The Gum Grudge

Cassie was on the way to a job interview. She could be designing page layouts for a major fashion magazine. It was her dream job. This could be the most important day in her life so far.

Nervously, she popped a second piece of gum in her mouth. She chewed until it softened enough and blew a gigantic bubble. Keeping the air pressure constant and precise was calming.

She relaxed her shoulders. And then, someone popped the bubble. She heard snickers around her as she scrapped the gum away from her face.   When she looked around, people’s eyes darted to her hair and then away.

Cassie ran to a nearby restaurant and hurried back to the restroom. She looked in the mirror and almost shrieked.   The gum was in her hair.

She scrubbed at the last patch of gum on her face and washed her hands.   She picked at her hair and rinsed it over and over. The gum wasn’t coming out.

Should she look for somewhere to get ice or peanut butter? Should she get a haircut? She didn’t want a haircut. She checked her watch. Oh no.   She’d just missed her bus.

She called the magazine and explained the situation. They agreed to reschedule the interview, but Cassie knew this would count against her. She could almost feel her dream job slipping away.

She put her phone away and tried to breathe deeply. Then she looked suspiciously at the people around her.   Who had popped her gum bubble?

“You’re not going to get the job you know,” said a soft voice at her elbow. Cassie looked down. There was a ladybug perched on her sleeve.

Cassie looked around. There was no one else close. She held her arm closer to her face. It looked like a normal ladybug. “Hello?” Cassie said in a quiet voice.

The ladybug flew up to her shoulder. “Hello,” the ladybug said. “You looked like you could use some luck.”

“Can you help me get the job after all?” Cassie asked.   She looked straight forward as she talked, and started walking home.

“No, I can’t give you that kind of luck,” the ladybug said. “But I can help you understand your choices.”

“What do you mean?” Cassie asked.

“Well, you could get angry when you don’t get the job.   You could spend the next eighteen months hunting for the bubble popper in order to sue him or her. You won’t find them. You’ll sound angry at all of your job interviews. No one will hire you. You’ll have to move back home and work at the bowling alley.”

“No!” Cassie said. “Not the bowling alley!” People turned to look at her. Cassie kept walking and pretended not to notice.

“Yes, the bowling alley,” the ladybug said.

“What other choices do I have?” Cassie asked.

“You could laugh about this. Tell it to all your friends as a funny story. At first, it will be hard to do, but the more you tell it, the funnier it will seem. You’ll get over it and move on,” the ladybug said.

“And no bowling alley?” Cassie asked.

“No, there will be other jobs,” the ladybug said.

“Like what?” Cassie asked.

“You’ll see,” the ladybug said.

“What other choices are there?” Cassie asked.

“Oh, there are lots of choices. You could give up now and move home. You could write angry letters to the gum company and get polite form letters back. You could write a letter to the president about the evils of gum bubble poppers, but he’ll never read it. You could start carrying a large umbrella and swing it around you whenever you chew gum.”

“That’s enough choices,” Cassie said. “And most of them are terrible. I think I’ll just learn from this and move on. I’ll call Jeanine and tell her about it when I get home.   And no more gum.”

“My work here is done,” the ladybug said.

Cassie looked down and watched it fly away.