The only thing saltier than the ground is my mood.
Columbia, like most things, takes salt a little too far. I had arrived on campus a few days prior to the first snow and went about my business as usual. The night that it was supposed to finally snow, I was heading to study with my friends. However, when I stepped outside my dorm building I completely, and positively, slipped down the exit. Campus was dry. There was no vengeful classmate who pushed or tripped me. There was only salt. A lot of salt.
I’m from New England so I’ve lived through nearly two decades of blizzards. Specifically, I’m from a smaller town intimately familiar with budget issues. By the fluctuation of government spending, I’ve observed the many ways to treat a surface to prevent the harms of snowfall. Salt works. It works well. Sand is less efficient. And sometimes there’s this weird chemical treatment that makes the melted snow appear blue. Not sure what that is but it also seems to get the job done. Columbia uses actual salt, good for them.
You could also say I’m a salt expert. For one, I like chemistry. Secondly, my dad once got this set of artisanal salts for his Christmas present and I would experiment with all the kooky combinations of crystals and condiments. Have you ever tasted salt with edible flowers? I have. I practically have a Ph.D. in salt. I’m sure I could yack it up the professors in the Chemistry department.
So I’m not saying Columbia should stop salting the ground. It makes sense to salt the ground. As a result of colligative properties, the salts cause freezing point depression which melts the snow and also prevents it from icing as it forms a solution. People don’t want to trudge through several inches or suddenly skate about campus and risk cracking their skull on the concrete.
The issue is that with their salting practices, I suddenly skate about campus and risk cracking my skill on the concrete. Columbia’s salt crystal of choice, Calcium Chloride, is highly efficient at melting snow and comes in little salt spheres. So when you’re walking through some of the smoother paths on campus—and Columbia has nearly used an entire bag on an area probably the side of the twin XL beds we sleep on—your campus stroll becomes one of those scenes where a cartoon character is shuffling over a bunch of spilled marbles.
Sometimes the characters land on their feet. Sometimes they fall on their ass. I am in the second school of balance, but only because there was no escape from the sea of salt spheres. Everywhere I could’ve stepped was abundantly salted. It seemed like the snow had already arrived based on the field of white in front of me. I ask of Columbia, and in the safety of the behinds of Columbia students, to salt just a little bit less. Just a smidge less, y’know. A tiny pinch of salt less.
All Salty Photos by Author