It was a cold and rainy Wednesday afternoon in late September – around 3 p.m. I had been busy all day and barely had the chance to take off my mask. Because of this, I was suffering from a relatively new ailment commonly known as “mask breath.” 

It seemed that no matter what I did, the bad breath remained. I ate something, drank some water and coffee – no dice. Every time I breathed, I felt a warm rush of unsavory air fill my mask and bounce back towards my nose, like a cruel, invisible boomerang.

It was torture. 

Thankfully, there was one sure-fire solution: a simple stick of chewing gum. 

I did a quick mental inventory of all of the places on campus where I might be able to purchase a pack of Trident, Orbit or Extra. It seemed obvious that the best place to find gum would be at the bookstore, right? 

Wrong. The Goshen College Bookstore sells sweatshirts, water bottles, blankets, waterproof notebooks and even CELL PHONES, yet they do not have gum! 

This confounds me. What kind of college student has enough loose leaf cash to just pop into the bookstore and purchase a cell phone on a whim? None that I know of. Yet I am sure that there would be many students, myself included, who would frequent the bookstore in order to satisfy their gum addiction. 

I began mentioning this injustice to anyone I saw, because it is a perfect topic for interesting small talk. 

“Hey, did you know that the bookstore sells CELL PHONES, but not gum?!” became my new calling card. 

One day, I talked to my friend Caleb Gingerich, fellow gum enthusiast. He was aghast to hear the news. In fact, it really seemed to affect him, on a spiritual level. 

We began brainstorming solutions. Could we open our gum stand on campus? Probably not, too much paperwork. Could we petition the bookstore? No, that would be too complicated. 

Very quickly, it became apparent that there was only one possible course of action. 

We found a tan Ralph Lauren trench coat for women. We purchased copious amounts of gum. And the midnight gum salesman was born. 

We stood out in the prairie in the middle of the night, and secretly dealt our wares. Students flocked to us like geese, and we sold out within minutes. 

Unfortunately, our small operation only lasted that first night, due to bad accounting. Turns out it is really hard to run a sustainable gum business. Who knew? Yet, the magnificent concept lives on! The midnight gum salesman, like Dumbledore, will never be gone, not as long as those who remain are loyal to him. And if there is anyone out there up to the task, I know where to find the perfect trench coat.