Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Interstitial Suspension

I started writing this post in the waiting room at the Toyota dealership. What started as an oil change morphed into further repairs before I had twenty words on the page.  

Ironically, I was googling "interstitial suspension" when the service manager brought me the news. Doesn't "interstitial suspension" sound like part of a car's mysterious innards? Something that, once broken, is going to have you maxing out your credit card and tearing out your hair? 

In spite of sounding like an item you'd find at the parts counter, the term has nothing to do with cars. In fact, I'm still not sure what exactly it is. Apparently it has something to do with paper towels.

The TED Talk below is more than a year old, but I saw it for the first time last weekend. Yep, that's what Hubby and I do on romantic weekends away. We lounge in bed and watch year-old TED talks on the interwebs. Among other things. Gotta come up for air sometime.

As much as I enjoy them, I sometimes find TED Talks beyond my technology, entertainment and design experience. This one I get. This one warms me to the cockles of my little, green heart. This one is brilliant in its simplicity. In fact, it's so simple I'm already putting the concepts into practice. 

Go have a watch. See you you can figure out what Mr. Smith means by "interstitial suspension".

Did you catch the statistics there?  Thirteen billion pounds of paper towels used annually by Americans alone. Paper towels are so lightweight I found that number staggering. The whole roll of paper towels in my kitchen doesn't  weigh a pound. I know. I checked. A new roll weighs 7.8 oz, and that includes the cardboard tube. 

A couple of years ago I bought some wash cloths at the dollar store.  I keep them on hand for paper towel-y jobs around the house.  In fact, I'm still using the same ones, and I've never used paper towels for drying my hands at home.  

And yes, I still use paper towels from time to time. There are some things that I just can't bring myself to clean from the counter/floor/ceiling and then clean from the cloth. Ewww.

My paper towel use at work was another story. I wash my hands a lot at work.  My job brings me into contact with some grubby, much-handled stuff. There are times when I think a bio-hazard suit should be part of my professional wardrobe. 

In an effort to reduce waste, I used to use the tea towel hanging above the staffroom sink to dry my hands. That is until I got scolded by the manager for inappropriate towel use. The tea towel was meant strictly for dishes. I had obviously missed a memo. 

The paper towels at work are those brown, folded ones that may, or may not, be made from recycled paper. Their absorbency is just slightly above that of aluminum foil. I use several to dry my hands while cursing the waste, cursing my employer for providing such cheap-ass, ineffective paper towels, and cursing the fact that in spite of the 3/4/5 paper towels I use my hands are never quite dry when I'm done.  All that cursing only to find out I was using the paper towels wrong. Who knew?

Well now I do. And so do you. Having tried Mr. Smith's shake and fold technique I can tell you it works. Even with cheap-ass paper towels my hands are dryer than if I had used 3, or 4, or 5 paper towels. In fact, my hands are completely dry with only one paper towel. I still haven't a clue what "interstitial suspension" is, but it works. 

I hope you'll try it. It will help save 571,230,000 pounds of waste, it will get your hands dry, and I won't be the only idiot standing at the sink flapping her hands like she's trying to achieve lift off. Just make sure you use the paper towel to dry off the mirror, and possibly your bathroom buddy, when you are done. 


  1. I think it just means trapped in the empty space.

    1. Thank you! Mystery solved. Now that I know what it means I'm going to try to work it into conversation from time to time.

  2. I think it reduces: surface_area / volume, and this increased atomic or molecular interactions (?). Could it be cohesion, like water pipes in plants - water attracts itself (polar molecule) and the water on your hand is attracted beneath the towel surface (flow).


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