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Fit For Spit

A Nashville invention lets tobacco chewers keep spit in their pockets

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I would make a very bad inventor. For one thing, I look absolutely nothing like Christopher Lloyd in Back to the Future. It's a known fact that crazy white hair is a prerequisite for inventors, much like dye jobs and short skirts are for pop stars. If scientific discoveries had been left to people like me, the wheel would still be lumpy and indoor plumbing would only exist in our dreams. Luckily, others have risen to the occasion, such as Percy Spencer, who invented the microwave oven in 1945, when his hair was more gray than white. Spencer was testing a new vacuum tube called a magnetron when he discovered that the candy bar in his pocket had melted. He immediately conducted more food-related experiments, then created the microwave oven. If I were Spencer, I would have ignored the microwave and eaten the melted chocolate, though I'd be careful to pick off all the pocket lint.

I mention inventions because we have a new one right here in Nashville. Yes, that's right, Specialty Products of Tennessee Inc. (or SPOT, if you like acronyms) has invented something so wonderful, so sleek and classy that you'll wonder how you ever got along without it. A pocket spittoon. But they've called it—and here's where the creators get really imaginative, proving that this invention thing isn't for everyone—the Diptoon.

Before I continue, I should explain to those of you inexperienced in the art of spitting saliva into receptacles why anyone would need a spittoon. Basically, it's a big metal jar into which people spit the juicy remains of their chewing tobacco, which they consume because of an unfortunate medical condition called "the desire to disgust innocent bystanders with yellow teeth and foul-smelling spit." Most of these people are either baseball players or cowboys in John Wayne movies (sometimes both).

Tobacco chewers are an oppressed subgroup in today's society. Too long have they had to live with the nasty looks cast their way when they dribble a brownish colored liquid into a Kleenex and then leave it lying around for someone else to find. But now, thanks to the Diptoon, they will be able to dispose of their fluid in a sanitary and socially acceptable way. Namely, they will put it in their pocket.

SPOT Inc. has created a website for its new invention (www.diptoon.com), which contains this grammatically mangled but vivid explanation: "Has your wife or girlfriend ever complained about your spit cups laying around and how it better not spill on the couch or carpet. I've listened to family members complain about me spitting into a cup with a napkin inside for years. This works well until the napkin cannot absorb anymore expectorant. So now you have the napkin to deal with. Let's say you pour out what wasn't absorbed by the napkin in the yard and discard the cup and napkin in the trash. Well...when the trash is taken out it leaks all the way out the door because the napkin was saturated and the juice ran to the corner of the bag. Now you're scratch'n to clean it up before the wife finds out or worse yet, she takes out the trash. At this point, you better not be home!"

The Diptoon folks' marketing tactic is essentially, "Hey, your habit is nasty and disgusting and leaks through trash bags. But you're not going to stop, so buy our product and do something about it." That something—the secret to the Diptoon—is the "super absorbent paper" that soaks up the "expectorant" and turns it into a "gel." So you're not actually walking around with a pocket full of frothy brown spittle. Instead, you're walking around with a pocket full of hardened opaque gel made out of spittle. And that is much better.

The Diptoon folks say the pocket spittoon is ideal "for places like home, work, office, shopping, theatres, traveling, sporting events, meetings and other public places." I'm not so sure I agree with this. Sure, the spittoon fits in your pocket. Sure, your saliva turns into a gel right in the comfort of your own clothing. But you still have to spit into it. Are you really going to dribble into a metal box at the opera? Or in a meeting? "Excuse me, senator, but I need to turn my tobacco expectorant into gel and then store it in my pocket. HACK! Ptew! There, now let's discuss this TennCare problem."

As a non-inventor, I don't know the hours of thought and experimentation that went into the creation of the Diptoon. "What should the spittle turn into?" the creators probably asked themselves, after they got back from the John Wayne movie set. Powder? Syrup? Alphabet Soup? The choices were endless, but they settled on gel. I don't know why, but then again, I don't have the crazy white hair. I don't have a labcoat. And thankfully, I don't have a gelatinous wad of spit in my pocket.

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