Tuesday, January 31, 2006


This exercise thing has taught me a lot of things aside from pain tolerance of various muscles I didn’t know I had. Like plumbing, for example. Both of the main weight rooms have two water fountains (one is lower for handicapped access) and a third device whose function was a total mystery to me. It looked like a small stainless-steel urinal, except there was no blue cake in it and the location was far too public. It did have a little spout on the back wall that emitted a sprinkle into the basin when you pressed it, but it was so close to the wall that you couldn’t fit even a water bottle underneath.

Then last week the fog lifted, because someone has thoughtfully put a Dyno label at the top with one word: CUSPIDOR. Of course -- it’s for guys to hock a big looey into and then wash it away with the sprinkler thing. So now the only remaining question is: why the hell do guys feel the need to spit? I don’t know any women who spit except when brushing their teeth, but a lot of guys seem to feel it’s OK and even necessary. I can only assume that heavy exertion in the male releases a torrent of mucus into the throat by some biochemical pathway having to do with testosterone. In fact, perhaps it’s excess testosterone and not spit they’re eliminating. That could explain the frequent grunting, male bonding and almost total loss of the ability to speak coherently while working out -- they’re somehow reverting to the most primitive form of male mammal.

As my friend and I were trying to figure out what the stainless-steel cuspidor was for, she reminded me of that other marvel of plumbing: bidets. Now of course I know they’re for washing girly parts and were widely used before showers came into vogue, but when I first saw one in Germany as a child, I was totally mystified. I finally decided that Germans didn’t like to use the crinkly, scratchy toilet paper that was provided and preferred a little splash after every call of nature... I was actually way ahead of the game because I was foreseeing the electronic toilets now common in Japan. I wouldn’t pay hundreds of dollars for one myself, but I admit I would love to have the experience, just once. As is usually the case with electronics, it’s all about the nifty features -- blow-drying, seat heating, and even measuring blood sugar in the urine. It’s only a matter of time before these are available in America in a wide range of Martha Stewart colors to match your towels and bathmat.

I really think going back to old-style plumbing would improve our social graces. After all, what is this nice metal cuspidor but a License to Spit? Bring back shiny brass bowls on the floor and see how many people spit then. Pretty gross, right? If we allow these modern appliances to spread, the next thing you know, guys will think it’s perfectly okay to bring back the custom of spitting tobacco juice. I worked with a guy who did this into an empty Coke can at work, and trust me, IT WILL NEVER BE OKAY. If we got rid of toilets and brought back outhouses, we’d say good-bye to unsightly toilet rings and probably develop massive bladder capacities, but I suppose the public-health menace, freezing butts and general malodorousness would seem to make this not worth the benefit.

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