Lavapies Olympics (3) Long Distance gobbing

olympics10Not so long ago I was walking up from Tirso de Molina toward Sol and as I passed a doorway a huge blob of gob flew out into the street at about thigh-level, narrowly missing me, followed by the spitter himself. Now, I am not one to cause a scene but in this case I made my feelings perfectly clear.

‘Hey! Do you mind??! That could have hit me! Look where you’re spitting, for God’s sake. In fact, even better- don’t do it, it’s disgusting.’ He was suitably bashful and apologetic, and hopefully will think next time before launching a pavement oyster. Unfortunately you would have to make it a full time job remonstrating with all those who clear their noses and throats in the streets of Lavapies. Like China, the streets often ring with the charming sounds of hawking and gobbing. But even China tried to clear up its act a few years ago during the SARS crisis, as the realistation finally dawned that it isn’t the most hygeinic of practices, and can contribute to the spread of diseases like Atypical Pneumonia, (which is more severe than common or garden Pneuomonia and doesn’t respond to antibiotics), Tuberculosis and other contagious respitatory illnesses. As we are currently at risk from another apparently deadly virus, this time originating from pigs, you’d think people might think twice before depositing their phlegm on the streets for us all to share, but no, the practice continues here.

Culturally it’s something we Brits have not done for years- centuries even, apart from a brief return to fashion during the punk era when it was part of the punk ritual to spit on live bands. While it was a common practice in Western Europe in the Middle Ages, by the early 1700s it had become a habit best concealed publicly, and by the late 1800s it was seen as vulgar, especially in mixed company. The Nineteenth Century gave us the Spittoon, though even the use of these began to die out after the Influenza epidemic of 1918, and today it’s merely seen as gross and socially unacceptable. Unless you are a footballer. It’s not the only sport where spitting has been noted- baseball player Frenchy Bordagaray was once suspended for spitting at an umpire, and remarked drily that the punishment was ‘more than I expectorated’. Yet even footballers are now coming under attack for the habit of spitting on the pitch due to the danger of spreading swine flu. The Health Protection Agency in October this year said spitting ‘could increase the risk of passing on infection’ and also claimed ‘Spitting is disgusting at all times. It’s unhygeinic and unhealthy, particularly if you spit close to other people…. Footballers, like the rest of us, wouldn’t spit indoors so they shouldn’t do it on the football pitch.’ Hear hear, I say. poster_spitting

I have tried to be tolerant and culturally aware, but this is one thing I cannot abide. Maybe it’s because I was once spat on in the face during an argument in a restaurant kitchen. To spit in someone’s face is a universal sign of anger, hatred and contempt. For me it was far worse than being slapped. It made things revoltingly personal. I lose my temper approximately every five years or so, and on this occasion I literally saw red- a red hot rage that made me hurl a bucket of garlic mayonnaise followed by another bucket of olives at the spitter. I was then hustled physically through the restaurant, past rows of startled diners, forks raised in mid-air, and hurled like a sack of rubbish onto the plaza with the cry of ‘and don’t come back!’ Let’s hope the same thing happens to this vile habit- hustle it out of the back door and make it perfectly clear it isn’t acceptable, and isn’t going to be making a come-back any time soon.

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