Under the Desk

It’s a normal day at school as unsuspecting students file into their fifth period class. One class in particular is about to get an unwelcome surprise. The minute they walk in their chattering and laughing stops. Slowly, one by one, they turn to look at the board where a new seating chart has been projected. Annoyed, students sigh and say goodbye to people whom they had spent the last few months getting to know. Some students are elated to be placed in the back of the class room or next to their friends, while others sigh as they have to sit up close to the teacher. However, one student has it worse.

For the first few days she proceeds as the rest of the class does. But soon, everything changes. She reaches under her desk and feels something slimy and slick stuck to the underside. She cringes, desperately hoping that this substance is not what she suspects it to be. Quickly, she retracts her hand and lets out a small squeal. 

The next day before class begins, the student cautiously kneels down next to the desk and looks underneath. After a few moments of searching she finds what she had touched– gum. The old shriveled up gum is covered in rises and depressions, lumps, and cracks. One side of the gum is quite high, with a sort of ball on the end. On the other end there is a smaller rise with little crevasses, and in the middle there is a huge canyon. The edges of the pink substance are flat and scalloped from being compressed forcefully onto the desk. There are teeth marks, tiny brown flecks of food, and wrinkles as if the gum had been twisted in on itself.

Without thinking, the young student cautiously reaches up and touches the substance; it’s slick and slippery, but also hard and unyielding. She wraps her hand along the edges and gives a gentle pull to try to remove it, but the gum is stuck hard to the desk. She pulls again, harder this time. The gum starts to stretch, but is still stubbornly stuck to the desk.  Once she withdraws her hand another realization passes over her– she has touched gum that someone else has chewed, gum that is covered in someone else’s saliva and germs. Gum that she has touched not once, but twice. Gum she could touch again as long as she sat at this desk.

Though many stick gum under a desk as a surprise for the next resident of the desk, gum can be quite harmful to others. Gum is covered in saliva, which is a carrier of the herpes virus, the flu, and the common cold. So, if an unsuspecting victim happens to touch the gum, they have increased risk of catching any number of ailments. The student in fifth period is smart and quickly scrubs her hands so she catches nothing. Others aren’t as smart or as lucky.

Most people who choose to vandalize have also endured the pain of touching old, lumpy, stale gum under a table or desk. Despite experiencing this torture, they still choose to contribute to the problem. Why do they do it? Why do they contribute to the epidemic, if they themselves have felt its bite? Why do they subject others to the torture of touching, or even scraping off, gum that has been stuck underneath a desk? Some people do it as a form of rebellion, sticking it to the man so to speak, and others do it because they are just plain lazy. Wherever this strange trend came from, it stuck and now is a clear part of society. Despite its grossness, sticking gum under tables and desks is incredibly common. Some even celebrate the improper disposal of gum, and stick it on tourist attractions like the Gum Wall in Seattle.

To combat the gum problem, many schools have placed bans on chewing gum. Unfortunately, this does not do much to fix the problem. These bans only prompt students to do it more– chewing gum has become a small form of rebellion. Sticking gum to the bottom of a desk has become the only way for students to discreetly dispose of gum during class. Because of this, students like the poor girl in fifth period have to endure the torture of touching gum and the dangers of getting sick from it. These gum rebels also subject the hard-working custodial staff to the torture of scraping gum off the desks, chairs, and walls of the school building.

Now yes, there are much worse, and much grosser things than touching gum under a desk. The difference is that these atrocities are few and far between– many students are forced to touch disgusting old gum every day. So please, for whatever inexplicable reason you want to stick your gum under a desk, don’t.  Help stop the epidemic and throw it away.