I’m not a germaphobe. Having a dog pretty much drives that right out of you. I mention this because there are a few things in this world that just gross me out, and annoy me endlessly. Spitting is one of those things that I think would justify bringing back public humiliation. I cannot stand it when I see someone spit on the sidewalk. It is a health hazard, and it’s positively revolting.
If there’s one thing that’s worse though, it’s gum. Not even the wayward cigarette butts are as bad in my mind as the proliferation of flavorless wads of the sticky stuff.
The irresponsible people who chew gum and then just toss it so that someone else can step on it should be candidates for tarring in my book. I realize I am sounding like a cranky old man muttering about “those damn kids these days!” But when I have to cut gum out of the hair on my dog’s feet it’s annoying.
We were walking Sunday on the Santa Monica Pier and I noticed the collection of chewed gum wads that were strewn about behind the carousel, in all their multi-colored glory. It was like a collection of mini dental molds that one would expect to see in an orthodontist’s office.
It got me to thinking about Singapore. I have an international child custody case out of Singapore and so I’ve been doing lots of research on their judicial system and human rights. By all accounts Singapore is an immaculate city with a well-run government and judicial system that tolerates little civil disobedience.
One of the things that Singapore did was outlaw the importation and sale of chewing gum. They did this because it was becoming a problem to keep the streets clean, and it’s a nasty health hazard.
While an outright ban seems very draconian for a product that is so innately innocuous as chewing gum, it solves lots of problems. Have you ever walked down the street and noticed all those black marks on the pavement? Did you ever wonder where they come from? After all, sidewalks are made from concrete, what would be causing the blackness? It’s gum. Old gum that has been stepped on and has collected enough dirt to make it black.
This is the same reason why Disneyland does not sell gum. It’s a horrid mess to clean up, and by not selling it, Disneyland reduces the incidence rate of having it on their streets, also under their tables and chairs, and a billion other places that children with irresponsible parents would hide it.
Gum shows up in the most unlikely of places because people will just stick it somewhere and forget about it. It’s a mess for someone else to find and clean up. For example, when I went to the gym and sat in a bike machine and found that someone had put their gum under the seat, right where your hand goes to reposition the saddle. So annoying to me.
Singapore and Disneyland have found one solution to the gum situation, and while I jokingly think it’s not a bad suggestion, I know it is unrealistic in America, even our little portion of it, to ban gum. But maybe we could make an effort to remind people that for every freedom, there is a related responsibility. Having the freedom to chew Bubblicious is one thing, but there comes with it the duty to properly disposed of it.
In a round of recent trade negotiations Singapore has decided to lessen their ban on the importation and sale of gum. Under pressure from the senator from Illinois, which is where the Wrigley gum company is, Singapore relaxed its rules for “therapeutic” gums. Now if you want to chew gum there you can, so long as it is Nicorette.
Maybe Singapore is just trading one problem for another — gum for cigarette butts. But in any case, we could remind people here that trash cans are for the proper disposal of gum.
It’s not just the polite thing to do, it’s also the healthy thing.
David Pisarra is a family law attorney focusing on father’s rights and men’s Issues in the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (310) 664-9969.