Let Us Spray. No, Wait. Let’s Not
Spitting is coming under scrutiny. Scrutiny needs an umbrella
By Ed Goldman
What brings this rumination from cud to mind is my delight that spitting is being outlawed in various segments of our daily lives, due to the potential spread of Covid-19, which still sounds like one half of a box score to me (“At the end of the first half, it’s Covid-19, People-Zero”). And while I feel no sympathy for tobacco chewers or chaw-ers—whose habit is beyond gross no matter how you spell, pronounce or successfully dodge their great expectorations—for some professionals and amateurs, this particular restriction may be the final straw (i.e., the one that fatally moistens the camel’s back).
So let’s let the spit hit the fan:
STAGE ACTORS, and I spritz from experience, are taught to enunciate so crisply that it’s almost impossible to do so without misting your scene mate. I remember watching the late Robert Goulet in a production of “South Pacific” for the Broadway Sacramento Series a few years ago. When he sang the show’s big hit, “Some Enchanted Evening,” to the actress playing Nellie Forbush, they were unfortunately backlit, allowing us to see every droplet of Goulet’s terrific baritone propelled in her direction and the unseen stagehands. It didn’t help that Goulet, trained as a Very Big Voice, opened his mouth so wide when he sang that some of us feared that Nellie’s head was about to become a cough drop. Luckily, it didn’t, allowing the actress to sing her character’s own signature song, “I’m Just a Cockeyed Optimist.” At least now we knew why she was cock-eyed: her co-star spat in her eyes eight performances a week.
SOLDIERS, or at least their drill sergeants, are going to have to amend the ingredients of the fabled spit-shine. When my eldest brother Jerry mustered out of the US Army, he retained a number of habits he’d developed during his three years of active duty—the most fun of which was seeing him shine his shoes. Jerry has always been a great dresser and immaculate guy but watching him polish his shoes when I was still a lad (we’re almost 10 years apart) was downright inspirational. As I watched him bring a glow to his black shoes whose glow already nearly blinded me, I was always dazzled by the fact that right when I thought he was done, he loogied on the tips, then seemed to furiously buff away the evidence that he had. I remember asking him at the time, “What was that extra step about?” and he looked at me, with one of his broad Burt Lancaster grins and said, “I have no goddamn idea.” This is one reason I love my brother and know that had I been drafted in later years, and asked the same question, my drill sergeant would have had me court-martialed and executed before the conclusion of basic training.
HOODS, which I realize is a quaint term, were always spitting on the curb when I was a kid in New York and Southern California. I was never sure why they did this. Maybe they got hoarse trying to speak with a rasp all day, like Christian Bale or Ben Affleck when they switch from being Millionaire Bruce Wayne to Dark Knight Batman. (I have a discussion of this phenomenon in my June 3 column about why I love Thursdays.) Now, the police will be able to establish just cause for overreacting when they haul in these offenders, since nobody really likes spitters. The real challenge will be trying to watch the body-cam footage since the lenses will likely be soaked, with the resulting imagery resembling a Jacques Cousteau special.
DENTISTS will now have to advise you during cleaning appointments to “Please rinse. Then spit when you get home.”
BASEBALL games—which can seem interminable, even if you’re one of those people who claim to enjoy them for the intellectual strategizing, when really it’s just for the hot dogs and beer—will last, with the elimination of spitting, about 45 minutes. Consequently, the seventh-inning stretch will occur shortly after you’ve been seated, so be sure to buy and inhale your hots dogs and beer on the way into the stadium.
“SPIT AND VINEGAR.” This expression, already a PG (and PC) euphemism for “piss and vinegar,” is now toxic enough to warrant a return to the non-euphemized expression. Consequently, you may soon see a poker game called Piss In The Ocean, as well as someone saying a boy is the “pissing image” of his father. But only if the boy, as did his father, wears spats.