Despite the many street cleaners in Kuwait, our roads and pavements are still littered with debris. Food wrappers, cigarette packets and plastic bottles are often thrown from car windows or just dumped on the beach by thoughtless individuals. The impact of this waste on the environment cannot be understated and it’s a topic I have written about before. However, there’s something else on our streets that causes great concern – saliva.
Few things are more disgusting than someone else’s spit. All too often I’m forced to dodge a suspicious looking glob when out walking in Kuwait. I’ve also been unfortunate enough to witness the transfer of spittle from mouth to footpath – and it’s not pleasant. Aside from the obvious potential to spread germs, where are their manners? Basic pleasantries such as ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ are taught from an early age along with ‘thou shalt not speak with your mouth full’ and ‘thou shalt not pick your nose’. I’m pretty certain ‘thou shalt not spit in public’ is another essential on the list of etiquette ‘dos and don’ts’. So why do so many people think it’s acceptable?
Kuwait is obviously a multi-cultural country and home to countless expats from all over the world. I’m aware of the fact that what may be considered normal to one race, may not necessarily be acceptable to another. In such circumstances, surely it’s best to adopt the ‘when in Rome’ policy. Kuwait is a sophisticated, high income state and, as such, commands high standards and ethics. Those living in the country should therefore respect its standing and behave in a manner reflective of its moral principles.
So why do people spit? When asking this question, we are quick to blame professional footballers. This is a long debated subject with no satisfactory conclusion. The reason (or excuse) designed to justify the constant spitting on a football field is the build-up of spittle generated by long periods of high-intensity activity. This is a natural occurrence which cannot be prevented and can only be dealt with by the age-old dilemma of ‘spit or swallow?’ But football is not the only sport to induce this physical quandary. Rugby players are subject to the same levels of activity and endurance but they are rarely seen spitting; certainly not to the same extent as footballers. Similarly, tennis, squash and hockey evoke the same consequence but not the same solution. Perhaps it’s merely the TV coverage which leads us to believe that footballers spit more than other sportsmen and women. The level of investment in football coupled with its worldwide following means that the players are constantly on our screens. Maybe we’re jumping to the conclusion that footballers spit more; perhaps it’s just perception rather than fact. I think not.
Whatever your thoughts on the spitting habits of professional footballers, it’s obvious that children are going to copy them. Kids idolize their favourite players. They look up to them; want to play like them; want to be them. But the very first thing they do is imitate them – not good from a spitting point of view – and once they get in the habit of spitting, they’ll probably never stop.
The sight and sound of someone clearing their throat in public is undeniably disturbing, particularly if you happen to be eating at the time – something that’s happened to me on more than one occasion. There really is no excuse for it. Whether you hear it, see it or step in it, it’s unpleasant and it’s unnecessary. We all know the rules for sneezing: Catch it. Bin it. Kill it. The same applies to spitting. And if you can’t catch it, swallow it.