Same Ol’ Spit

When I used to ride the train into Philadelphia with my mom, oh so many years ago — back in the days when smoking was allowed on SEPTA’s commuter trains — old signs prohibiting spitting still appeared on some cars.
“Do people need to be told not to spit?” I asked. She told me the signs were vestiges from an earlier time when spittoons were actually used as repositories and not as novelty planters for silk flowers or places to keep spare change.
I found this offensive. I could not believe people had to be told not to expel private fluids on public transportation. But still, as offended as I was, I was willing to accept that there was indeed a time in the sepia, daguerreotype past where men in hats engaged in the leisurely pastime of spitting as a matter of course.
Quite a few years later, it seems that spitting has reemerged with a vengeance. What happened? When did it become commonplace, and therefore seemingly acceptable, for people to spit in public?
I must be completely out of touch with the trends, because, silly silly me, I thought the practice was outdated. I thought spitting went the way of spats, the horse and buggy, and Prohibition. I thought it was a practice that we civilized modern day types, in this enlightened new millennium, sneered at as an oddity of another time, such as bearded ladies. Alas, I should have known better, given that bearded ladies can be found today in any highly ethnic neighborhood in most major metropolitan areas. I know I’ve seen my share.
So apparently spitting has made a comeback. Spitting is in. I see it all the time. People do it while standing on the subway platform, watching the dark tunnel for the approaching pinpoint of light that indicates the train is on its way. They do it on the sidewalks, while walking arm in arm with the person with whom they privately exchange spit. They do it without thought, without pause, and without self-consciousness. They do it like there’s nothing to it.
And although we would expect that men would be the ones doing the bulk of the expectorating, I must say that women are not exactly eschewing the spew. All too often I’m seeing the so-called fairer sex doing their share, with the same casual oblivion exhibited by the men.
It all makes me so mad, I could just … well, never mind.