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How Far Does Your Spit Fly?

The other day a colleague and I were sitting outside at a non-Starbucks coffee shop. We hadn’t seen each other face to face for some time and with our remote work calendars syncing, we opted to meet for a cup of joe.

We found a small round table on the patio and we both moved our chairs back so we could take off our masks and be six feet apart. It almost felt like old times, February 2020. Those where the days. Then it happened. I took a sip of coffee and as I went to say, “Ahhhhh, yum,” a fleck of spit, the size of a gnat, launched at my buddy.

We both froze, watching the small spittle fly through the air, wondering where it might land. You would have thought I had spurt poisonous alien blood from my eyes!

The droplet landed on the table, right beside his smartphone. We looked at the offending liquid, looked up at each other, and then burst out laughing. Mind you, we’ve both been mask-wearers and stay-at-homers to a large extent. So it wasn’t like either of us had raging fevers or breathing issues. It was just two dudes having coffee.

But it made me think of all the other ways fluid comes out of our facial orifices (aka nose and mouth). It happens a lot. I bet more than you’d ever think.

Have you ever seen someone take one of those big, huge, I’m-so-tired yawns, the kind where the guy’s mouth opens so wide he looks like a snake about to swallow an entire rabbit? But instead of a rabbit going in, a long, narrow burst of spit shoots out, like venom? And he doesn’t notice. He’s eyes are half closed, looking off in another direction. But you saw it. The spear of spit. You don’t know how far it pounced or where it landed. But you know it happened. Gross.

What about when we talk? We’ve all experienced that. We’re gabbing away, not paying a bit of attention to the use of tees and pees, and like an unexpected missile, saliva the size of a crumb rockets from your lips to your audience’s cheek, eye glasses or, worse, the lips. Or when we eat. I know you’ve seen it happen. You open wide to take a big bite and your salivary gland erupts and a stream of sputum flares out like an escaping comet. Ewwwww.

Sneezes might be the worst. They gush out of your nose and your mouth and most have a lot of speed, up to 200 mph some say. I’ve read that it’s impossible to sneeze with your eyes open, lest they leap from your head and become gel-filled projectiles. Have you ever seen someone sneeze when the light is just so and you can view the entire sneeze splatter? It’s like looking directly at the sun. Painful.

And when stuff from the nose escapes, it’s that much worse. I once saw a colleague have one of those surprise sneezes. You know, the kind that just all of a sudden roar out, with barely enough time to get your hand to your face. Not only was it so loud I thought a gun had gone off, but the sneeze was so fast her hands were just milliseconds too late. Splat! Remnants could be seen on the desk, the floor, her blouse. Heck, I think we saw some of it on the building across the street.

I’m almost to the point where the coronavirus and flu don’t matter. I’ll wear a face covering as a matter of course just to keep the spittle and boogers off me. Now, where did I place that mask?

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