7.3 million liters - of spit!

Trip Start Jan 15, 2010
Trip End Nov 09, 2010

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Flag of China  ,
Monday, September 20, 2010

We’ve nearly circled the globe now and are currently in China. One thing we were not prepared for here is spit - and the disgusting fact that nearly everyone here does it! Men, women and children. Having made the unfortunate discovery, nearly from the moment we crossed the border, it was interesting to see a local newspaper article on the subject the other day.

Spit globules continue to fly as clean up campaign falls well short

Riding down a beautiful tree-lined street in my favorite part of Beijing the other afternoon under lovely clear sunny skies, my journey was rudely interrupted by a flying globule of spit that splat-landed directly on my cycling companion's sandal-clad foot causing him to immediately dismount in disgust, run cursingly after the perpetrator and flee to a nearby friend's house to soak his entire body in disinfectant.

Gagging on the mere recollection of the event, I began to think about the actual amount of phlegm that is hocked out onto Beijing's streets every day.

Taking the average globule and trailing spittle as about 1 milliliter and my observation that almost everyone in the city spits at least once a day (and for those who do not there are plenty who engage in the practice several times an hour), that equates to 20 million milliliters, or 20,000 liters of spit a day (based on a population of 20 million - I actually think that it is a little higher).

So, taking the 20,000 liters a day, multiplying it by 365 days, that's 7.3 million liters, or 7,300 kiloliters of spit each year. Working on a very large bathtub that has a capacity of 170 liters, that's the same as 42,941 very large bathtubs full a year.

My question is, where does it all go? Sure, evaporation must play into it, but not that much sun filters through Beijing's skies and this summer in particular has been very wet. And if it evaporates, does it then rain back down on us?

I guess it collectively could filter into our waterways, slowly absorb into the concrete or stick to the bottom of shoes for transportation and dissemination. It could also just be absolutely everywhere we walk.

There was a huge campaign in Beijing a few years ago to limit the amalgamation of spit on the sidewalk. According to several news reports, it basically involved millions of dollars worth of video monitoring equipment, a large number of staff and random spitters.

A video-monitoring truck would film a busy area, capturing offenders on tape. If a spitting occurred, staff monitoring the monitors would notify a conveniently-stationed team of catchers to apprehend the offender and demand he/she clean up the spit and pay 20 yuan ($2.95). If the offender denied the charge, the video would be shown and the fine and cleaning of spit demanded.

A very costly exercise, a warning was also issued for people to simply stop spitting. They haven't. I have never seen anyone fined, let alone ever attempt to clean up his or her spit. I have seen many people squash their spit under their shoes and spread it, but I have my suspicions that this does not in fact reduce the size of the spitball, it just expands its surface area. And I don't know what benefit that could be at all.

Every Chinese person I meet is so proud of their country, I can't begin to understand why people continue to spit on the homeland they love. Maybe I am missing something, but I just don't get it. At all.

Source: Global Times; September 09 2010; by Jennifer Edenhttp://life.globaltimes.cn/expat/2010-09/571443.html


Apparently the campaign a couple of years ago did not work. Hopefully the rain falling today will help wash off the streets and sidewalks for a little while. I know, I’m sure it’s a cultural thing - but that doesn’t mean I have to like it!
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Levi on

Uhm, yeah...nasty. When I was in Beijing a couple of years ago, I too saw a few other habits that were "curious" to say the least.

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