Comical Observations: An Ode To The Always Low-Key But Hilarious Gum Exchange Between Black People

February 1, 2013  |  

So there you are, minding your business at your desk, and that craving kicks in.

You know the one. You’re not really hungry, you’re not really thirsty, but you’re trying to chew on something after lunch. It’s gum time. So there you go, reaching into your purse or jacket to pull out that pack of Orbitz/Trident/Eclipse/Doublemint–whatever–and get ready to pull out your piece. And then you hear a noise coming from around your computer. Somebody’s eyes have been watching you:

“Psssst. Aye, can I get a piece?”

Knowing your gum-owning cover can be blown, you slowly pass a piece, hand under computer or in some covert way that resembles the exchange of drugs and let them know straight up, “You didn’t get it from me.” *insert serious crazy eye* As serious as the gum exchange between black people can be, the more and more I get caught with my hands in a pack of Trident Layers, the funnier it all is to me. And there’s a method to the madness.

Black folks are notorious for wanting some gum from somebody, mostly when they notice someone has some (I doubt we’re really craving a piece before we find the source who will lend us a piece) and when the person who has it gets caught with their coveted pack open, it’s time to start making life and death decisions:

“But how many pieces do I have left?”

“Hold on, this is my Trident Layers now, not some ‘ol wack a** Big Red. Can I really let a piece go?”

“Can I get away with handing them half a piece???”

“Do I really feel like going to the store and buying a new pack?”

“If I go buy a new pack, does that mean I have to take cash out first? Ain’t nobody got time for that….”

Oh the drama. And the minute the person inquiring about a piece raises their voice too loud, that’s it. Your cover has been blown. As if one hand out wasn’t enough, be prepared for homeboy from like two cubicles down to come over to you, no words spoken, and watch him put his hand out beckoning for a piece like Bruce Lee asking for someone to come and get a good a** whooping in Enter The Dragon.

Just this past Sunday I got caught during a post-church luncheon with a pack of Sweet Mint Orbitz, and when I chose to do the right thing and hand out a piece to my friends after accidentally exposing my pack to the world, 30 minutes later, a man who missed the gum giveaway train asked me for one out of the blue. “Excuse me ma’am, I heard you had gum earlier, I missed my opportunity. Can I have a piece??” I’ve even realized my own thirst for those little pieces of goodness when I asked a co-worker for a piece of gum like a cr**khead. I told her I was good for replacing the gum later in the week once I got some cash on me, and she gave me the crazy face as she griped at me for asking for another piece, my second time begging in one week.

The struggle to get a piece of gum to chew on that lasts for less than 20 minutes is real, and while it’s irritating at the moment for the sheisty person in me to part with my gum, in the end, I can only laugh at the transaction. Sharing is caring, and I love the stories and jokes that come with every piece or pack shared between one hungry black person to another. When we’re trying to make it from lunch to dinner, it’s comical that we might act a fool and expose somebody for a piece of gum: “AYE! Let me hold a piece!”

But I will say, I respect that we have boundaries–for the most part. Case in point, even the biggest gum fiend won’t go for a person’s last piece. We know better…The politics of gum sharing, learn ’em, live ’em, love ’em.



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