I Spit In Your General Direction

I think someone from Monty Python said that.  So I make an effort to say hi to most people when I’m walking around.  Now don’t get me wrong.  I don’t say hi willy nilly, I make sure I get some kind of eye contact first so I don’t throw out a hello when I don’t think it is welcome.  But I’d say one out of ten times I make a huge mistake.  I don’t realize that the eye contact I receive is actually a “don’t look at me and get the hell out of my sight” eye contact.  What generally happens is I get a little eye contact from some tougher looking folks and I say hello.  My hello is received by an icy cold stare.  I’m telling you it is a stare that could frighten Mike Tyson.  But the stare is not enough.  It is almost always followed by a disgusted look and an exaggerated spit on the ground as I pass.  Well, ok, a simple nod would do but I hear you.  I won’t make the same mistake again.  But I always do.  One of these days I’ll get the courage/stupidity to spit back on the street. Well, no I won’t but sometimes I’d like to.

49 Comment

  • This same thing has happened to me a few times, but the one time where I ended up confronting “the spitting man” was when he spit on my dog while I was taking him for a walk. Angry words were exchanged, but that was about it. I continue to say “hello” to my neighbors. It’s the only way to go.

  • Actually it’s, “I fart in your general direction”.

  • spit back if they fling a dead cow at you

  • I would say that is what happens with surly people who don’t want you in their business. I don’t see how nagging has anything to do with it. If GuinnessPhish is trying to be cute and imply something else, I don’t think misdirection makes it any less noxious.

  • Well said, Jason.

  • Maybe its because I’m a chick, but I say hello to literally everyone (known drug dealers not excluded) and while sometimes people look a little surprised, everyone always says hello back.

    Well once some teenager called me “snowflake,” which I suppose may be offensive, but at the time it struck me as hilarious and we both ended up laughing about it.

  • I am starting to hate this block. What kind of people let their dogs bark all night, blare loud music until midnight on a Thursday, overlook people dealing drugs in their parking spaces, have friends honk their horns repeatedly before 7:00 am, and never wash gingko fruit off their sidewalks?
    There are a few people who have to get up early for work, and they need to sleep with air conditioners running to drown out the sounds of the street.
    I am starting to wish I had never moved to this block. I guess I thought I was ready for a new part of town and somewhere less boring than the rest of NW DC. But now I think this is a slum with no self-respect, no pride, and no common courtesy.

  • POP – get a three legged dog, it melts even the meanest hearts.

  • These are interesting comments. I think they honesly ( well-mostly) address some very real tensions present in our neighborhoods (okay-not if you live in Bethesda)-hell, our society..
    I am troubled by the naggers thing, though… It smacks of the term Nigras-which Southerners often used (maybe Mark Fuhrman should have used this term instead. it is more formal… hahahah) to make their insults more-shall we say-upscale..

    When people discuss the “clash of civilizations” these days, they are usually talking about something other than that which bogfrog described. But I think the term is applicable.
    Honestly, I see a lot of these situations ( and I’d include stuff like the strange parking rules DC Cops allow churches to practice) as inevitable…A kind of (metaphorically speaking) when “Meghan meets Moesha”.
    There are real class issues described here. And ,of course, plain old fashioned
    courtesy issues.
    It reminds me of POP’s question concerning the flashy cars parked in front of the homes in need of repair… I dont get it… I never did….

  • I laughed when I saw bogfrog’s comment about sleeping with the AC on to drown out the noise from the streets….I’m not the only one! It’s been one month since I moved to PW and I wonder what I will do in the dead of winter. Makes me welcome a good rainstorm for reasons beyond squelching the drought.

  • Wow!!! I knew someone will go there (reuben). There was barely a mention of race and someone already jumped up (reuben) and made all kind of innuendos!!! The PoP’s post discussed issues with people who are very rude. Can we just look at this as some folks are just downright IGNORANT no matter who (race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, etc) they are. I always speak to folks walking around my neighborhood and sometimes I get a Hello back. I just simply keep walking. Thanks.


    You sound very angry. What block are you located on? My block is very quite and there are 2 homes for sale!

  • Prince Of Petworth

    In fairness there was a (possibly) racially charged comment that I deleted. Debate is good, civil debate is better.

  • Thanks PoP! I appreciate you moderating the blog. Keep up the good work.

