Anyone who knows me will tell you one thing about me: I hate when people chew gum. Specifically, I despise when mouths chaw, gnarl and mangle objects. A combination of this with bubblesnapping is enough to push me to the boundaries of sanity. It's a problem.
I decided to pitstop in Singapore because it is still the only place that gum is unlawful. This was my Holy Land. This was my Jesus Christ.
Gum 101: The horrors of gumchewing began with the Greeks and Aztecs, who chewed on tree resin as a way to pass the time between playing Stratego with civilization. But things really didn't get cooking until a formula was patented in 1869, finding its way into the first gumball machines two years later. William Wrigley souped up the recipe with mint extracts in 1914, if only to drive me insane ninety years later. Frank Fleer was the real gum guru, creating Blibber-Blabber in 1906 (the first bubble gum).
Fortunately for me, there is Singapore. Gum was banned in 1992, after vandals began sticking it on the sensors of the prized Mass Rapid Transit. Here's the best part: Nobody missed it. No black market ever developed, even though offenders were only "named and shamed" if caught – which is not even a slap on the wrist by Singapore standards. Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yen commented at the time, "If you can't think because you can't chew, try a banana." Dude psyches me up when he talks all tough about gum law (but not much else).
The resurfacing of legal gum in Singapore is an excellent example of just how bizarre and corrupt America can be. In 1999, desperate to open bilateral trade with Bush's USA, the government agreed to two things. The first was public support for the war in Iraq. The second was repealing the gum ban. That's quite a dicksucking for trade negotiation.
How did they end up swallowing? Only Americans will fully understand, for we are a special people. The year before, Wrigley's had hired a lobbyist and leaned on an Illinois congressman to put gum on the Bush Agenda. Only the devil knows what was traded in making this a sticky issue for Singapore, who picked up a 150 million dollar tax break per year on their end of the deal.
The government in Singapore found a crafty way to save face. Some gum has medicinal purpose, even if is to help build enamel or fight cavities. Therefore, they made gum an item that must be handed out by pharmacists, only after taking down the names of customers for a national record. Any importing of gum is still illegal. There is something perversely exciting to me about this. I could buy a parrot at 4:30am in Manhattan but a person in Singapore must ask a pharmacist for a stick of Hubba Bubba.
For five days I have not seen a single person chew gum. No whorish women snapping their cud. No athletes mouthing the sticky substance like it was their junior prom date. I have had beautiful, thoughtful moments without the presence of my nemesis. And nobody – not even the spoiled tourists – seems to miss it.
I propose a gumfree world. If I had a billion dollars I would buy lobbyists and make it a priority. Until then, I will have Singapore.