Walking downtown on a bright spring day, watching people queue for the lunch trucks. Wondering why we can’t have them year ’round. Even in winter. Put them on machines that winch them up to the skyway level? No, that’s silly. Bring them up with cranes. They’d sway a little, but HEY HEY HEY, WHAT DID YOU JUST DO?
A guy spit right in front of me. He was sitting by the light-rail station, and let loose a sluice that shot out like a translucent minnow, right by my shoe. If he’d hit my shoe, what would I do? Thanks, pal! Let me just get out this brush and rag and shine up the old loafers. Mind lubricating the other one?
It’s disgusting, of course. It’s bad hygiene, to use a word that makes you think of high school classes about the importance of preventing personal fungus. It’s antisocial and contemptuous, and should be reserved for the following situations:
A) Confronting the person who informed on you during the Occupation, and who has been shaved by a mob and is accepting the judgment of public contempt.
Also, you are a llama that spits when angered.
B) See “A.”
Given these conditions, I had to ask: Has Minneapolis just been liberated by Allied forces, and did my shoe tell the Gestapo that this man has been harboring fugitives in his attic? That’s no on both counts, so don’t spit at my shoe.
Don’t even try to tell me there’s some llama on your mother’s side.
Now, it’s possible that a gang of rogue shellfish smugglers just attacked the fellow and forced him to eat expired shrimp, and he had to spit or suffer food poisoning. But since he wasn’t shaking his fist shouting DAMN YOUR EYES, YOU CRUSTACEAN HOOLIGANS, I don’t think this was the case.
You may ask: Was the fellow also lurking? Because the City Council is considering doing away with laws regarding Lurking and Spitting. Say it enough, and it fits a Nancy Sinatra tune, “Wishin’ and Hopin’ ”:
I’m lurkin’ and spittin’
And lurkin’ and spittin’
Hoping that you
Won’t mind if I expel some goo
The problem of the lurking law, I understand, is that it’s vague enough to detain anyone the cops regard as hinky, or considering hinkyness, or possibly imbued with hinkyosity. It is difficult to prove you were not lurking. No, officer, I was temporarily idle. But you’ve been in this spot looking at things for a while. Yes, it’s called window shopping. I see. And are you intending to buy a window? Well — no, it panes me to say. Ha ha! What do you mean, turn around and put my hands behind my back?
Two things about this. One, if the police wish to question you and can no longer use Perceived Lurk Status as a reason to chat, there’s probably something else. I’ve watched enough cop shows on TV to know that there’s one phrase that never occurs to someone transporting lots of drugs: “Before we set out, let us ensure that the license-plate taillight is illuminated.” Even then you can probably be pulled over for insufficient wattage. If not that, then the lack of a cap on the nozzle where you put air in your tires. But it fell off! Tell it to the judge.
Two, Loitering will be the new Lurking. It is not illegal to loiter in public areas unless you are up to no good, which includes drinking enfeebling spirits, begging, leaning into windows and asking if someone wants to party, and interfering with pedestrian or vehicular traffic. The last one could be defined as “not getting out of the way when some guy barking orders into a cellphone isn’t watching where he’s going,” and you’re just standing there.
I mean, you’re not going to rot in Stillwater for it, but it might be reason enough to get pulled aside for some questions.
So I don’t think the streets will run crimson with mayhem if Lurking gets put in the heap with laws that required cars to drive 3 miles per hour if a horse is present on Sunday. The streets will, however, continue to run with something else if spitting is taken off the books. See, here’s the thing. It is very easy to avoid getting detailed by the police for spitting.
I know, I know — tricky legal talk here, but let me expand on the matter. If spitting is a crime, and you do not spit, they cannot harass you for it. But couldn’t a bad cop plant spit on the scene? I suppose. But the larger point is the use of the law to set standards, and expecting people not to expectorate would seem to be a small thing to ask.
In the interest of fairness, the law should be expanded to include blowing your nose by closing one nostril and snorting out the fungoo, because that is likewise disgusting and unhygienic, and really, your mother would be ashamed.
As long as we’re at it: might as well toss in tossing cigarette butts out of car windows, perhaps under the belief that they will somehow dissolve. Even though every smoker knows filter butts are so imperishable and hardy they make Fiberglas look like cotton candy stuck in a hot shower.
We should publicize the fact that you can be cited for spitting, so everyone knows IT IS NOT A THING TO DO. Use a handy phrase. Something like “If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.”
If you can’t do time in a jailhouse cloister / Please don’t hawk out a tracheal oyster.