of toenail clippings. Even our digestive system can’t break the gum base down. Seriously, this guy can eat a Cessna 150, and we can’t digest a single stick of Double Mint? This brings me to the point of the old wives’ tale about a swallowed piece of gum sticking around in your guts for seven years. It’s just not true. To prove it, here’s a little experiment for you to try out at home, or the office depending upon how weird you actually are. It’s simple: just slug down a huge wad of Big League Chew mixed up with some corn and sift through your deposits until you find the undigested gum. The corn will act as an indicator as to when you should start looking. Once you find it, give it a good rinse and pop it back in your mouth. Be sure to report your findings back to me (so I can capture your I.P. address and ban your sick ass from the site). Not that curious now, are you? In fairness to all of the old wives out there I did manage to find one case on the books of a four-year old that swallowed 5-7 pieces of gum every day since he grew teeth until he had a "'taffy-like' trail of fecal material" leaking from his nether regions which eventually had to be suctioned out of his rectum. {Hork…} Nice parental guidance on that one, guys.

Who cares if you can’t digest gum, anyway? It stands to reason that since we cannot break the gum base down in the acid-filled, bubbling Hell that is our digestive system then the natural environment has no chance. Modern gums are not biodegradable. Take a look down next time you are outside. All of the little black splotches covering the sidewalk are the remnants of someone’s once intimate relationship with a piece of flavored rubber. They are everywhere. If you’re feeling adventuresome run your hand under the table at a restaurant, park bench, or your seat on the bus and hope that you only find the dried up old stalactites of Hubba Bubba not a warm hunk that some hobo just finished slobbering on. Next to cigarette butts chewing gum is the second largest littering item in the world, and we’ve already gone over the cigarette butt filth here. This discarded gum is the bane of city managers and maintenance personnel worldwide. Specialists must be called in to steam, blast, etch or scrape that gooey mess off of pathways, sidewalks, buildings, landmarks, etc. at a huge cost to taxpayers. Because of this, chewing gum is the one thing that we eat that actually increases in value after we are done with it.

To illustrate that fact, let’s say that a pack of gum costs $1.50. With 15 pieces of gum per pack, each piece costs around $0.10 before it is chewed. After it is chewed and strategically placed in the ear of the bust of Ronald Reagan downtown, each piece costs about $1.50 to clean up. That’s a 15 times increase in value, making the cost to clean up one pack of gum somewhere in the vicinity of $22.50. The costs of cleaning up seemingly innocuous wads of chewing gum is so high, in fact, that the country of Singapore until recently had a ban on all recreational gum sales.

How do these costs add up across the U.S. and worldwide? According to the National Confectioners Association gum sales in 2008 reached retail sales of $2.7 billion which translates into 0.4 billion pounds of gum. Taking some quick measurements from the pack of gum sitting next to me here, that translates into around 1.31 lbs. of gum purchased for every U.S. citizen from 0 to 120 years old. That’s something on the order of 314 pieces per resident per year. If you factor out the people that don’t have teeth that brings us close to one piece per day for the folks in the U.S. alone. If even 1/8 of all of that slobbery plastic has to be cleaned up professionally, the costs of cleanup nearly equal the retail sales numbers. Obviously there are economies of scale to be factored into the cleanup, but I think you get an idea of how high the costs are.

Worldwide, the chewing gum industry in 2006 was estimated to be worth $19 billion in retail sales which translates into 1.3 million metric tons of gum. Based on the numbers taken from my pack (which may or may not be representative), that turns out to be at least 100 billion sticks of gum sold per year. That amount of gum smeared 1/16” think would cover 300 square miles. If you were to stack the sticks of gum up they would reach to the moon and back 3 times. Volumetrically speaking, this would be singe cube of gum that is over 350 feet per side, covered in gravel, hair and ants of course. How many gallons of human saliva does it take to chew a piece that big? {Shudder} You’re on your own for that one.

With that much gum and spit flying around it’s easy to see how the cleanup costs are out of line with the value of the product itself. So what can be done about it? Some officials propose that a cleanup tax should be added to each pack of gum at the point of purchase. The taxes collected would be used to offset costs incurred scraping ant-ridden messes from the stairs at the ballpark. Some major gum manufacturers spend millions of dollars every year trying to come up biodegradable gum that doesn’t stick to everything. They spend millions more in outreach programs encouraging people to chuck their spent gum in the trash. But I say these solutions don’t address the real issue which is the obvious oral fixation that humans have due to societal suppression of our sexual instincts. So, again, a simple, more beneficial solution is overlooked by gum manufacturers and the government: we need to be handing out more blow jobs. This is a win-win solution across the board. It will satisfy our genetically ingrained oral fixation. It will decrease the environmental costs of the manufacture and disposal of a non-biodegradable product. It will promote social interaction and well-being. It will give us an outlet to our frustrations and decrease stress levels which will in turn decrease health care costs. It’s a great form of exercise. It’s also good for team-building and fostering a good work ethic (they are called blow “jobs” after all). So I say instead of reaching for that stick of gum at the end of the day, slobber on a pole or some chuff instead.

Please join me in the “Blow Jobs for the Environment Campaign” and make all checks and charitable donations payable to Daniel P. Daniel.