Wednesday, August 27, 2014

73. Spitting Off the Top of a Mountain

Fair Warning: This post describes spitting, which is generally pretty gross. If you don't want to read about it, then you should skip this one, and I will respect you all the same.

When I was very young, my dad would occasionally roll down the window of the car while he was driving, and expertly hawk a perfectly executed loogie out into the open air. He didn't do this to be gross, he just needed to spit, as humans typically do. I never really understood how "hawk" could be used as a verb to describe pawning valuables while also being used to describe "making an effort to raise phlegm from the throat," as the dictionary so colorfully describes. The phrase "I need to hawk this loogie" takes on a very different meaning if you happen to be standing in a pawn shop, and definitely calls into question the taste level of the owners of said pawn shop.

When I was an adolescent, there was a brief period of time where every girl in my middle school couldn't stop talking about wanting a dashing young boy to teach them how to spit, just like Jack taught Rose in Titanic. None of them actually put forth the effort to learn how to make a good loogie. I guess they were just waiting for the right boy. I thought this was pretty stupid, so I just taught myself to spit all by myself. Mostly, I taught myself how because I played soccer on several different teams, and I needed to know how to spit so I could keep playing without choking on my own saliva. It's a wonder that I didn't smooch anyone until I was in my late teens.

Four years ago, when I was living in New York City, I had very strong feelings about spit. They were negative feelings. I saw folks spit on very crowded subway trains (as in, directly on the floor, not out the open door at a station), into open manhole covers, and off of the sides of buildings. One time I was approaching an intersection on a sidewalk, and a gigantic glob of spit launched from around the corner of the building. I stopped abruptly, and the missile splattered on the ground mere millimeters from my sandaled feet. Looking up, I saw the conjuror of the spit, continuing on his forward path as though he had not just narrowly missed giving my toes the most nightmarish bath of all time.

People in New York City have a bad relationship with spit. Some people just do it all the time, in public, in the open air, while the rest of us are silently (or very verbally) horrified. I saw someone slap a stranger across the face for spitting, and there was no ensuing fight. Just a slap and a reprimand. It was a much older woman chastising a young man in his 20's, who then muttered an apology and shuffled to the other side of the subway to hide his shame. I gave that woman a mental high five, because I can't say I've ever had the courage to slap a stranger.

While hiking the Appalachian Trail, I found that spitting occasionally was not only normal, it was necessary. So much physical activity paired with nearly constant water drinking just made a lot more saliva and phlegm. All that phlegm had to go somewhere, and I sure as heck wasn't gonna just swallow it. This is NOT to say that hikers should just paint the entire sides of the trails with spit. No, of course not. Step off the trail, or use all your skills to launch it at least six feet or more into the trees.

Have you stopped reading this post yet?

If you've made it this far: Congratulations! You have the type of iron stomach and acceptance of the gross-eries of human existance that all thru-hikers need to be successful.

Standing on the top of a mountain, or on the edge of a cliff, taking in the beautiful vista and then hawking the perfect loogie is something that makes you feel very big and very small at the same time. The loogie launches out into the open air, and sails to freedom, eventually traveling far enough away to become just a tiny white speck. You're on the top of the world, and below you are endless possibilities. One of those possibilities is to spit.

And so you do.

Clever Girl


  1. Another awesome post. Here's a clip from one of the greatest movies no one ever heard of: "Evil Roy Slade". The spitting, belching and cussing contest. A perfect thru-hiker event.

  2. Whoops! Wrong John Astin reference...this is from the Brothers O'Toole!