I Am a Slow Learner


I don’t know why I do this to myself. I have a terrible habit of browsing the “impulse” stand at the grocery store while I’m waiting for my turn at the till. Like most folks, the people who organize supermarkets anticipate–correctly so–that by the time I finish shopping a giant store full of a thousand different edible options, I am seriously vulnerable to any suggestion of treats. Truly, after strolling virtuously past the potato chips without pausing, through the bakery without stacking pastries in my basket, and past those damn roasted chickens without popping off the plastic domes and gorging myself on dark meat, I feel pretty much entitled to a little something.

Common wisdom instructs us to avoid shopping while we’re hungry, but I ask you, how the heck are you supposed to navigate seven acres of food and near-food without feeling at least a little peckish? The milage a person puts on a buggy just trying to find the dental floss is enough to encourage an appetite.

Since I’m a chocolate snob, and I don’t typically touch the waxy domestic junk, the “chocolate” bars lining the chute to the till don’t speak to me. I’m also not much tempted by candies that are all sugar. These facts are blessings, for sure. My weakness, as harmless to my waistline as it is, is the chewing gum.

I’m not a huge gum chewer. I probably chew a piece or two a day, largely because I don’t want to breathe the memories of whatever I’ve had for lunch on the kids in my afternoon classes. Sugarless gum is also supposed to be good for my teeth, and I quite like my teeth and want to keep them healthy. It’s also useful for keeping things I don’t need to be eating out of my mouth. Above all, though, my attraction to gum stems from the producers’ tendency to create a new and appealing flavour every few weeks.

It seems to me there was a time when the only flavours gum companies offered were peppermint, spearmint, cinnamon, and that weird purple one that tastes like soap. Saavy parents used that gum as punishment for cussing, and kids were so scared of being forced to chomp on Thrills that words like “golly,” “heck,” and “gee whiz” were standards for several generations. Teenagers back then weren’t really more wholesome: they just lived in fear of that purple gum.

Juicy Fruit eventually burst onto the scene and gave the standards a run for their money, until consumers realized the title “Juicy Fruit” applied to the first forty-seven seconds of chewing only: after that point, the flavour would have been better named, “Vulcanized Rubber With a Hint of Pineapple.” Those were the days of blessedly limited options; temptations were few.

A note to the Juicy Fruit people: your gum has improved in the last decade. Well done. Your television commercials still need work. Get on that.

Now, a person finds an astounding array of gum flavours at the check stand. Almost all of them are grave disappointments. I bought something this afternoon called “Wondermint.” The inside of the package said something about wondering what that mint is. Mystery gum? While the top notes appear to be peppermint and there is a slightly tropical fruit base, the aftertaste is rather like those little trees people hang in their cars to kill the smells from their hockey equipment. I was not impressed.

I bought something last week called “Doodle Berry.” To be completely frank, I picked it out largely because it was packaged in fuchsia. It also had cute little drawings all over it, which I guess were the “doodles” that belonged to the berry. When I opened the wrapper, the initial scent was promising, but the actual flavour was shockingly gross. It was sickly-sweet, and slightly rancid, like unicorn carcass left in the sun for two days. I threw twelve out of fourteen pieces away.

Before that, I was suckered in by a dessert-themed line promising the taste of homemade apple pie. I’m happy to admit I have a serious weakness for apple pie, especially a leftover piece cold from the fridge on a really pretty plate. In all fairness, I didn’t expect the sugarless chewing gum version of apple pie to compete with my mom’s. I was hoping the flavour would be something akin to the ones that go on sale at Costco right before Thanksgiving. In a reality of sweeping disappointment, the apple pie chewing gum couldn’t even measure up to those egg roll looking things from McDonald’s, the ones in little cardboard boxes sporting the warning about hot filling. Not pretty. Not pie.

When I spotted a flavour called “juicy orchard peach,” my heart fairly leapt with glee. In the dead of winter in Alberta, our (affordable) fruit selection is painfully limited, and the thought of a fresh peach in the second week of December was too much to pass by. I was so excited to experience the sun-soaked taste of summer that I opened my gum in the vestibule of Save-On-Foods and started chewing on my way to the car. Sadly Crushingly, the reality of the newest flavour to capture my attention reminded me vividly of the time in 1996 when my mom washed my peach Lipsmackers in the pocket of my jeans and it forever tasted like Tide laundry detergent.

I could go on and on, but this post is getting depressing. The last time The Electrician and I bought gum simultaneously, he grabbed his standard green package of Spearmint Excel and I browsed for something I hadn’t tried. I can’t really explain why I’m suckered in by the latest and greatest offerings of the confectioners, since the vast majority are shamefully bad. The Electrician even suggested I just buy wintergreen, since I know for certain I like that one, but I countered that I never know when I could find something I like even better. Despite my disappointing experience with its fuchsia cousin, I bought “Doodle Mint.”

Doodle Mint tastes like a Listerine martini with a wedge of lime and olives carved from Wal-Mart vanilla candles. I’m pretty sure it’s the only gum they serve in high-security prison, where they want to be sure people regret their bad decisions and, possibly, turn to God.

Doodle Mint: deterring crime since 2013.

copyright 2013:  http://bluespeckledpup.com

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