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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