On Dipping and Spitting
Q: I work for a technology company in a nice office in Austin—despite what you have heard, we are required to wear shoes. Anyway, I have a co-worker who dips Copenhagen and spits into a Styrofoam cup. Is this acceptable in an office environment?
A: Though the Texanist cannot condone the use of any product that, according to its own label, “may cause gum disease and tooth loss,” he understands well the satisfaction gained from a pinch of moist smokeless tobacco. In youth, he once repaired to the vacant lot behind the Bonanza Steakhouse in Temple with a trusted friend, cut open a fistful of tea bags, and placed this reasonable-seeming tobacco facsimile in a couple of old empty snuff cans. The next day’s invitation-only dip at Cater Elementary School resulted in a somewhat jangly buzz—caffeine- rather than nicotine-fueled as it was—and, ultimately, a trip to the principal’s office, but the hook had set. Who could have known that a lipful of Lipton would be the gateway to grapevine smoking, Red Man Plug, boxes of San Antonio—made Travis Club Senators, cigarettes by the carton, and an unquenchable thirst for double macchiatos?
Q: I work internationally on a drill ship on a 28/28 rotation. Every 28 days I fly either to Texas from wherever on the globe my ship happens to be or to my ship from Texas. Now, I read your response to the question posed regarding dipping in the office, but what do you say to planes? I find it impossible to make a fourteen-plus-hour flight without launching a fatjack of my favorite flavor of Skoal. Am I wrong in doing this? I do on occasion receive unfriendly scowls from some fellow travelers, especially when I’m in business class.
A: The Texanist, in his air travels, has found that there are those passengers who will be suddenly stricken with the vapors when faced with anything that comes from the mouth of a voyaging neighbor, whether it be cigar smoke, convivial chitchat mistaken for bad pickup lines, feverish swine flu-laced coughs and sneezes, actual bad pickup lines, or tobacco spit. The close quarters of even the most modern of airliners can make comfortable companionship difficult to achieve. But the key to not being looked upon as a fuselage featherbrain by your row mates is, as ever, simple decorum. Back in September 2007, when the question you allude to came up, the Texanist counseled a reader named Mike that the modern office was not the horseshoe court, and he will re-extend the same bit of wisdom to you, David, of Pattison. Class is more than just a grade of travel, and whether you travel in the first, business, or economy category, it’s still important that you try to carry yourself with a certain level of refinement, as much, in any case, as can be achieved with a face full of slobbering brown spittle.
Q: My husband has chewed tobacco since we started dating back in high school fourteen years ago, and for the first thirteen years the spit, breath, and mess didn’t bother me much. I don’t know why, but now I can’t stand it. He says that he’ll try to quit, but he hasn’t, and now I think it’s starting to affect our marriage. Is it reasonable for me to insist that he stop just because I suddenly can’t stand it any longer?
A: How the bloom comes off the rose. When you took this man as your husband, you likely agreed, via the “for better or worse” vow, to accept him as is, sort of like a used car. And as with a used car, any sort of blemish that was present at the time of purchase cannot be used as grounds for future complaint. If this were not the case, there would likely not be a Mrs. Texanist today, what with all the morning scratching rituals; all the deafening snores; all the indoor whittling sessions; all the screechy serenades of il Texanisto, a.k.a. the Baritone of the Bathroom; and all those breakfasts punctuated with that awful whistling sound the Texanist makes when taking his coffee. But thanks to the fact that all these incredibly irritating behaviors were preexisting and therefore persist as inalienable rights protected under the wedding contract, the Texanists’ marriage survives. Now, that said, some spousal modifications can occur organically, especially when the offending behavior is technically a health risk. Your husband’s penchant for chaw is bad for him, unlike whittling and making that whistling sound, which, honestly, what’s the harm, right? It just feels good. Can’t a man relax in his own home once in a while? But the deal is this: If you want to demand that your spouse give up a perceived flaw that he brought into the marriage, you have to be willing to give up one yourself. What’s that? You don’t have any flaws to trade? Why don’t you just see if he has any suggestions.
Q: Last week, I was driving from Houston to Austin and stopped at a convenience store to get a spit cup, and they charged me fifteen cents for it. Fifteen cents! For an empty paper cup! Isn’t there something in the state constitution barring such a charge? And if there isn’t, shouldn’t there be? This is still Texas, isn’t it?
A: The Texanist understands the enjoyment one gets from stuffing a big pinch of tobacco into one’s mouth while tooling along between point A and point B. He knows just as well the extreme panic of having a voluminous mouthful of tobacco juice with no good receptacle in which to expel it. The greedy, low-down scoundrel who would charge for a disposable makeshift paper spittoon is the same sort who charges for the likes of chips and salsa; sliced pickles, onions, or white bread; and tea or coffee refills. These items ought to be gratis. Maybe it is time to lobby the Legislature for a constitutional amendment making this clear once and for all. The Texanist, by the power vested in him, hereby appoints you to get this ball rolling.
Q: Professional golf embodies all the conduct we pray our children will learn: honesty, good sportsmanship, civil behavior, and, finally, the selection of great clothes. However, even though most players aren’t smoking and throwing butts on the fairways anymore, I have noticed that some have not abandoned the truly disgusting habit of indiscriminate spitting. Who wants to follow the slime trail of a giant slug down the fairway? What kind of lesson is that? Soon the LPGA players will think it’s cool to spit, even though women have never done this and never should. Can you explain this exclusively male habit to me?
A: Like Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Lee Trevino, and Babe Didrikson Zaharias (but without the skirt) before him, the Texanist enjoys mightily an afternoon spent traipsing around enhanced natural settings in pursuit of the royal, ancient, and bedeviling game of golf. And like the antagonists of your query, he has let his saliva spill a time or two while out walking the links. The occasions vary wildly. When the game has momentarily gotten the best of him, he will often spit in lieu of, or in conjunction with, a club-throwing, expletive-spewing tirade. Or perhaps the need to casually expel a little spittle strikes him quickly and without reason. Expectoration, while not a pretty word or all that pleasant to witness, is a fact of life, and it isn’t, as you assert, solely the domain of brutish men. Don’t female oenophiles spit at wine tastings? Don’t dental patients of both sexes drool with equality into that slurping vacuum that never seems to come often enough? Watermelon-seed-spitting contests don’t exclude women, do they? The Texanist has even known girls to enjoy smokeless tobacco, and they didn’t require a spittoon of shiny brass. As long as a big snorting production is avoided and the exercise is undertaken with discretion, the Texanist believes that both gentlemen and ladies should spit freely upon the fairways.