China, September 30, 1999
The center of the sound of spitting
I wish I had enough cash for a Sony Digital VideoCam. No, I don't want to
bore you with bad home movies; I want to record China's national sound in
the making. In Russia, I always loved the little warning the Moscow Metro
made when the doors were closing and the train started towards the next
station. The first time I was there, before I knew a word of Russian, it
sounded like poetry to me. China's national sound is not so nice.
It starts with a good inhalation by man or woman. Then the head is tilted to the side and the exhalation used to clear the throat. No, not for singing, but just to clear the throat. In high school, the last time I heard the sound in America, it was called 'hacking a lugie' or 'spitting a goober,' but I think its formally know as expunging phlegm from the back of the throat. Whatever, it is definitely the most common sound I hear on the streets of Beijing.
Actually, if it were just in the streets, it wouldn't be so bad. I hear this awful sound constantly indoors too! The better establishments have 'no spitting' signs, but unfortunately, my meager salary here doesn't allow me to frequent such places too often. I'm happy to go to little alley cafes, that is if I can stand all the noise on the way there.
Oh, and if they just made the noise, it wouldn't half as bad, but the very Asian trait is to spit whatever is found out into the street. Now I know why, unlike a few other Asia countries, everyone wears shoes here, indoors and out. I sure do not want to step in someone's spit, even with shoes on!
Oh, and be careful walking under buildings or riding your bike too. I've seen way to many Chinese spit out of any nearby window and I've heard of a girl being downwind of an errant projectile while riding her bike. Yes, gross but true.