The Limiting Reagent
Years ago, when I took high school chemistry, I learned about the “limiting reagent” — the ingredient in a chemical reaction that is first used up, thereby making the continuing reaction impossible. It’s a simple idea, really, nothing to write home about. But I love the concept, and I use the phrase all the time.
This morning, I bought milk at a not-usual-for-me grocery store, because milk was the limiting reagent in our refrigerator — it was the commonly-used item we were most in danger of running out of, and the one I would most likely need to interrupt my writing to go buy.
I think of a lot of my life in terms of restricted elements — time, for example, and money and time and creativity and time and energy and time and… Well, you get the idea. For the most part, I run out of time to do all the things I want to do, well before I run out of the other requirements. Maybe that’s what made fall in love with the idea of the limiting reagent.
Do you view the world this way? Have you ever, in everyday conversational speech, said, “I’ll run by the grocery store to pick up some milk, because it’s our limiting reagent”? Or am I the only crazy one? (Don’t answer that. Really.)