Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Up in the Air

My eyes wedge partially open as I hazily awake. Before me I see a host of willowy phantoms looming in the grey predawn light. Large amorphous blobs float in the corners of my bedroom. Ghosts walking across the windows startle me to consciousness. Sitting up, I stare harder. Groggily I rub my eyes in disbelief. What IS this?

Oh. Yeah. That's right-- now I remember. Yesterday was laundry day. The billowing sheets and stiff-dry jeans are draped on opened doors and festooned in garlands across the room, hopefully air-dried by morning.

For the lucky among us, Parisian apartments are equipped with at best a lave-linge, or washing machine, but rarely with a clothes dryer. After a month or so of this existence, it becomes second nature to dry laundry indoors.

The contraptions available to aid in the clothes-drying process are truly ingenious and worthy of Nobel Prizes. (My personal favorite is a collapsible over-the-door rack that holds an entire tubful.) I am now so enamored of line-drying that I truly disdain tumble drying when I am back in the States. My god, what do you think all that LINT is in the lint-trap of your American dryer? It's pieces of your clothing being gradually eaten up.

One generation ago there were few or no clothes dryers in the US. My mother, who had five kids in seven years, bless her, always told me stories of drying cloth diapers on the radiators back in the days when my father was in grad school. Curiously, the notion of a tumbling electric- or gas-powered clothes dryer is now apparently so embedded in the American culture that lack of a such an appliance figures as an important element in the US Census Bureau's measure of poverty in America.

By contrast, today, a mere 30% of French households have a clothes dryer, a fact that I find startling because the percentage is so high. I would've guessed about 15%.

Here's my take on it: Slow down. Own fewer clothes. Take time to plan your day, your week, so that the clothes will dry and be ironed in time and you can still entertain without having your just-luxed lovelies fluttering about air-drying in the salon. Save energy and the planet.

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