Spitting is one of my all-time deal breakers. I’m not talking about your average post-teeth clean spitting, but the altogether heartier, formtrembling, chest-wrenching, facecontorting summoning of lung batter from the very depths of one’s being. It’s the sort of noise that would make you call a doctor or an exorcist.
Unfortunately for me, it is a popular pastime here in Dubai. I remember as a naive newcomer to the city more than one taxi driver opening his door at the traffic lights to deposit a ‘greener’ on the road. I also remember pointedly asking one if he had a tissue, a question met with a flurry of nods, a wide smile and generous proffering of Kleenex. My point had regrettably been missed.
In part, my distaste probably comes from the fact that I have never – not even when suffering from the most almighty cold (an excuse often levelled at me when I grimace at offenders) – felt the need to purge my breathing apparatus in such a way. This might be one of my own shortcomings. But I like to think that it makes me more, not less, polite.
I’ve got Dubai Municipality on my side. Not many people will realise that it has been a punishable offence to spit in public places for some time now. Imagine my glee when the local crackdown recently made the papers. With next to no prompting from my good self, the powers that be have begun to target offenders – a Dhs500 fine if you’re caught – in the Naif district of Dubai (though here’s hoping that it won’t be limited to just that area).
To an extent it is a cultural variance. Most Asian countries are not phased by the habit. It is only emphasised by the penchant for chewing various leaves in many of these countries, a practice that has drifted over here. Though you may not have seen the paan chewing in action, you are likely to have noticed the red-stained teeth of its fans and the muddy spatter marks of the detritus on pavements and walls around the city.
Nevertheless, I still think we should leave spitting to the camels – unless, of course, there’s a way of training them out of the habit, too?