  • If the deleted comment was not intended to be racially charged, then I do not know what it was supposed to mean. But putting that aside, I see nothing to object to in “going there” in a discussion of the situation. It seems obviously relevant and I appreciate Reuben’s comments. I object to how GuinessPhish (the author of the deleted comment) went there because his post (appeared to be) divisive, insulting, and ignorant. Of course GuinessPhish may wish to submit another comment and clear up any confusion that remains.

  • Amel,
    Where are the houses for sale and are they near a metro?

    Yeah, I sure was angry last night because it was so loud at 11 pm. And, I was angry because I knew I shouldn’t confront the drug people in the parked car or the people with the loud music in the alley (not sure where it was coming from). The only logical way to take out my anger at that point would have been to scrub gingko fruits off the sidewalk.

  • Our street is super quiet… you picked a bad street Boggy. In fact, I’m sure I’m probably the loudest person around but our elderly neighbors are either too deaf or polite to say anything. As far as the spitting goes… I just haven’t ever had a situation like that happen, not even close. If some moron spit on the ground near me I would just have to laugh at it.

  • I have a friend that’s lived in South East – over by the Potomac Yard Metro – for over a decade. I was really shocked when he first told me about the cold stares and directional spitting he endured for years just walking to and from the store or the metro.

    I live in the Shaw neighborhood and say hello to most everyone. Most everyone says hello back. I am a girl too, so maybe that helps. Oh, and we have rampant litter, and groups rowdy folks gathering on the sidewalks and playing music loudly until the wee hours. It is annoying and discourteous, but we live with it. I’m not sure what I would do if someone spit at me though…

  • “Well once some teenager called me “snowflake,” which I suppose may be offensive, but at the time it struck me as hilarious and we both ended up laughing about it.”

    How is it anymore acceptable or hillarious for you to be called a snowflake than it would be for someone to be called the N Word [edit made by PoP, please try not to use racial slurs in your comments even if you are making a point] – or any other racial slurr – while out walking in your neighborhood? Its not.

  • I guess no one watches South Park?

    Anyway, yes…it was meant to be a reference to the obvious, but as a note:

    We all know there is a difference between thugs (who often call each other N as an insult AND a greeting) and the majority of decent, hardworking, black people (or whatever is politically correct to say now….I hate the term african american, because it’s ridiculous, but I digress) who live in this city. Regardless, moving to this area you HAVE to know that thugs do make up a good portion of the people who live here. That being said, it seems it’s totally acceptable for these thugs to make comments like “snowflake”, or “cracker”, or “white bitch” (as I’ve heard directed at a woman on the metro), but god forbid you throw the word they seem to favor out, YOU’RE the racist…

    Another point….Prince didn’t even mention the race of the person who did the spitting, but again, we ALL know it was a black person, and it was more than likely, a guy. Point being, it goes without saying, that this area is actually full of racists. Except, it’s REVERSE racists. Let’s be honest, what white racist would move to this area of DC? Wouldn’t make much sense.

    I know these opinions are unpopular, and I’ll be called racist and ignorant, but I really don’t care. It is the way I see it. I am friends with black people, I work with and for black people, and I live next to them as well, and I have no problem with them. It’s the thuggish ignorant ones that I do have a problem with, and only because they have a problem with me, for no reason.

    To spit on the ground like that behind, or in front of someone who says hello to you is an obvious “go the hell, cracker”…..and it’s a reality that will continue for a long time….

    which is why I’m moving.

  • that would be “go TO hell”

  • I was very interested to read the first few posts and relieved, in a way, to realize that I hadn’t been paranoid and/or imagining things. I have experienced this many times in the neighborhood and elsewhere as I (white male) pass by someone (often with no eye contact or hello involved) and that person (black male of any age) spits on the ground after a step or two. Too many times to be a coincidence, I thought, or was it? I always wondered if that was a sort of “silent protest” at my presence. Anyway, it’s an interesting phenomenon. I am saddened to think that strangers dislike “me” enough to spit but am glad to know I wasn’t delusional.

  • I have lived in Petworth for several years and did so because I believe in integration. That does not just mean blacks moving into white neighborhoods; it also means non-blacks specifically choosing to live where we didn’t dare to live before. It was a political, moral and possibly religious decision I made. At times I question my decision, but I haven’t moved out. Nor will I. But this spitting? I have never seen it nor had it happen to me. And I speak to everyone who crosses my path, even though I believe it is a southern custom and I am not a southerner. But it’s a nice custom. I don’t know if white people in Bethesda, when they pass each other on the streets as strangers, greet each other, as we do here. As for sleeping with the air conditioner on? My son has done it for years, and I thought it was to keep cool.

