Dr. Frederick had a problem to solve. After his walk, when he was hanging up his coat, he glanced in the mirror and saw something puzzling. There was a large wad of bright pink gum stuck in his snowy white hair.
Chewing gum was not a naturally occurring substance. It had to have a human source, but who was the source of the gum? Did he chew the gum himself and spit it out without realizing it? Dr. Frederick decided that this was unlikely. Sometimes he ate things without noticing that he was eating, but none of them ever ended up in his hair. The source of the gum was currently unknown.
Where did he get gum in his hair? He knew that he combed his hair before leaving for the park. He looked in the mirror at the gum. It appeared undisturbed. It had not been combed through, and he always combed his hair most thoroughly. He had been nowhere but the park. The park was the obvious location of the source of the chewing gum.
When did it happen? No one had come close enough to stick gum in his hair while he was walking the paths. It was unlikely that it dropped from a tree, as gum was not naturally occurring, and people seldom discarded trash high in tree branches. It was too heavy and sticky to be carried into the branches or his hair by a strong wind.
Dr. Frederick mentally retraced his steps. Had anything been different about his trip to the park today? The sun had been warm and bright, unusual for this time of year. He remembered sitting on a sun-warmed park bench and closing his eyes for several minutes, enjoying the beautiful day.
Had the source of the chewing gum approached at that moment and stuck gum in his hair? Had he leaned against the bench somehow and unknowingly transferred discarded gum to his hair? He didn’t have enough information.
Without knowing the source of the gum, it wasn’t helpful to try to deduce a motive for attaching it to his hair. He found a notepad on the side table below the mirror and fished a pencil out of the drawer. It was time to write down what he knew. He scribbled rapidly and flipped the page.
What could he do to prevent this happening again in the future? He could avoid the park. He could wear a hat to the park. He could coat his hair with something slippery so that gum wouldn’t stick to it. He could shave off his hair. He could claim the park as his own personal territory and attempt to repel all human intruders.
Dr. Frederick carefully weighed the options, considering the pros and cons. Finally he decided that wearing a hat would be effective and cause the least disruption to his normal routine. He circled “wear a hat” and flipped the page.
Now it was time to get this mess out of his hair. He scraped as much gum out of his hair as he could, and set it aside for further study. There was still gum in his hair. He could cut his hair, but he had already decided he liked having hair when the weather was cold, so he would do his best to keep his hair. He pulled out his phone and started to research. He wrote down his options and then went to test them.
Peanut butter and ice were not as effective as he hoped. Oil and lemon juice and toothpaste were also disappointing. Known options exhausted, it was time to get creative. He picked up the sample of chewing gum and headed to his lab.
An hour later, he held up the results of his efforts. As far as he could tell, this should work. Dr. Frederick used a dropper to dispense the chewing gum remover to the specks of gum still stuck to his hair. The chewing gum dissolved, along with the hair around it.
As Dr. Frederick really wanted to keep his hair, this was not a good chewing gum remover. Unfortunately, he was out of samples of chewing gum. He cleaned up, put on his coat and left to buy some chewing gum.
He chewed a piece of gum on the way home from the store, and once he was back in his lab, he stuck some in his hair. The rest he saved to experiment on. During the next two weeks, locks of his hair turned blue once and bunches of his beard were green twice. Both hair and beard were impossibly oily on several occasions. At one point in time, his hair smelled so bad that he almost reconsidered his decision to keep it.
Finally, one day, he managed to develop the perfect chewing gum remover. Problem solved, he went to the barber for a nice trim to remove the last spots of color and even out the parts that dissolved. The barber had a lot of questions about the condition of his hair.
Enthusiastically, he told the barber about his experiments. The barber was skeptical. “I always heard peanut butter got gum out just fine. If it doesn’t, hair grows back. You can just cut it out.”
Dr. Frederick wasn’t discouraged. This wasn’t the first time that a scientific breakthrough was belittled. Instead, he applied for a patent and marketed his invention to companies that sold hair products. It didn’t take long to find a buyer.
He earned enough money in the sale to buy many hats, which he continued to wear to the park even after his hair grew back. After all, the source of the gum was still at large. It was prudent to be cautious, even with the invention of the chewing gum remover. There are many more substances that could be stuck to hair, or the mysterious gum chewer might give up on sticky substances and decide to come to the park armed with scissors. Prevention took less time than developing a cure, and was much easier on his hair.