The Chewing Gum Emperer
When I was a young man in my mid-twenties, I was working as a Chief Accountant, way out at a ‘Base Camp’ in the hot humid desert of Abu Dhabi.
During my time working and living in that 100 degree, 99% humidity hell- hole, I will never forget Hank, the Texan, who was the boss of a fleet of giant Kenworth Trucks which was used to move the massive oil drilling rigs from one exploratory location to the next.
I suppose in today’s parlance Hank might have been called the ‘Transportation Manager’ but in those far off days, we knew him as the Head ‘Truck Pusher.’ (I was head Pencil-Pusher)
For most of the time, when the rigs were on location, drilling for oil, Hank would spend his idle days in the main Base Camp office, sitting back on his chair with his huge leather boots straddled across his empty desk.
Sometimes he snoozed, sometimes he read a ‘wank book’ and sometimes he just sat there, staring into space.
But the one feature of Hank’s day that never varied was his preoccupation with chewing tobacco.
He would chew the revolting stuff all day long, and even from the far end of the office, you could hear the sounds of Hank noisily sucking in his breath, followed by an indescribable splat sound as he spewed out a lump of thoroughly masticated, filthy tobacco.
For most of the time, this expert tobacco-masticator would succeed in landing the revolting, saliva-covered balls into a waste bin at the far corner of the office. In fact, it was probably the only thing that kept Hank from going crazy during those long, inactive periods between rig moves.
But every now and then, he would miss, and the revolting, slimy balls would miss and go splat, on the floor, somewhere in the vicinity of the bin, leaving a messy brown stain in their wake.
Nobody would go near them, and whenever anyone had to pass that area of the main office, they would tread gingerly to ensure they didn’t put their shoes in that horrible brown muck!
Nobody like this disgusting habit, but no-one had the balls to tell Hank to cease. Hank was one very large Texan dude, and woe betied anyone, from the General Manager down, who dared to cross to him.
Overnight, the Indian cleaners would mop up all the mess and empty the bins and the next day Hank would start all over. We all used to pray for rig moves.
I was amused a few weeks ago when I was told by an ardent supporter of West Ham United, one of the smaller London Football clubs who are currently playing in the English Premier League, that all the fans hated the team manager.
The team is doing surprisingly well, considering it’s meagre resources when compared to the likes of Chelsea and Man City, but despite this success, nobody can stand the club’s manager, Big Sam, as he is known the football world at large.
‘Why is he almost universally not liked?’
‘Because he never stops chewing gum!’, he told me. ‘It’s revolting.’
I confess that there is a lot of truth in this. While not in the same league as chewing tobacco, chewing gum is indeed a revolting habit. It looks revolting when you see people chewing and it is even more revolting when the chewer finally spits it out, or maybe he surreptitiously takes it out and applies to the underside of a seat or a table, or whatever happens to be near to hand.
Indeed the habit is considered so revolting in Singapore that chewing gum has been banned there since 2004 and chewers can be fined $500 for spitting gum onto the street.
But nobody dare tell Big Sam to stop chewing – after all he’s the boss.
These days, without doubt, the most famous gum chewer of all is none other than the head of the so-called free world, the estimable Barack Obama.
Almost throughout his presidency – now in its sixth year – there have been unguarded pictures of him chewing gum at occasions great and small – from shaking hands with voters to solemn remembrance services to formal, public meetings with international leaders throughout the world.
We are told President Obama chews gum in an effort to kick his smoking habit, and that may well be the case, but you would have thought that a man in his exalted position might have been a little more circumspect as to when and where he chooses to chew.
He was seen chomping away earlier this year at the D-Day Remembrance ceremonies in France at the very moment when Queen Lizzie was being welcomed by the President of France. His mastications provoked a storm of French criticism on Twitter with a plethora of tweets:
“Obama and his chewing-gum. Classy” one French user tweeted sarcastically.
“Not very elegant, the Obama attitude in the middle of the ceremony,” another user said, while yet another added, “Is there anyone who will ask Barack Obama to stop chewing on his gum like a cowboy?”
The words “shameful” and “vulgar” were thrown around as social media networks lit up with outrage at Mr. Obama’s display.
“Obama do you want a Coke too while chewing gum while the Marseillaise is being played?” one tweet fumed, in reference to the president’s lack of respect for the French National anthem.
Then he went to China and was seen walking into the venue with the Chinese Leader chomping away on his gum.
The media blasted him, calling Obama “immature” and “disrespectful.” Chinese Internet users, used to far greater levels of formality from their leaders, branded him an ‘idler’ and a ‘rapper’.
It seems President Obama didn’t learn his lesson. After the outrage in Beijing, once again he was seen chomping away at the recent G20 summit in Brisbane. The president was spotted smacking gum as he chatted with British Prime Minister David Cameron at the first plenary session.
I personally find people chewing gum pretty revolting, and I believe that if they are chewing to kick an addiction, then they should confine the chewing to those times when they are alone or are in a private setting; or at the very least, avoid chewing at public formal occasions, such as war remembrance services or gatherings of world leaders.
President Obama once famously said:
‘I’m the President of the United States, I’m not the emperor of the United States!’
This was in response to questions on immigration. He said that he could not issue an executive amnesty for illegal immigrants .
Well, now he has; so apparently we now have an ‘Emperor of the United States.’
Maybe Emperor Obama will choose to chew while his empire burns….
But no-one dare tell him – he is the Emperor.
I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have a ‘Fiddler’ Emperor or a ‘Naked’ Emperor than a ‘Chewing Gum’ Emperor….