Even the clause “without alienating them (making them so angry or offended that they will not finish reading your essay)” can’t protect them from my logical absurdity.
We had to write a solution for a major world problem. I received a 5 out of 6 for this.
Steven Li — Homework 1
Writing Class S — September 17, 2004
The Li Solution to Dirty Streets
The 2001 animated movie “Osmosis Jones” tells the story of a white blood cell and a cold pill combating a lethal virus inside of a human body. In the end, after driving the victim to the brink of death, the virus is destroyed when it falls into a conveniently placed beaker of alcohol. A common sight in operating rooms and bathroom medicine cabinets, alcohol is widely known as a disinfectant for surgical instruments, cuts, and any surface that needs to be immaculately clean. Despite its frequent use in the home, it has yet to be used on a larger scale, even though the inside of our homes are cleaner than the outsides of them. A walk in a ghetto reveals streets full of garbage and dirt, bacteria and viruses, all of which we’re being exposed to every day. Our most unsanitary location deserves our most powerful cleaning agent: alcohol.
The traditional method of applying alcohol, rubbing it on a surface, would be both tedious and time-consuming if used on our streets. Not only would many workers be needed to wipe down surfaces, but cleaning equipment and barrels of alcohol would need to be on mobile platforms so the workers could access them. Instead, trucks with tanks of alcohol and hoses attached to them would patrol the streets, spraying alcohol in a wide pattern. While difficult-to-reach areas would not be thoroughly cleaned on contact, the liquid nature of alcohol would ensure that every crevice would be reached. This method would require a hefty initial investment but would complete the job faster than manual labor and would require as few as two people manning a truck.
The state of the area after spraying depends on the level of alcohol used. For less troublesome streets, trucks would be outfitted with rubbing alcohol (isopropyl), which would evaporate a short time after application. Though there is no residual alcohol, if the fumes ever become unpleasant, the alcohol solution could be modified to include a fresh scent. Alternatively, another truck could follow the first, spraying the area with air freshener or fanning the surroundings to hasten the dissipation of the odor. For areas that require a heavier application of alcohol, a higher alcohol concentration (known as a higher proof) would be needed. In addition, the alcohol may be applied more liberally, in order to increase the amount of time before the alcohol evaporates. Residents would be advised to stay away from street cleanings during this time and remove their cars from the streets, a tradition that is currently being followed under penalty of a fine.
Though isopropyl is able to destroy bacteria by denaturing their proteins and breaching their cell membranes, it is unable to deal with hydrophilic viruses such as polyoma. In environments beyond the range of alcohol’s ability are encountered, one of two follow-up measures may be employed. In areas with adequate storm drain coverage, a similar truck will follow shortly afterwards, but with tanks containing boiling water. When the water is liberally used, the alcohol will be diluted to an ineffective point, which is where the extreme temperature of the water will come into play. A method often used by cooks, flash-heating the streets will denature and kill all harmful microorganisms as well as removing the alcohol. In addition, the presence of water will serve the same purpose as today’s street cleaners do: wash away garbage. This is not used as the primary cleaning method due to the extremely high temperature that need to be maintained and the need for drains to take away the water.
In cases where such prerequisites cannot be fulfilled, another method of flash-heating can be employed. The alcohol truck will fill the actual street with a high proof alcohol while it sprays the sidewalks with the standard lower proof alcohol. After the truck is some distance away and while there is still alcohol on the street, a worker will ignite the alcohol on the street. This would not only provide the necessary heat to kill off the harmful microorganisms, but it would incinerate any trash on the street. As the flames are a potential hazard, the lower proof alcohol on the sidewalks will prevent the flames from spreading too far, since the solution will have a higher concentration of water. Eventually, the fire will burn off the alcohol, leaving a dry clean street.
No matter how extreme the method, the end result is what should be judged. Alcohol, fire, and boiling water are effective on their own, but combining them ensures that there would be no doubt as to the cleanliness of our streets. Not only is it thorough, but its results can be seen immediately. If an alcohol truck has to avoid a street because there are parked cars impeding its progress, there will be a stark contrast between those sprayed and those not. That visibility factor, the ability to see the results of our hard work and money, is perhaps even more important than the fact that we no longer expose ourselves to billions of microorganisms when we take a walk. That is what we should strive for, and that is what can be accomplished.