Why is some repulsive little bum always chewing gum?
A top Joburg restaurateur is grossed out by what she finds under her tables
One of the most amazing things I learned about human behaviour – humans who eat in restaurants anyway – was during the first few weeks of our first restaurant, Superbonbon. We discovered that underneath almost every table, and some chairs, was a merry sprinkling of chewed gum blobs. Some dried, some revoltingly fresh. Mostly off-white, sometimes a dirty pastel hue. Unexpected and gross.
We’d remove it all, and next week a new gum array would be back. Did we have especially terrible customers, I wondered, sadly. No. When we ourselves were eating out some time later, my two-year-old son turned to me gleefully, his mouth full of gum. Not stuff I’d given him, you understand. He’d found it underneath the table – being just the right height to examine such trophies. It was obviously one of those nice fresh ones, aarggh.
Who does this? I’m assuming it’s not you, so then who the hell is it? The answer will forever remain a mystery, naturally. But truly, chewing gum’s gluey character makes it a curse in the world. The molecular structure is very similar to plastic or rubber, so it sticks. It sticks especially well to things like shoe soles, pavement and cement. The municipality of Rome started a massive gum cleanup back in 2011, as they have to contend with about 15,000 pieces of gum getting stuck to the city every day. Not sure who counted, but even something in the roughest vicinity sounds pretty bad, especially as it takes about five years for a piece of gum to biodegrade.Singapore’s stance has been famously more severe, though its initial outright ban has softened to allow for “health” or “therapeutic” gums such as those that strengthen tooth enamel. Some reckon, though, that the chewing of gum almost always has a therapeutic aspect, and that’s part of the reason it’s been a popular human activity since Neolithic times.
The Neoliths chewed birch bark tar; the ancient Greeks used mastic; while the Mayans and Aztecs were the first to embrace the gum of the chicle tree (from which, you guessed it, the brand Chiclets gets its name). Nowadays the US Food and Drug Administration counts chewing gum as an actual food. Apparently it can be filed under “edible”. And though the notion that it sits in your stomach for seven years or close isn’t true, gum chewers who swallow the stuff on a daily basis can land up in trouble, say doctors. But then again so can many who eat the average modern Western diet, with or without gum.ONLINE ADDICTIONS
The Modern Farmer is fast becoming a dangerous addiction for me. I want to read every post on this brilliant website, and then act on many of them.From fascinating posts such as the one which argues that honey bees understand the mathematical concept of zero (I’m convinced after reading it), to the one which shows you how to be a hemp farmer, it’s all addictively readable. Most compelling for me recently: “Can satellite surveillance help end slavery in the seafood industry?” and “Here’s why a chicken can live without its head”.