How I Learned What “Deliquescence” Is

Well folks, someone asked.

As you may be aware, as a safety professional, I sometimes get asked to help clean out dead people’s office, labs, homes and storage units. This is because the deceased might have has a reputation or survivors/estate people Find Things They Did Not Expect/Want To. In this particular case, the call came from the fire department where their hazmat team didn’t really want to be bothered with a non-emergency call because there’s contractors for such things. Friend who did a lot underground storage tank remediation offered me free booze and pizza to walk & look.

Yes, I should have been offered money but this was A Valuable Learning Experience In Silicon Valley. I was young. Anyway, we were given keys by the sheriff to enter and walked on in. Readers, shit was ECCLECTIC. And it was a fire trap of waaaaaay too many books and dust.

Please take a moment to read an old Choose Your Own Radiation Adventure written from the perspective of an older and, nominally, wiser Phil who has seen some shit since this story took place.

Putting my suspicious bastard hat on for “Where are the treasures that are a problem vs. valuable?” I began searching in a way that struck my friend as odd. Bless his heart, his suspicious bastardry is only limited to not trusting anything below ground surface. This is how he survived landmines as a teen. To abbreviate the search a bit, I found:

  • Several mummified rodents
  • Various hidden and mostly empty booze bottles
  • Multiple stashes of weed, cocaine, and various mystery pills
  • More loaded guns than I like to think about
  • …and the box labeled “Reno”

Again, I was young and should have known better that to just reach into ANY box, much less one labeled “Reno”. I should have put on gloves. I SHOULD HAVE ALREADY HAD GLOVES ON. I should have had a flashlight or perhaps an endoscope to peek into the box. What I did do was reach in. There was a sticky squish. :(

I’d found the Weekend Escapade Kit. The leather had dried out and crumbled. The metal of the chains and rings were good stainless steel and still looked nice. The giant black strap-on was of the vintage of synthetic rubber that doesn’t dry out and turn to dust. Instead, it wanted to turn back into oil. Basically, it was Big Black Cock shaped tar and it was stuck to me. The hilarious to outside observer GETITOFFGETITOFFGETITOFF scream and dance happened, flinging it off my hand with force, flying across the room, smacking into the wall and sticking.

This was a moment frozen in time. I, horrified, at my petroleum made dildo decomposition product covered hand. My friend, with gloves on, peels the dildo off the wall leaving a black dong shaped splat mark INCLUDING BALLS. What have we done?

Friend: It’s fine, some acetone and that’ll come right off.
Friend: It deliquesced.
Friend: Sometimes stuff made from petroleum turns back.
Friend: Liquid…stuff.

And that’s how I learned what deliquescence means. Yes, acetone took it right off. Yes, it squicks me out every time it happens to me. Not because I regularly grab venerable dildos, but because I have lots of very old radiation meters with handles that are incredibly gross to touch now.