Dave Barry

Classic '96: A Spit in Time


This Dave Barry column was originally published Saturday, August 4, 1996.

Some people -- and when I say "some people," I mean "women" -- complain that guys spit too much. A guy will be in a public place such as a city street or baseball game or wedding reception, and he'll suddenly rear back and launch what the medical profession refers to as a "loogie," and some people will say: "EWWWW! Gross!"

Well, perhaps "some people" would sing a different tune if they were aware of an incident reported under a banner headline in the May 11, 1996, issue of the Jackson (Miss.) Clarion- Ledger.

As you may recall, the Clarion-Ledger is the same newspaper that broke the story about the consumer menace posed by the Rollerblade Barbie doll. This is a Barbie model -- no longer manufactured by the Mattel Corp. -- that has little pink booties with flint wheels, which spark when they roll. Scientific experiments conducted in my driveway have shown that if you inadvertently spray hair spray on a pair of underpants, then inadvertently roll Rollerblade Barbie over them, her bootie sparks will ignite the hair spray, and the underpants will catch on fire. So you should never do this without a good reason.

Anyway, this recent Clarion-Ledger story, which was sent in by alert reader Lee Miller and which I swear I am not making up, states that on the night of May 2, Elizabeth Mayes and her six children went to bed "while the TV show Baywatch was airing." Several hours later, Mayes' neighbor, Ernest "Bud" Thompson, woke up. The reason he woke up, he later told Mayes, was that -- note this quotation carefully -- "something told him to go outside and spit."

Many individuals would not have heeded that "something." Many individuals would have said: "I'm tired! I'll spit in the morning!" Fortunately, Ernest "Bud" Thompson is not many individuals. He went outside, and, while spitting, he noticed that Mayes' house was burning. (For the record, this fire turned out to be electrical; it was not Barbie-related.) Thompson ran over, kicked open the front door, and awakened Mayes and her six children, all of whom escaped unharmed.

What conclusions should we draw from this incident? The obvious one, of course, is that Baywatch causes electrical fires. But we can also conclude that spitting saves lives. As Elizabeth Mayes told the Clarion-Ledger: "Every time I come to this house, I think about what could have happened if he had not come outside to spit."

I hope "some people" are paying attention. I hope "some people" are waking up to the possibility that when guys engage in allegedly gross or pointless behavior -- spitting, burping, rooting around in their private regions as though they have misplaced their car keys in there, etc. -- these guys may actually be obeying a crucial survival instinct that places them in a position to notice stuff that could benefit humanity in general.

Let me give you a hypothetical situation. Suppose there had been a guy on board the fateful maiden voyage of the Titanic. And suppose that, on the fateful night of April 14, 1912, just before the fateful time of 11:40 p.m., "something" had told this guy to go out on deck to spit. And suppose that, while spitting, he happened to peer into the fog-filled night, and suddenly -- in a shocking moment of soul-freezing horror -- he realized that it would be a bad idea to put sparking booties on a doll. That guy, if he had survived the ship's sinking and gone on to become an executive of the Mattel Corp., could very well have prevented a potentially dangerous toy concept from being marketed!

Yes, that is the kind of potential benefit that humanity receives every day, thanks to guys. And what do guys get in return? I'll tell you what they get: a buttocks wound. I refer here to a news item from the Richmond Times-Dispatch, alertly sent in by Carol Hollenbeck, concerning a South Richmond man who was wounded in his buttocks when somebody threw a pair of scissors at him. The police report states that "his attacker was someone he knew who was angry over the constant changing of the TV channels."

We need not be nuclear physicists to figure out that the "someone" who threw the scissors is a woman. Women constantly complain about guys changing channels, as though guys do this for no reason. In fact, a guy clicking a remote control is obeying an ancient "hunter-gatherer" instinct -- an instinct that has compelled guys ever since the Stone Age to keep searching, searching, searching, in a ceaseless quest to benefit the tribal unit by locating a mastodon, which could be used for food, or by monitoring the show Baywatch, which causes electrical fires.

Fine, women. Go ahead and criticize us guys. Go ahead and use the scissors of your sarcasm to stab us in the tender buttocks of our self-esteem. We'll keep protecting you anyway, staying true to our instincts, remaining ever vigilant and strong, always on alert, always ready at a moment's notice to drop everything and . . . Excuse me.