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Mistakes were made

New York City meets Munich

When it snows, it pours

December 12th, 2003 · No Comments · Uncategorized

On Sunday we were in the neighborhood of Madison Square Garden, so we popped into a newish, sprawling diner-type eatery on 34th for a late breakfast. Due to the dreadful weather outside, the place was practically empty. We carefully worked our way to a booth in front, being careful not to slip on the slick floor. All the snow and slush tracked in by previous customers had melted, making the tiled floor pretty slippery.

While we were eating, I noticed a waitress working her way through the aisles with a canister of table salt. As she passed by our table, I could see she was pouring the salt on to the floor liberally. Perhaps pouring salt on the floor has some function in voodoo, but I think someone’s noble intention was to make the floor less slippery. However, a mop would work a lot better than salt.

I think the concept that salt removes and prevents ice had transformed into the concept that salt prevents slipping. Since the diner was nice and warm, I don’t think there was any fear of icing taking place. And salt water on the floor is just as slippery as regular water, though in places where a lot of salt was dumped, the undissolved salt grit would help add a bit of friction. Until it dissolved, though.

Pouring salt on a warm, wet indoor floor reminds me of what Richard Feynman wrote about cargo cult science, when people go through the motions of doing something without understanding how it works, and fail to achieve the outcome they want.

She would have been better off pouring pepper on the floor. At least that wouldn’t dissolve. Or just get the mop.

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