To Air is Human

Rating: NNNNNit's a cold march morning, and i should be dreaming about trips to far-off places with warm, sandy beaches..

Rating: NNNNN

it’s a cold march morning, and i should be dreaming about trips to far-off places with warm, sandy beaches. But the sun’s shining. Literally pouring in through the south-facing kitchen windows the way it does only at this time of year, making the dust bunnies dance and mercilessly revealing just how badly the stove-top needs cleaning.

But who cares! Right now I can’t wait to hang up the clothes on the backyard line.

For years I used to chat casually to my neighbour over the fence as she pegged up the family duds. Secretly, I marvelled at how labour-intensive this was compared to my practice of whipping it directly into the dryer and then whipping it out again in 30 minutes. Never mind that the socks and tops had shrunk and the hydro bill had soared.

Then one day I realized my dying dryer was taking hours to toast a few undies, so I reluctantly hauled the laundry basket up the stairs from the dreary basement and into the sun.

It’s been two years now, and I still haven’t bothered to call the dryer repairman.

An electric dryer, it turns out, burns about 1,000 megawatts of electricity and costs about $130 a year to run an easy-to-install retractable clothesline about $14.99. But these energy-saving devices aren’t everyone’s idea of classy tech. They’re banned by nearly all of California’s 35,000 homeowners associations and are out of favour in many of the new subdivisions north of Toronto, where zoning restrictions limit their use.

No reasons for the bans are publicized, but I imagine it has something to do with perceived property values, which in turn might have something to do with class bigotry. How ironic that this should be happening in so-called democratic North America, while the underwear flies free in oppressed Third World countries and Europe.

When I visited France last year, I noticed that they hang their laundry anywhere, from balcony windows on public squares to doorways in 3-foot-wide alleyways. There’s no shame there. In fact, it’s considered picturesque for ancient medieval buildings to still sport undergarments just as they probably did hundreds of years ago.

How cultures deal with their dirty laundry is a serious thing in Tokyo, where there’s actually a museum featuring equipment from the last century and paintings with washday themes by the likes of Picasso, Degas and Renoir. Apparently, this institution has an 8,000-volume library devoted entirely to the subject.

All these social and cultural considerations aside, I’ll continue to hang up the clothes because it stops me in my tracks and literally makes me take the time to smell the roses, hear the bees buzzing, watch the chickadees, be neighbourly with my neighbour.

Standing in the quiet warmth of the sun to pin a week’s limp laundry on the line has a way of putting most things in their true perspective.

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