With no warning it died this morning, and it was only 25 years old. My deluxe top-of-the-line 1986 clothes dryer chugalugged, choked, then came to a stop. I was in shock. I had a profound connection with that machine so I needed an hour to grieve. I snapped out of it and lifted the wet sheets out and slopped them into a laundry basket and then to my car. I headed for the High and Dry Laundromat a few blocks away, lugged the heavy basket inside and waited my turn for a washing machine to spin out the water and then kept my eyes open for an empty dryer. A gray metal folding chair beckoned me to sit, so I did while I daydreamed about installing an old-fashioned clothes line in the back yard. What direction should I place it? If it’s the wrong way while wind is blowing the sheets will wind around the line instead of flapping in the breeze. And there are rules about how things are hung. I started reviewing them in my head.
I must never hang laundry outside on Sunday because it just isn’t done.
Before using the line it must be wiped clean with a wet cloth.
Sheets and towels go on the outside lines and underwear hangs out-of-sight on the inside.
Don’t’ use two clothes pins for one item, as one pin can be shared with the next item.
Never leave clothes pins on an empty line because it’s tacky.
If the weather is below zero the clothes will freeze dry and the whites will be whiter.
Before dinner, all laundry must be off the line, folded, and put away.
As these thoughts of a simpler life style flitted through my head I felt self-righteous and honorable. Visions of tribal women washing garments in the creek connected me to my ancestors and I could see them draping wet clothing to dry over bushes and boulders. How strange, feeling bonded to ancient relatives while waiting my turn for an electric clothes dryer.
Drying laundry reminded me of an old-fashioned poem that someone had sent. It stated that the clothesline was a free newspaper because by “reading” the clothesline you could tell what was going on in the neighbor’s house. If the family had been sick with stomach flu there would be extra sheets, nightclothes, and bathrobes hanging there. If they were having company the fancy tablecloths would be flapping in the breeze. If the lines were bare the folks were probably on vacation. If there was no inch to spare they had probably returned. The only stanza I remembered by heart was at the end:
Clotheslines are now of the past for dryers make work less.
What goes on inside a home is now anybody’s guess.
I really miss that way of life. It was a friendly sign
when neighbors knew each other best
by what hung on the line.
“Ma’am, I’m finished. You can have the dryer now.”
A man’s voice snatched me back to the High and Dry Laundromat. I grabbed those sheets and pillow cases, slung them into the dryer and set it on high, glad to be getting this job behind me. The fantasy of installing a clothes line disappeared in a puff of daydreams. I got real and wondered what kind of dryer to buy.