Try it. Who knows, you may even like it.

Monday, May 26, 2008

The joy of just hanging out

By Dick Hirsch

By way of introduction, allow me to reveal that one of the essential appliances in our home is the clothespin, the venerable wooden clothespin with the spring that snaps and clamps. I mention this with the absolute assurance that it is one of the characteristics that differentiates us from most of our relatives, friends and acquaintances.

Occasionally I will be asked to replenish the supply of clothespins when they are missing or broken. I always know about where to find them, on a remote bottom shelf, along with certain other products for which time is running out and there is limited demand.

Why clothespins? Am I a hobbyist making little mannequins or other cute little crafty items? No. These pins are for use on our clothesline, where they are employed to temporarily affix damp clothing, fresh from the washing machine, to be dried by sun and breeze.

Is this a new concept, developed by the environmentalists, eager to save energy? Nope. It is an old fashioned way of drying clothes, one to which my wife, Lynn, and I have been dedicated for many years. During good weather, we hang out. Yes, we do have a dryer, but we use it only when conditions warrant, which means when it is raining, freezing, sleeting or snowing.

We live on small street in a big suburb. I wouldn’t call it an upscale location, but it isn’t downscale, either. Let’s specify that it is mediumscale. In the years we have lived there, I have rarely, if ever, seen an active clothesline on the street.

When we moved in, we checked with the next door neighbors and they had no objection, but we always wondered whether our clothesline was offensive to any others, whether it was a topic of conversation. Years ago, soon after we arrived, we were at a neighborhood gathering, where we met other residents.

“Oh,” said a woman from down the block, when introduced to my wife, “you’re the one who likes to hang laundry on the line.” We could not argue with that characterization.

Another time, one of our law-abiding, well-intentioned friends, warned us that she understood that the hanging of items on a clothesline might be violation of a local statute. We ignored that warning, continued regular use of the clothesline, and have never been threatened with legal action of any kind. For the purpose of this discussion, I checked with enforcement authorities in three representative locales, Amherst, Clarence and Orchard Park, and found that none had any prohibitions. It is possible, however, that certain subdivisions---places where the sight of hanging sheets or undies is considered unseemly or vulgar---may have deed restrictions which forbid the use of clotheslines.

In the past, devotees of clotheslines were generally motivated by the freshness of the laundered items.

“Smell these sheets,” my wife will often implore me, especially in the spring, after a winter of using the clothes dryer. “Look at these white whites.”

It’s certainly true that outdoor hanging does impart a very agreeable aura to the laundry. Turkish towels are the only regular item that flunk line drying; they are too stiff.

The big news now is that our side has been reinforced by the green movement, the environmentalists who are seeking ways to improve the planet, conserve energy and reduce global warming. The use of clotheslines has become a conservation issue.

In Aurora, Ontario, not far from Toronto, a local controversy has developed, with the “right to dry” group seeking to overturn a local ordinance that bans the use of clotheslines and drying racks. As a demonstration of solidarity, the mayor, Phyllis Morris, has begun to hang her own laundry and earlier this year petitioned the provincial government to declare local clothesline bans illegal and described them as “a barrier to conservation.” Legislation to eradicate existing clothesline bans has also been proposed in New Hampshire, Connecticut and Colorado.

That is encouraging news to those who have dared to be different and have been using clotheslines. Now it is not merely an issue of extolling the virtues of a laundering method that produces fresh smelling, naturally dried items. That argument always proved unconvincing to people who insist the dryer is one of technology’s great triumphs.

Now the argument can focus on the importance of saving energy, reducing emissions, preserving the glaciers and defeating global warming, all of which helps identify a person as a good citizen. If those are among your goals I can suggest some outstanding sources for clothespins.



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