Gum check

I’m a waiter. I get people Diet Cokes and make sure that everybody’s happy. Great. The dinner rush comes and goes, closing time is at eleven, and barring any customers trying to spend the rest of the night camped out at my tables, it’s time for me to start making my way toward the exit. Unfortunately it’s not as simple as counting up my tips and calling it a day. “Hey Rob,” the head waiter calls out to me just as I’m packing up my stuff, “Make sure you check for gum.”

gum under the table

Fucking gum check. Do you know what that is? It’s me having to get on my hands and knees with a flashlight and checking to see if anybody stuck their chewing gum underneath the table. And you know what sucks? You know what’s really crazy? It’s that there’s always gum. Every single night, there’s at least one wad of chewed up gum stuck under one of my tables.

Unless you work as a waiter or waitress, maybe you think that I’m full of shit, that nobody goes into a restaurant and knowingly deposits their chewed up gum for someone else to clean up. I mean, that’s what I used to think before my bosses started making me do gum checks. The first time I thought it was a joke. I was like, that’s a funny thing to go and check for. Why would anybody spit out a piece of chewed up gum, inside a restaurant, at a table, and just leave it there?

But sure enough, I did that first gum check and there were like three pieces of gum. I couldn’t believe it. A hot towel wasn’t really doing the trick, because this stuff had since dried out and cemented itself in place. I found this flat chisel shaped tool, and that was kind of doing it, but finally I went to the maintenance guy who gave me this can of compressed gas stuff that froze the gum at the end of a long tube.

Still, it was a pain in the ass. Each piece of gum took like two minutes to clean up. Multiply each piece of gum by two, add that to the end of a busy night waiting tables, it’s not fun. It’s not a nice way to wrap things up. That first night I thought to myself, man, they must not have checked these tables in a while. Well that should take care of the gum problem for a few months at least.

And then on my second night, just as I was about to head out the door, the head waiter stopped me again, “Hey Rob, did you make sure to do a gum check?” and I barely even halted my stride. I just paused long enough to say, “No man, we did those last night.” But he persisted, “No, Rob, we have to do those every night. Gum checks every night.”

Every night? That seemed a little much. Sure, I could accept the fact that maybe once in a while someone would be careless enough to leave a piece of gum under the table. Maybe they were on a date, maybe they forgot to bring a wrapper or they were too embarrassed to ask for an extra napkin. I don’t know, things happen, people get funny in restaurants.

Like I said, once in a while. So I grabbed the flashlight just to kind of go through the motions, like yup, check, no gum, check. But on that first table, I couldn’t believe it. It was another three pieces of gum. I had just cleaned three pieces of gum from this table the night before. And now three more pieces? Was it three different guests, each leaving their own mark on our furniture, or was it a repeat offender, someone just constantly chewing gum in between bites of food?

At this point I wish I could say that I’ve made peace with the insanity of my situation. But every night, right as I should be on my way home, I find myself on the dirty floor scraping someone else’s chewed up gum off of the underside of our tables. It’s every night. It’s every table. What in the actual hell is going on? Who does stuff like that?

Since there’s so much gum at this restaurant, I’m statistically bound to assume that the majority of diners are guilty of this offense. But since I’ve never actually heard anybody talking about leaving gum, no friends or family members, I’m inclined to believe that everybody’s doing it in secret. Everybody chews, everybody sticks it to the table, and nobody says a word.

And all that’s left is me touching other people’s chewed up gum. It’s disgusting. It’s the absolute worst way to end any night. There’s nothing I’d rather do less than squeeze myself under a table and, with one hand hold a flashlight, using my free hand to clean up gross nasty it’s-been-in-someone-else’s-mouth-for-a-while chewing gum.

So here’s out with it. If you’re reading this, if you go out to eat, don’t put your fucking gum under the table. Ask me for a napkin. I’ll stick out my hand at the table and you can spit it out right there, I’ll catch it, I’ll actually do that, because even though that sounds horrible, trust me, I’d rather do that right there while it’s still fresh and pliable than at the end of the night when I’m tired, and I want to go home, but I can’t go home, because your stupid gum is all dried up and stuck, and maybe I’ve got half of it off, but the base layer won’t budge, and it’s coming off all stringy, and the gum string is really thin and wispy, and did one of those strings just float up and hit me in the face? In the mouth? Get me the fuck out of under this table, please, just go to the bathroom and spit out your gum, come on, let’s do it like they do in Singapore, where if you get caught chewing gum some police officer has to give you like ten lashes to the back with a cane, you know, that’s not a bad system, we look at them and think, how cruel! How barbaric! But we’re the barbarians here, we’re walking around chewing this gum like it’s cud, and we’re just sticking it anywhere, it’s sticky and so I don’t have to find a trashcan, I can just leave it wherever the hell I want. Why? I have no idea, but I’m just going to do it, and I don’t care, because some other jerk will clean it up eventually, and it won’t be me.

Don’t be an inconsiderate asshole. Spit out your gum in a napkin.

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