I love gum. Anyone who spends time around me knows this to be true. No matter where I am, whether in my home or office or car, I always have at least three or four packs around me. From Big Red to Chiclets, from Trident to Plen-T-Paks of Juicy Fruit, I'm never far from a fresh stick of delicious chewing gum. Yes, I love gum and always have plen-T of it on hand.

But, as rich as I am in gum, I'm equally rich in friends and acquaintances who are aware of my gum supply and don't hesitate to ask for a piece if the need arises. This is usually not a problem: I am a generous man by nature and feel gum should be shared freely among those in need. However, there are times when the line between generosity and exploitation is crossed, and steps must be taken to drive the line-crossers back.

I must hold fast to my gum.

I admit, I'm partially at fault. I've established myself as someone who is extremely charitable with his gum, always holding it aloft and asking if anyone is in need of a piece. Always asking those around me if they too would like a chewy strip seemingly forged in heaven itself. In the face of such temptation, it is only natural for one to be seduced by its minty or fruity allure.

Who among you can resist a piece of gum? Apparently, very few, for when I raise the blue, gleaming beacon that is a package of Wrigley's winterfresh Extra, virtually all heed its call. Like jackals descending upon a fresh kill, a crowd forms around me, arms outstretched and mouths open, eager to wrap their tongues around Extra's sweet, refreshing blend of sorbitol, gum base, glycerol, mannitol, acesulfame k, softeners, aspartame, BHT, Maltitol, and natural and artificial flavors. I admit, it's a difficult recipe to resist, and I for one wouldn't ask anyone to. I merely ask for a little courtesy and respect.

Many around me seem to think that I am the planet's sole gum distributor. No, I am merely a fan, a gum enthusiast who savors the sweet allure of a freshly unwrapped stick. While I am more than happy to share my bounty, I do not wish to be depended upon 100 percent of the time. Why is it that no one has the temerity to pick up their own gum at the local shop? Is a man really a man who does not equip himself with his needs at the beginning of the day? Why, then, do those who often crave gum not procure themselves some, instead relying solely upon the generosity of those with the forethought to do so?

A clarification is in order: Most do not take my gum for granted. Most of my family, friends, and coworkers are decent folk who do not abuse my charitable nature, taking my gum sparingly and with a good measure of appreciation. It is that small handful of others, however, upon whom I train my wrath, those who feel that a daily stick of my gum is their birthright, earned merely by being in my presence. They're the ones who promise to return the favor with sticks and entire packs of gum, to be given to me at some unspecified future date. I must say, for the record, that not a single piece of Everest or Dubble Bubble has been repaid by these charlatans, their lies laid bare by the passage of time.

The burden placed upon me by my own magnanimity is one I can bear. I am repaid merely by the smiles, the happy chewing and sweetened breath of those around me. But the frenzy of demand for my gum has gotten out of control. My only thought to correct this is to decrease the supply so that I run out. However, logic and simple economics suggest this might not be the best course of action, as it would only serve to further drive up demand. Plus, I delight in the knowledge that one can rely upon me for a piece of icy cool gum when needed. Yes, for now, I shall suffer the indignities of the few for the good of the many. As a true gum lover, this is my stick to bear.