Friday, February 04, 2005

The Usual Suspects

Can I possibly be the only person on Earth who wishes that Honey Nut Cheerios came in a 50 lb. bag like dog chow? That’s how much I enjoy them.

I can wield an industrial mop like nobody’s business. It’s one of the abilities I am inexplicably proud of myself for cultivating; maybe I just like that I don’t think myself too good for such things. I haven’t picked one up in over three years, but today we had a tour at the Water Treatment Plant and I volunteered to sweep and mop the restrooms before the home-schooled kids and assorted moms arrived. For one, I was tired of studying, and for two, I don’t like getting soaked while spraying the stainless steel plate settlers, which was the alternative and which Travis volunteered to do. It’s 45° F in the main concrete bunker of the Plant, and that’s cold enough without damp jeans. It’s 64° F in the offices and control room and restrooms, and if you’re not moving around, even that gets chilly. I discovered something pleasant today, too: the boys keep a suprisingly tidy restroom. I’m happy about that. I won’t be afraid to volunteer for janitorial duty in the future, and the women of my family find immense solace in cleaning, so it’ll be good for me. (I was only eight when my uncle died, but I remember my mother cleaning our already spotless home furiously for two months straight.) Not that I need solace. Right now, for me, it’s more like therapy. The janitorial maintenance of happiness.

I have learned so much in two weeks, in fourteen cheerful, peaceful days that passed like greased lightning. I now understand the fascinating processes of coagulation, flocculation, stratification, and reaeration. Who knew that aluminum-based synthetic polymer has a positive charge that makes the negatively-charged sediment particles in raw water stick together in little globs that sink to the bottom of the concrete sedimentation basin, where they form a thick sludge and get sucked up by a track-run pipe vacuum and pumped to a lagoon down the hill to dry out and eventually be scooped into a dumptruck and taken to the landfill? That’s just craziness. I had forgotten the pH scale from Mr. Ashley’s ninth grade chemistry, anything I ever knew about electrical currents, and how to find the surface area and volume of various forms. Now I’m memorizing fractions of pi in decimals and formulas to calculate flow or convert Centigrade (Celsius) to Farenheit. With minimal information, I can even tell you how much copper sulphate you’d need to dose your reservoir with to prevent algae growth, because algal blooms produce too much oxygen during photosynthesis, and all the little organisms that eat algae when it dies use up all the water’s dissolved oxygen to metabolize it, and an anaerobic water supply is a bad thing. Oxygen depletion will kill fish and do other horrible things, like create hydrogen sulfide, which is what that rotten-egg smell is when you’re around stagnant water. Ok, you’re right: I’m using the blog to test my knowledge. I’ll need to know all this to pass my Level I Operator’s Certification test the first week of May, and there are three more levels to conquer after that. Besides, you can’t say this isn’t fascinating.

I’m basking in post-PMS serenity. I’m pleased with my life and its possibility and the way the people in it are treating me. The only dischordant note in the harmony is time, as usual. I have difficulty seeing the beauty in any example of time-lapse photography, because it’s so painfully unnatural, but the absolute most despicable variation is time-lapse photography of a functioning clock, like they do in the movies when they want to make the point that time is flowing, and they want to parade the fact in the tackiest way possible, so they show the hands of a clock flying around at the most abominable speeds. Witnessing that is like being on the Tilt-a-Whirl from Hell, the ghastly ride that never stops. I can’t stop time, and I generally don’t like things I can’t control. All I can do is hang on.

Ask me sometime about the Tilt-a-Whirl at the 1990 Turn of the Century Days celebration in Kemmerer, which my cousins and I rode on shortly after Sarah had consumed dinosaur-shaped Spaghettios, a fact I was unaware of before the ride but cleverly deduced afterwards. You can probably guess how I figured it out. It was seeing the tiny pale reptiles swimming on the chipped and scuffed blue-painted steel floor of the cabin that somehow imprinted the moment permanently in my brain. Just one of those things, you know? No wonder I'm having a hard time retaining formulas and scientific vocabulary that would injure even the most proficient larynx. My hard drive is full.


Blogger Libby said...

Sounds like you are learning a ton! And no doubt you'll ace the exam.

February 4, 2005 at 9:56 AM  

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