Let Me Chew On That

By Esther C. Baird
First Published in the Tri-Town Transcript

Boxford —
I think addiction is a strong word.  I mean, I have some friends who vacuum every day.
I have other friends who can’t sleep unless their kitchen counter is clear of debris.  One girlfriend is obsessed with the Olive Garden — that can’t be normal, right? 
My chewing an entire pack of Trident gum every day is no different.  Strawberry Twist and Tropical Fruit are my two favorite flavors.  The splashier and brighter and zanier the package, the better.  Plus it’s sugar free, which I’m pretty sure means it’s practically a vegetable.  
Why gum you ask?  Let’s see . . .
Road trip often?  Yes I do.  What better way to endure the I-95 torture corridor while listening to the Sound of Music for the billionth time, than to chew it out.  
Dance shows, school concerts and piano recitals to smile at?  Plenty.  And when the third grade recorder program threatens to undo the very fabric of my soul, what better release then a refreshing Tropical Twist of happiness? 
Dinner for the Rest Of My Known Life that needs to be freshly and lovingly prepared? 
Roger that!  But I can wile away the chicken chopping, pepper prepping hours with a bit of Watermelon Bliss.
So, yes, gum.  I have my reasons. 
Which was all well and good until I dislocated my jaw a month ago.  Now, I’ll have you know that I’ve always had a loose, clicky and somewhat troublesome jaw. But this time was different.  It went out and stayed out for a good 24 hours and when it went back in, my teeth didn’t really connect anymore. 
I bit the gum-flavored bullet and saw my dentist.  He prodded and pulled and asked me things like, “When I push here,” big squeeze to my highly inflamed jaw muscle, “would you say that’s a little or a lot of pain?”
A lot.
Then he looked at me and then said.
“Would you like a stick of gum?”
Ha ha.  A regular comedian.  
“I realize,” I said in what I hoped was a calm and measured tone, “that perhaps the gum isn’t helping.  But I’m not sure,” my voice might have wavered a bit, “if you fully understand my gum, uh, habit.”
He laughed politely and smiled and then his face turned immediately grave. 
“But seriously, all kidding aside . . .”
I was not going to hear what he said.  I saw road trips and long, grey, snow days, and swim lessons flash before my eyes.  I saw the next two decades of lunch making and dinner prepping swirl in front of me.  I saw it without gum and I shrank into the dentist chair. 
“ . . . .you really need to give up gum.”
It was too much to bear.  I hadn’t been able to properly eat a solid piece of food in weeks, but all I could imagine was the drive home without gum to chew while I pondered my sad, sad, state.
Obviously, I needed help.  So I did what anyone in my shoes would do, I polled my Facebook friends.  I explained that I needed a new gum substitute.  Immediately. 
I received back a long and creative list, but really only cigarettes, chewing tobacco and a snuff-like packet that contained coffee grinds allowing you to ‘brew a cup of coffee in your own mouth’ fit the bill.
I’m not totally crazy, so cigarettes and dip were clearly and obviously out.  And I’m already highly caffeinated, so to brew any more coffee, in my mouth or otherwise, would probably make me explode. So I went cold turkey.  No gum at all.  And my jaw felt so, so great.   It was wonderful to eat chicken again without nibbling it like a squirrel.
So there you go.  Easy to quit.  And if you’re a happy-ending Regular Reader now is your cue to say farewell.  See you next column!!  (I’ll just go and discreetly spit out this piece of gum while you say your goodbyes.)