Friday, February 20, 2015


When in grade school I used to buy a box of Indian brand pumpkin seeds now and then for two cents. Pumpkin seeds are yellow when raw and golden brown when roasted, but Indian brand seeds were white from the coating of salt on them. When in my early twenties I found that one could still buy them, but for twenty-five cents a box. I also found that I must have had a very high tolerance for salt in my childhood.

Now I think of those pumpkin seeds rarely. I thought of them this week, for many of the streets in Washington are covered with a fine dusting of salt. It is not as opaque as the salt on the pumpkin seeds, but for coverage it comes closer than any culinary application I can think of. Here and there cars leave faint salt clouds behind them as they go. I think that the urge to apply salt has increased since I have lived here. I do walk more and have more time to look than I sometimes have had, so that accounts for some of the increase in what I see. On the other hand, I can remember driving about 200 yards of 16th St. NW with a car that was not entirely in my control, with cars before, beside, and behind me that had no more traction than mine did. That was between ten and fifteen years ago; it would not happen with salt applied to the roads the way it is now.

It might not happen with salt applied more sparingly. Perhaps the experience of a few more winters will help the local authorities find a sufficient but lower level.

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