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Phlegm Flying Across Sidewalk During San Francisco Commute

Commentary By Brandon Mercer
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The over-productive salivary glands of some Bay Area sidewalk commuters could be worthy of a UCSF study of otolaryngological phenomena.

On a typical power-walk from the CBS building to BART, the telltale throat-clearing immediately preceding a massive expectoration often causes me to make haphazard zigzags away from the source, as if I were a WWI flying ace dodging enemy shrapnel.

For some, it’s a cold that triggers the need to expel excess music. For others, it’s something they ate or drank. But for at least one man who frequents Front Street near California, it’s an art.

This week, the most astonishing of sidewalk spitters caught my attention, not for his wanton disregard for the cleanliness of fellow pedestrians, but for his accuracy.

As I heard him ramping up—a deep guttural sound, summoning the last vestiges of mucus from inside whatever pus-filled cavity he could muster—I hastened my pace, wrapping my jacket tightly to clear his trajectory.

And then he let fly.

A massive white amalgam of spittle and phlegm, launched from a seated position atop a planter near a building, hurtled clear across the sidewalk, to land succinctly with a heavy, authoritative thud in the gutter.

I was impressed.

I felt it was nothing short of an art form, or perhaps even athleticism.

First, I must confess, I’m not a spitter.

It might be my complete lack of affinity for baseball or sunflower seeds, but I never mastered the saliva lobbing skills. When I brush my teeth and spit the paste out, it resembles more of a foam-filled spit-take, than a neat, orderly glob of regurgitated goo.

While my saliva lacks the requisite viscosity for such feats of tongue tossing, I am left with utmost respect for what I witnessed in the Financial District. Here’s to you, Mr. Planter Box Sitter, Hyper Accurate Spitter.

But next time?

Wait till I get out of your way, before beginning your launch sequence. It still creeps me out.

I feel a need to add that the ranks of persons afflicted with prodigious phlegm run the gamut, from businessmen in $3,000 suits, to homeless men wearing the same businessman’s discarded suits, all hocking a luggie at the same rate, though not with the same accuracy.

But there is one thing I’ve never seen, at least not in public: a female phlegm flicker.

I’m sure women are equally skilled as men, if not more so. They just don’t see a need to show off that skill. Thankfully.

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