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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Again with the Spitting?

So it’s official, I have a spitting problem.

Not my own. I have a problem with serial spitters.

They’re everywhere, hocking away, spitting on the sidewalk in front of my house, on the sidewalk in front of the grocery store, on the sidewalk across from the church I attended Sunday. And that’s just over the past couple of days. And to be more specific, it’s always grown men…and the occasional chain-smoking elderly woman.

A co-worker once told me about a guy who let fly when she was in her car. But for the windshield she might’ve been wearing a face full of loogie seconds later.

If you’re thinking “gross,” you’re right. And here’s why: Spitting is supposed to be something you do to unburden yourself of unwanted and maybe even uncomfortable “material,” just like whizzing and nose-blowing, and farting, etc. And the last two things on that list you only do around other people in public when you absolutely NEED to, as in you can’t help it. Case in point: I was eating w/my family at a restaurant outdoors a few days ago, and something set off my hypersensitive nose. Within minutes I was stuffier than if I’d had a cold. I needed to blow my nose. But I didn’t need to do it at the expense of grossing out my fellow diners. So I walked the tough 30 second journey to the bathroom and handled it there. BTW, I also spit while I was in the can – two birds, one stone.

But somehow over the years spitting has become a manly gesture, something some guys do to reaffirm their masculinity. Think about it. If you’re a dude with all his faculties who wasn’t a Poindexter as a little boy, you probably have a memory of standing around on the playground, kicking dirt on girls and spitting. You’d spit on anything and everything. And the first boy who spit usually started a chain reaction. All the others had to keep up with the Joneses after that. Then the bell rang, recess ended, and most of us grew up. But those guys who didn't grow up and can't afford a sports car to prove their manliness, there's spitting.

So it’s not far-fetched at all that we used to brush off extreme spitting as just another guy thing, like the tendency of some guys to walk around resting a hand on their crotches, as though they’re worried their goodie bags might run away if not held tightly.

But if you’re a grown man and you don’t have coal miner’s lung and you’re still spitting just because you can, it’s a subtle sign you haven’t developed self control in adulthood.

I can’t make you check yourself. But if you absolutely have to spit at least look for a more appropriate place to let fly, some place meaning NOT the sidewalk, NOT people’s windshields, et. I’m sure there are a few more places we could list, but you get the picture…I hope.


  • I'm so with you. I actually think it is just as inexcusable for kids. In New York, where you are constantly with people and under their glare it is still possible (when utterly necessary) to get to a gutter, take a look about and expectorate. There is the time tested hand shielding of the actually act so that it is even less apparent. BECAUSE IT'S DISGUSTING. Thanks man. Oh yeah, I have heard so much about your article from female (and male) family and friends about women of color and the situation with increased inter-racial dating... You've fed the idle convo beast for years to come. There is a male side of that having to do with incarceration rates, high schools and colleges and a bunch of other issues but I'll email you on it. Thanks for your blog man. One.

    By Blogger Miamista, at 3:32 PM  

  • UGH. And I so hate all those men I see who just stand there and snort, snort, snort to get a good hocker up and then just spit it out right there. And then proceed to do it all over again.

    I have an uncle who does this. I can't stand to be near him.

    By Blogger Tere, at 1:28 PM  

  • As you get older, you'll see you need to get rid of the phlegm RIGHT NOW!

    By Anonymous An Old Jewish Guy, at 8:24 PM  

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