Gum-Chewing Surgeons

You’re getting ready for an important operation.  You’ve read the literature about the risks and benefits, decided to go forward, and now you’re in the prep room.  You meet your surgeon for the first time — and you notice, with a sharp and ugly chill running down your spine, that he’s chewing gum.

If it were me in this scenario, I’d say thanks, but I’ve changed my mind, then I’d leap from the operating table and sprint from the room, hospital gown or not.  I’m guessing I’m not alone in that reaction.

With apologies to all the gum-snappers and bubble blowers out there, it’s because there’s something about chewing gum — the slack, open mouth?  the rubbery jawline? — that just makes a person look stupid and and unprofessional and incapable.  The very act is completely inconsistent with the perception of cool competence and steely unflappability that every surgeon wants to portray to the anxious patient who’s getting ready to go under the knife.

You wouldn’t vote for a gum chewer for president or choose one to prepare your tax returns or provide you with thoughtful counsel on a potentially life-changing decision.  Your instincts tell you that the person sawing away away on a wad of Juicy Fruit doesn’t quite know what they’re doing and isn’t quite serious.

So why, then, do so many businesses allow the first person who interacts with their customers coming in the door to chew gum?