10-Step Protocol for Utilizing A Vital School Supply [Or, An Ode to Chewing Gum]

Image of a person wearing blue lipstick and holding a piece of stretched out  gum between their teeth, with the gum being pulled upward by an unseen force
Photo by Joseph Costa via Unsplash

Step 1: Choose an opportune moment, preferably when the teacher is faced away from you. If you can conceal the packet from your classmates as well, all the better, lest you are prepared to share. In middle school, to be seen with gum is an invitation to be asked for gum by whomever might be near, whether they be friend or foe. The meanest kids you know will have zero qualms about batting their eyelashes and shooting their most shameless, toothy grin to the local loser, if it means acquiring a stick of sweet, minty contraband.

Step 2: Unwrap the stick of gum with your fingerless-gloved hands under your desk, or hidden in the kangaroo pocket of your uniform hoodie. Do so slowly; you don’t want your spiked-and-beaded bracelets to click together or clang against the metal parts under the table. Never arouse any suspicion from the teacher, lest they call you out and force you to stand up, laid before the jeers of the entire class as you shamefully forfeit your treasure: for trash, extra peppermint, never chewed.

Step 3: Crush the silver wrapper into the tightest, most compact little ball possible. Put every seething ounce of your unexpressed rage into this harmless little outlet. Save the wrapper for later.

Step 4: Surreptitiously slip the gum between your lips, perhaps while you bend down and pretend to be rummaging through your backpack for another pencil. Make sure not to actually put your hand all the way down, or else you might touch the soft, wet, sticky bag of rotting sliced pears (you know, the ones you forgot to eat last Tuesday) buried beneath a week’s worth of classroom handouts .

Step 5: Run your tongue across the subtle ridges of the long, flat rectangle and take in the initial burst of flavor. Barely moving your jaw, use your tongue and teeth to neatly bend the rectangle into an even trifold stack. Sweetly crush the stack between your right molars and feel the rush of menthol oil mingling with your saliva. Subtly pulverize the stack until the ridges disappear and you are left with a smooth, minty putty.

Step 6: See how many different forms you can construct this edible playdough into with your tongue. Make into a perfect little sphere with the tip of your tongue playing rolling pin. Stretch flat over the roof of your mouth and feel every inhaled breath grow colder on its way to your lungs. Tuck into every nook and cranny of the mouth and plaster flat, as if casting a dental mold of the entire area, piece by piece. The more places you can tuck it into, the less likely the teacher will notice if you do get called on by surprise (an unlikely but not impossible happening, since teachers tend not to call upon chronic hand-raisers. If you raise your hand, they assume you’ll already know the answer, so why bother? But you never know. They’re quite happy to call on you when it seems like you’re off daydreaming again).

Step 7: Listen closely and calmly to the lesson, now that your mouth is properly occupied (no need to take messier measures today; your pencils will remain unchomped and your arm shall remain unbitten. You’ve never even thought to consider whether other people find this behavior gross, but you personally find it a little bothersome to clean up, even if it does wonders to soothe your perpetually-frayed nerves).

Step 8: Marvel at the longevity of a stick of gum when it is petted and prodded and sucked upon instead of raucously chewed and chomped and slobbered over! Pity those who complain that gum becomes tasteless after a mere few minutes; if only they knew this secret method, this subtle, clever technique! Enjoy the gum for an entire hour, flavor hardly lessening, and without ever being spotted and made to dispose of your juicy morsel.

Step 9: Absorb the lesson, now that your body is occupied with a mindless little task. Play with the gum until your jaw is aching from the strain of making sure your movements are not obvious.

Step 10: Proceed to your next class, by which time the gum has finally become too flavorless even for your discerning taste-buds. Briefly duck into a bathroom during your minuscule passing period. Take the empty gum wrapper out of your pocket and unwrinkle the tight little foil sphere you created. Use the wrapper to grab the perfectly tongue-rolled wad of gum out of your mouth. Re-wrinkle the tight little foil sphere. Dispose of in the bathroom trash, where none will be the wiser to its origin.

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