  • As I noted before, this is interesting, much needed dialog. Anger and all… I would, however, ask (Alec?)Guinness to look up the definition for racist… Are there black people who dont like white people? Yes..Do they necessarily subscribe to, say, the frequently cited notion that white people are intellectually inferior (because this would be a sho nuff case of “reverse racism”-) Hmmm.
    I think race is, as George Will once wrote ( and I cannot believe I am quoting George Will!) “America’s perennial problem.” I also think some real . honest stuff has to happen before this truly moves forward. And I dont necessarily mean having a beer with the black guy one may have gone to Princeton with..

  • ps. why do you think the term “african american” is ridiculous, guinness? this link to one’s ancestral homeland might not mean much to you, or to younger, post-civil rights black folks-but .. did you think we came to america already named smith or jones? do you know how “we” got those names?
    and dont say “get over it”-please…

  • Where I come from, saying hello to pretty much anyone on the street is considered intruding in their personal space/life. So shut the **** up PoP! 😉

  • the reason it is ridiculous is this:

    the only real “african americans” are the current immigrants from african countries. If you were born in america, you are AMERICAN.

    Otherwise, let’s all hyphenate our nationalities. This way I’m not “american”. I’m “english-german-irish-american”. YAY!

  • To be perfectly honest, the idea of saying “hello” to everyone you see in the neighborhood is impractical….

    imagine if every single person you passed you said “hello” to. I don’t think PoP actually literally does this….if someone isn’t looking in your direction or is on their cell phone as their walking I hope you’re not saying “hello”.

    Regardless, the occasional “hello” to someone you pass who happens to make eye contact, or smile…fine. But to be honest, I’d be perfectly happy not saying hello to strangers as well. Imagine if everyone did this saying hello to everyone else….it would be quite annoying. But again, a random “hello” here and there, fine.

  • Love this post! I never know when to say hi, so I usually stare until I can figure it out. If the person is already smiling, it’s kind of a no-brainer. But sometimes I’m not sure. I still give them my best Mary Poppins smile, but they don’t really appreciate it. Or they think I am staring and want to smack me. Oh well. Their loss. Smiles and hellos make the world a better place.

  • Ruben: Splitting hairs about the dictionary definition of “racism” doesn’t change reality. The spitting young men in question may or may not think passing whites are “intellectually inferior” but they certainly think so little of perfect strangers that they’d spit at them because they are in the “wrong” neighborhood (sound familiar?). It’s a lack of respect for people as a group that defines what I understand to be “racism”. The biggest race problem in this country isn’t the Jena crackers, it’s the millions who silently harbor misperceptions and who are never challenged to debunk those bogus ideas. Saying AA’s “can’t be racists” simply because those AA’s acting out race hate lack the power to act on the same scale as whites is, with all due respect, dishonest. It’s a back-handed way of minimizing, or worse, endorsing that hate. You want honest discussion? Then let’s be honest about racism in all it’s forms are drop the Clinton-esqe language parsing.

  • Can I get an “AMEN!!!!” to oden’s post?!?!?

  • hi oden. to your credit, you did define racism. which is more than mr. guinness did. i dont wish what happened to pop ( or the nasty ass looks i get when i am in, say, bethesda) on anyone. but you must also realize that the power you alluded to in the last post is what does anger some people on “my side”.. right or wrong…
    as for brother guinness… an african american would be an american of african descent.
    your anger towards black people is more chilling than you know…
    my anger is stoked when i encounter people who wish to erase any real, nuanced view of who we are -how we got here, etc. for example, i dont place much emotional weight to my last name, or my families’ last names, because they werent names they chose….. i think you and i should meet for a coffee or something.

  • way to miss the point.

    “an african american would be an american of african descent.”

    yes, but most everyone in this country has ancestors from somewhere else, but no one other than african americans use it as part of their primary identity.

