B.’s bubble gum machine never runs out of colorful gum balls. He chews nearly $10 worth of penny candy in a month. There is rarely an evening that passes when he does not sit in front of a Samsung wide-screen television and twist the metal arm of the gum ball machine. He carries the heavy glass and metal machine from the shelf in the livingroom and places it on the coffee table next to an ashtray and the incense holder. With his left hand, he changes stations with a remote. Fingers on his right hand are used to gather coin and pick up the gum pieces that roll from the fire-engine red toy, one piece at a time.
“Gum tastes so much better when you gotta work for it,” B explains. “This is the best Christmas gift you ever got me. I always wanted one of these.”
He received his gum ball machine last Christmas. He chewed from that contraption for more than entire year and still has not tired of childhood memories that pop into his mind when he uses it. He buys re-fill gum from an expensive candy story on Fifth Avenue. Even I admit that this New York City gum is better than what we had when we were kids. I sometimes use the machine too– reaching for the silver handle and a coin when he isn’t controlling it–
“I remember when bubble gum machines took pennies,” he said. “My poor mother. She could never leave the supermarket without having to stop and wait for me to get my gum. Whoever came up with the idea of a bubble gum machine is pure genius.”
“I agree,” I replied. “There is something so magical about them, especially in the eyes of a child. Even kids today with high-tech televisions and video games cannot resist the challenge of begging their parents for a quarter for a piece of gum. What I find amazing is that I paid only $10 for that machine and look how well it’s made– the glass globe and the metal base– the Chinese are something else. How does this machine appear here in our livingroom– shipped all the way from China for a cost of just $10? If I were to mail it to China from the post office, the price in postage would be almost $20.”
“You’re right,” B said. He took out a huge wad of gum from his mouth and placed it on the coffee table. “What a great gift it makes!” He slid a dime into his machine for a fresh piece before continuing– “The Chinese are just plain stupid. I mean really– look at what slaves in America went through.”
“That’s so true, B. They all work in factories now and assemble things like these bubble gum machines. America is the land of white color jobs– even you have a white color job, B. Imagine if you had to work in a factory all day.”
“That wouldn’t be such a bad thing,” B. replied. “Just give me good benefits and decent pay…”
“That’s the problem with global economics,” I explained. “A bubble gum machine does not need benefits, nor do the Chinese, nor did slaves, but imagine if there was a machine to replace the doctor and pills were just a penny a piece and available in a gum ball machine.”
“The drug companies would make a fortune,” B. said.
“But what would we all do if we didn’t have to go to work all day?”
“Chew gum and watch television,” B insisted.
It has always been this way, I realized. One must own the bubble gum machine, but not the Chinese and their kids.
“Let’s invest in the company that makes this gum,” B said. “The price of the stock must be down now.”
There is a logo stamped to each piece of B’s expensive gum. I popped in a quarter and took out a blue piece and inspected to determine who the maker was–