Can you indulge me with a few moments of your time? I want to address something that happened a minute ago. We were talking, quite civilly, and then you reached into your pocket and pulled out a pack of Wrigley's Eclipse. One of their "new and improved" peppermints. You took a piece for yourself, and then—for reasons I can't quite understand—offered me a piece.

I stammered a bit, not knowing what to say, but managed to issue a polite refusal. As you will recall, I was chewing a piece of Fruit Stripe gum, something I often like to do after a large lunch.

Here's what I'm grappling with: Why did you offer me the gum? Surely, you must have known that I was already chewing a piece, as I'm not one to conceal my enjoyment of gum. Second, I have something of a reputation for my frequent offers of gum. You've requested a piece from me on numerous occasions. So you're certainly aware of the fact that I always have a stockpile of many delicious flavors, such as cinnamon, wintergreen, wild berry, and spearmint. Not to mention more unusual flavors, such as watermelon and Black Jack.

But the pieces still don't fit. Was it absentminded social politeness? Perhaps, but you're a shrewd guy. You're not the kind to invite a wine enthusiast to dinner and serve him Two-Buck Chuck. You're smarter than that, and let's be honest, you often have an angle you're playing. The question is: What's the angle?

Perhaps, because I have been so generous with my gum in the past, you felt that it was now your turn to offer a piece to me. Normally, this would be something I would appreciate, but again, we have the problem that I already had a piece of gum going. It seems to me that your strange offer was calculated to elicit a refusal, or perhaps, more sinister, a reciprocal gum offer in the future.

And as it happens, I have recently received a few packs of gum from a friend of mine studying in Iceland. If you tried them, they'd leave you reeling. They did me—no mean feat, for when it comes to gum, I'm fairly jaded.

In the future, I would suggest you come out and ask for gum directly, rather than resorting to subterfuge or mind games to try to wheedle a stick of rare Icelandic gum out of me.

There is one other possible explanation for your gum offer, and it is not a pretty one. You were betraying your low opinion of me. Why else would you offer me Eclipse, for God's sake? Improved flavor or not, I have only sampled that brand to affirm firsthand that their claims of improved taste are premature. I can only imagine that you were letting me know that you thought of me as someone who would enjoy Eclipse. If this is the case, all I can say is that I'm not someone you want as an enemy.

But perhaps I'm overreacting. I think the only way to settle this is with a face-to-face talk. We'll clear the air over a few beers and sticks. If you would just tell me why you offered me that stick of gum, it would certainly put my mind at ease.