I can see that I’ve completely lost my campaign for more judicious use of air conditioning. Even the German people, who long eschewed the big chill, have been seeking canned air in record heat this year. So let me turn to another windmill and go to war on clothes dryers.
This idea comes from Michelle Slatalla, who recently wrote a column in The Wall Street Journal about her own rebellion against the clothes dryer. Slatalla, inspired by her travels in Italy, decided to hang her laundry on a line in front yard, to the consternation of her husband and neighbors. The flap (get it?) drew her to try to understand why Americans, unlike Europeans, are more enamored of dry-heat machines than of fresh air.
Her research took her to the introduction of the dryer in 1938 and its strong embrace by Americans that essentially changed the culture. “If you were middle class in the U.S., you got your house electrified. Clotheslines became associated with poverty,” noted Steven Lake, director of a documentary called “Drying for Freedom,” as quoted by Slatalla.
That explains a whole lot about Americans, who often forego common sense and economy in favor of an ethic ruled by “How would it look?” (a “logic” that also explains some women’s devotion to impractical high heels). Ah, but then we move on to island living.
Nowhere is a clothes dryer more stupid than in the islands. With such good weather and breezes for most of the year, the island is the perfect place to get that fresh smell of air-dried clothing. Also, dryers add unnecessary heat to the home, eat up electricity, and release carbon dioxide into the air. Yes, it is less time-consuming to toss the clothes in and push a button rather than hang them out on the line, but seriously? What are you going to do with that extra 15 minutes?
It used to be that anyone building a home in the islands understood that dryers were dumb, but gradually the American way snuck in, even to the point of contracts that insisted on them. When I did an article on the proposed development at Sandy Point called the North Caicos Yacht Club, I was appalled to see that “no clotheslines” was on the list of community rules. Let me repeat that: The developers were telling people that they were not allowed to save money and the environment by drying their clothes in the abundant sun and wind. Yikes! (I know of only one house built there, and yes, it has a dryer … but no one to enforce its use.)
I of course use a dryer in the U.S., mostly because I have no backyard in which to put up a clothesline, and because the weather is rarely conducive to it. But on North Caicos, I want a dryer even less than I want a ravenous bugblatter beast of Traal in my home. It’s a wasteful, lazy idea.
Next up on my list? Dishwashers!
(There will be no Beyond the Parrot Paradise blog next week. Summer break!)