Oil Spill

My friend stood in front of her first sink, in her first apartment, cleaning up the dishes from her first party. It was a proud moment for that art major. Having landed a job straight out of school, she’d already exceeded most people’s expectations. Once she’d found and moved into her own apartment, she managed to exceed her own dreams.

So there she stood, triumphantly washing dishes. Then, reaching for a large – and oily – bowl, she accidentally knocked it off the counter.  With a clang, it hit the ground. She froze in horror as oil began to slowly spread across the floor. Swooping in, another party-goer snatched up the bowl, but the remaining oil continued  its expansion across the floor. At the sudden movement my friend whirled, turning on the tap while grasping for a paper towel.

“NO,” I yelled, “EMULSIFY”.

They jumped. The bowl-holder stared at me, as my friend moved faster – she reached down to clean the spill with her wet paper towel.

“Emulsify! Emulsify!” I pleaded.

Then it hit me that neither of them understood the word. With seconds to spare, I cleaned up my act; “Use soap!”

They stared at me with curiosity, one standing and the other with a paper towel hovering inches above the floor.

“Water doesn’t mix with oil, so it can’t clean oil,” I said in a rush. “Soap. Soap emulsifies with oil. Soap can clean it up.”

My friend stood, bewildered and trusting, and asked what she should do.  Together, we dumped soap over the oil spill.  Her first apartment, her first lesson in Chemistry, her first time knowingly emulsifying. It cleaned up beautifully.

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When are You Ready To Be a Parent? 24.

As we struggle up the hill with our groceries, we wonder at how grocery shopping has turned into a part-time job.
“I don’t know how our parents did it,” says Special Correspondent Ellen, shaking her head, then pausing for breath.
“They went grocery shopping and they had children at home. I find it hard to go grocery shopping and all I have at home is schoolwork; it’s a tircha for me.”
It’s true: every year I find myself spending more and more time grocery shopping.
She continues, “You have to buy all nutritious food, and the right sort in the right proportions.” I nod in agreement, wondering if my purchase of popcorn would be defined as nutritious.
As we crest the hill, we contemplate the difficulty of buying food to turn into balanced and healthy meals. Suddenly, Ellen turns to me and bestows the best present – an unexpected compliment; “You can do it Hannah, you’re ready to be a parent. You already buy the right amount of food and it’s healthy, and you pack a good lunch every day. You’re ready to be a parent.”
Thank you, Special Correspondent Ellen.

The Smell of Voting

Coffee, with a hint of cake, is the smell of voting. Every election it wafts into the voting booths of my local polling station from dawn till dusk. You see, in Pittsburgh people throw bake sales at polling stations. You show up to vote for the state’s favorite son, or to prevent a crackpot from holding yet another elected office, and stay to grab a cup of coffee and chat with your poll workers.

Your poll workers, those loyal neighbors who man their stations every election, know their bake sale fare. On good years, they’ll direct you to pick up some pumpkin loaf. In bad years, with a shake of the head, they’ll tell you that the coffee’s all that’s left and add, in a lowered tone, that it’s been on all day. Of course, your poll workers have lots more to discuss with you – how the family is doing, who else has been so far, and which politicians handed out material in this nonseasonal weather. Chatting aside, they usher you to your voting booth, and step back to let the magic happen.

Inside your booth, which also smells of the bake sale coffee, you vote. You make your choice, and have your say in democracy. After double-checking your selection, and with a final hope that this election proves good for the commonwealth, you submit your ballot. With a cherry wave to the poll workers and best wishes for a good election, you’re ready to stop by the bake sale.

You can have your democracy and eat cake too.