    I’m white…”caucasian”. My ancestors were from England, Germany, Ireland….but you don’t hear me identifying myself as an “english – german – irish american”….and you don’t hear me identifying myself or other white people as “caucasian”. They’re white people, just as black people are black people. The “african americans” in this country have about as much to do with Africa as I do. Most have never been there, and never will. Just because your ancestors came from there doesn’t mean you really have any real connection to it. You are an AMERICAN if you were born in america. Can’t “african americans” see that by calling themselves that they are only furthering the divide and putting up walls to separate themselves from other americans?

    You mention that last names were changed when blacks came to america. NEWSFLASH!!!: Black people weren’t the only ones who had their names changed when they came to this country. When immigrants came through Ellis Island, they too had their longer, harder to pronouce original surnames changed to shorter, american-ized surnames which bore no resemblance to their original names. What this has to do with calling yourself “african american”, when in fact you are actually just “american”, I have no idea.

    Regarding the nasty looks you think you receive when you’re in Bethesda, I would argue that a lot of what you perceive to be racism is more than likely in your head. The “nasty looks” you receive in Bethesda are a far cry from people spitting at you or saying “get out of my neighborhood, whitey”. In my opinion, black people in this country, and especially in this city like to perceive as much racism as possible. Instead of looking at their ACTIONS as a possible cause to other peoples (white and other races included….including other blacks) REACTIONS, the race card is the easiest, most convenient, time tested, sure fire thing to fall back on.

    If you’re on the metro, hooting and hollering with you “boyz” and generally being an obnoxious, crude, boor, then yes, some people might get up and move to the opposite side of the train. Not because you’re black, but because you’re an obnoxious boor. Why is this so difficult to get? I’ve got plenty of reasons to dislike people…..skin color has nothing to do with any of it. That is the most arbitrary, irrelevant part of it. It’s all about actions….respect….and the lack of many “african americans” to understand simple HUMAN CONCEPTS of respect and time and place appropriate behavior.

  • Anon–As I said in my first post, it probably was offensive, and I probably should have taken offense to it.

    But at the time, it just struck me as hilarious, and I couldn’t have kept a straight face if I wanted to. I guess I was just in a really good mood. I started laughing, then he started laughing, and we actually had a quite interesting conversation about why I would be called a snowflake (I’m half Peruvian and quite tan, so I’m not exactly white as the driven snow).

  • I think “snowflake”, “honky”, and “whitey” are evidence that African Americans have a long way to go to gain full epithet equality with crackers. I have a dream, a dream that someday African Americans will come up with a moniker that doesn’t provoke laughter from peckerwoods.

  • guinness, i will close this by saynig that i think your arrogance and unabashed malevolence is making me homesck for my native georgia… you all but say the N word [Ed Note: edited by PoP, please don’t use racist slurs even when illustrating a point]….i hope you and your hatred are happy…

  • I have no problem with all with black people.

    Chris rock says it best:

    [a href=”http://youtube.com/watch?v=jxGuBeyQM2M”]Chris rock discusses…[/a]

  • PoP did not note the race/sex/age of the spitters, and did not present those factors as the issue for him. The issue, or complaint, was about having his civil greeting returned with a hostile gesture. True, he did include a couple of phrases (“tougher looking folks” and “a stare that could frighten Mike Tyson”) to indicate that the spitters were probably not elementary school children or elderly ladies sitting on their porches. If they had been, the gesture would lack the threat of bodily harm, but could still communicate hostile feeling. It might be easier to laugh off, but still be a clear a message that you are disliked and unwelcome. Putting the shoe on the other foot, if you are a member of an oppressed minority in a community, it might be hard to see the humor in being spat at by children of the powerful majority. Quoting South Park, which is essentially letting cartoon children do the spitting for you, is not really a higher form of spitting.

  • PoP, I also don’t believe that you say “hello” to everyone on the street. It really doesn’t make much practical sense and its got to be obvious that some people just aren’t as welcoming to this kind of greeting by strangers. I really hoped that when I moved to Mt Pleasant that people in the neighborhood would acknowledge me and say hello, smile or whatever, but the reality is that not everyone does. I’m OK with that. Many of us are in our own little pods, whether listening to an actual iPod or just walking and thinking. Some people want to be anonymous, or alone, or just not bothered or noticed. I’m not sure this phenomenon is confined to Petworth.

    As for the spitting, I’ve never seen it happen, but apparently there are a few people that get spat at on the streets. That’s rude, but I have to admit that I find it hard to believe that random acts of spit are a widespread problem in Petworth or any DC neighborhood.

