Winnipeg: The Spitting Capital of Canada?

The man in the blue jacket looked right, then looked left. Had he looked up, he might have spied the security camera that was monitoring his every move.

Within seconds, in full view of passers-by in the underground walkway at Portage and Main, he had partially lowered his trousers and was defecating into a potted plant. He then quickly returned to a fully dressed state, the entire incident almost unnoticed by the passing public.

Somehow the video from the surveillance camera, recorded directly across from the Portage and Main TD Bank branch in early 2007, quickly ended up on YouTube where it became an internet sensation.

With more than 100,000 views to date — the video is posted on several different web sites — it is perhaps one of the most-viewed online video ever to originate out of Winnipeg.

A potential visitor might write it off as a one-off, a freak incident that could happen in any city. But once they got here, that same visitor might wonder if there’s a problem around here with people leaving their excretions scattered all over the city.

Particularly if the hapless visitor happened to be in the vicinity of the westbound Graham at Donald bus stop this past Saturday, where a man turned his back to the small crowd waiting for their buses and proceeded to urinate on to the sidewalk. He was caught by surprise by an oncoming bus, the driver of which leaned on his horn as a euphemism for “put it back in your pants, man”.

But there is one bodily excretion that cannot be written off as an exceptional occurrence in this city of ours: spitting.

Spitting in public has become an activity that unites a growing number of Winnipeggers, the sound of the hork increasingly resembling a grotesque anthem or mating call of some sort.

The next time you hear the sound of the hork, forget that you live here for a moment and pretend you’re a first-time visitor from Toronto, or Montreal, or Grande Prairie, or wherever.

And ask yourself: “What kind of impression would I have of this city right now?”

Getting the spitting epidemic back under control is one of the tasks we need to get done if we want to increase the charm factor in Winnipeg and improve the city’s image for both ourselves and for visitors. If we can’t win back the crown as Economic Capital of the Prairies from Calgary, then at least we can try to be a more elegant city.

But there’s another important reason for reducing the amount of spit that ends up on our streets. Spitting helps spread illness.

Roger Webber, in his book Communicable Disease Epidemiology and Control, went as far as to suggest that “spitting should be outlawed and people encouraged not to cough directly at people” as a means of reducing the spread of influenza, which is spread primarily by airborne means.

Webber also noted that “not spitting and making an effort to be clean can be remarkably effective” in reducing the spread of illness, and that coughing and spitting contribute to the spread of tuberculosis.

In 2010, it was noted that tuberculosis infections in Manitoba reached their highest level since the ’70s, defying the dropping numbers of infections that have been the trend in both North America and Europe.

For the good of our health, and our city’s image, we cannot go on being the Spitting Capital of Canada.

If you have visited Winnipeg, or have lived both here and somewhere else, I would like to hear what impressions — if any — the amount of spitting has left on you, and how we compare to other cities in this regard. As a favour, please leave your comments here.


About theviewfromseven
A lone wolf and a bit of a contrarian who sometimes has something to share.

6 Responses to Winnipeg: The Spitting Capital of Canada?

  1. W. Krawec says:

    I recall from a stint working in China that the authorities there were really working hard to eliminate spitting. Shanghai seemed to be ground zero for those efforts. I can’t say that I was particularly bothered by the spitting there, but there was a certain civic self-consciousness about it.

    As for spitting here, I never really thought Winnipeg was much different from other Canadian cities. You see a little bit here and there, but it didn’t strike me as an epidemic (of course, the less spitting, the better). There are other eyesores that jump out at me more than spitting, such as litter or vandalism. “Spitting capital of Canada” is probably overstating the case.

    Perhaps there are just a lot of people with colds at the moment? I myself may be guilty of an occasional hork when the sinuses are congested to all hell.

  2. Christian says:

    I do have to agree that spitting is terrible. I work and live downtown and even ten year old girls will hork right in front of you with their parents not caring. Disgusting AND, you’re right, a public health hazard. Maybe we can get the cadets on the case ?!

  3. Downtown worker says:

    Hi there. I spit downtown occasionally. But, in fairness, it is only to eliminate the taste of second hand smoke that climbs into my airways from the smokers as I pass them walking on the sidewalk.

    It seems that 90% of the people outside in Winnipeg’s downtown. Most of them probably shouldn’t either, because most of these smokers are rather obese. Nothing taste shittier than used cig smoke, so when that taste gets in my mouth (not my choice by the way!), I spit that “gifted flavor” onto the ground beside me, or as close to the smoker’s feet as I can.

    It’s only fair to share with them what they share with me.

    Also, why do so many people downtown roam the downtown in sweatpants?

  4. cherenkov says:

    “it is perhaps the most-viewed online video ever to originate out of Winnipeg.”

    Have you forgotten about little Maria Aragon already??

  5. theviewfromseven says:

    Good point. As soon as I hear the words “Lady Gaga”, “Charlie Sheen” or “Justin Bieber”, whatever follows goes into an imaginary “Trash” bin.

  6. TRex says:

    To be honest the only spitting I see are from school kids who seem to wait until they have your attention before launching an amateur spray of spittle, half of which gets blown back in their face by the wind!

    One activity that folks should be happy hasn’t caught on here is the “sinus lugi” where one nostril is plugged by placing a finger or the back of the hand alongside the nose to facilitate the violent clearing of the opposite nostril. Very common in Moscow where I last lived. Usually followed by a quick hand wipe along the pant leg before extending said damp appendage for the required welcoming handshake. Even the ladies would do this, very jarring to the senses.

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