  • what is wrong with you people (bogfrog,ect..) ? Why the hell did you move to a city, or should I say the hood..if you cant deal with living in it? Is it because you cant afford Bethesda, Georgetown, or other “nice” parts of NW? So you think you can come into a neighborhood and drive out the people who live there so you can sip decaf star bucks at 10pm with out being disturbed by “urban music”.
    You don’t like the kinko fruit, so get on your knees and scrub that shit. I didn’t like walking my dog over glass in the ally so i swept it. You think a horn isn’t honked before 7am in NYC? Yes it’s very rude that some people are not considerate, but why dont you go knock on there door and talk to them about it? what are you, scared you’ll get slapped? you probably deserve it. if you think petworth is a “slum” than do me favor and move the *%$^ out. god damn takers,you just take and take and take. why don’t you try giving to the hood and earn some respect.

  • Prince Of Petworth

    Anon. Please no personal attacks. You can make your points without insulting individual commenters. Thanks.

  • GuinnessPhish: you have no problem with all black people?? I hope your ass gets kicked.

    you ignorant.

  • sorry Pop. nice blog you got here. im out!

  • I haven’t read all the comments here but I’ll share my experience on the friendliness/race issue….I’m a white girl living in a largely black DC neighborhood and the people I encounter on the street always greet me with a friendly hello, smile, and wave, if not a conversation. It could be that I live in an area with a lot of elderly people and families, who tend to be friendlier than young single people.

  • Im thinking maybe yall don’t know anything about black people accept for what you see on t.v. and what the media portrays. Before Bill O’Reilly said anything did you know they eat with napkins and say please and thank you?

    Black people are just like any other people. Some are nice, some are not. Some are educated, some are not, some are classy,some are not. they same can be found of all races all over the world.

    Would you think it was strange if a bunch of white teens hanging on the corner didn’t say hi to you when you passed? Teens/young people are punks, I grew up in DC and didnt start saying hi to people like last year.. im 25. I had no sense if community, i just wanted to go get messed up and chase girls.

    Is this the first time a lot of you have ever lived in a ethnic neighborhood?

  • Prince Of Petworth

    Wow, this thread has gotten completely out of control. All I was saying was that once in a blue moon (1 out of 10) I encounter a strange phenomenon where people spit on the ground after I pass and say hello. Of course I don’t say hello to everyone. Personally, I can’t stand people talking to me before my morning cup of coffee. But a nod or a hello is not too bad. But anyway, I said in the original post I never say hi to people who give me no eye contact or are busy or etc. This discussion has become about race when that has nothing whatsoever to do with this post. Let’s simply end the discussion here and I’ll try to be more careful in wording future incindiary posts. Thank you all for your comments and let’s move on to Yanni.

  • Personally I’m just looking for someone wearing a Red Sox cap to push into traffic. Race isn’t really a consideration.

  • It saddens me to add to this thread, but I should note that something upsetting happened to me today. Me and my wife just bought a house in Petworth on a quiet street near the cemetery. We’re closing early Nov, and went by our house today to plan some renovations.

    We decided to meet my friend 3 blocks away, and while walking there, there were three kids — maybe 10-12 years old playing baseball with a football. As soon as I walk by, the kid with the bat stops playing and starts walking alongside me. After 10 seconds he says “have you ever been hit by a baseball bat” — I said “no” — then he says “do you want to”? — then my wife turns around and starts yelling at him, so he runs off.

    Now — I am Asian — so I must stand out a bit (heck, I’ll be the smallest minority in the bunch — sorry to break up the black/white dynamic here) — for what that’s worth.

    Anyways — it was a very unwelcome “welcome” to the neighborhood.

  • “Anon–As I said in my first post, it probably was offensive, and I probably should have taken offense to it.

    But at the time, it just struck me as hilarious, and I couldn’t have kept a straight face if I wanted to. I guess I was just in a really good mood. I started laughing, then he started laughing, and we actually had a quite interesting conversation about why I would be called a snowflake (I’m half Peruvian and quite tan, so I’m not exactly white as the driven snow).”

    I’m a light-skinned Black female and I had thugs yelling that “Snowflake” mess at me one time. If they weren’t sitting in the back of a pickup truck looking like trouble then I would’ve said something back. “Snowflake” is far from a term of endearment—it’s a tacky and ignorant comment.

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