I received a charming email from a friend, an ‘ode to the clothesline’. It was prefaced by the fact that they were now a thing of the past, due to the arrival of automatic clothes dryers. Well, not in Italy. In fact, I’ve gone without a dryer for so long, that I’m now considered avant-garde for having a ‘Green’ household. The Italians knew long before the rest of us, just how much energy it cost to heat those clothes up to fluffy. And we’re all the better for it.
Not having a dryer was one of those things you sort of just accepted as a way of life in Old Europe along with store closings and lack of ice cubes. The ever-clad Italians in their all-natural cottons and linens when coming to America are always fearful that the dryer will shrink their clothes (they’re right). But, to that they would insist it also destroyed the fabrics. I, for one, would rather risk wrinkle-free, soft and perfumed clothes for fabric maintenance any day of the week.
I’ll never forget when a friend, traveling on business for a few weeks dropped in and asked if she could wash her clothes before moving on. No problem. When it came time to dry them, she asked, innocently,
“So, where do I dry them?”
I responded, “Oh, it’s in the other room.” Innocently thinking of the metal rack on which to hang her outfits.
“But I can’t find it!”
“It’s right there. That big metal thing.”
“What are you talking about?!!”
“It’s behind the door!!! You gotta open it up!”
Dead silence. I finally understood that we were having a ‘Who’s on First” episode of our own making and I could no longer speak from the peels of laughter.
My girlfriend, on the other hand, blew a gasket. It was December 15th, after all.
“You don’t have a dryer??!!!! My clothes will NEVER EVER DRY!!! I’ll be traveling home in wet jeans!”
“Well, do like I do and put them over each of the radiators. They should be okay in a few hours. They better be. The heat goes off at 10pm.”
Needless to say, she ended up wearing sweat pants on her next leg of her journey, swearing she would never ever come to Europe to live.
BASIC RULES FOR CLOTHESLINES: from the email, although I've put it in present tense.
1. Wash the clothesline before hanging any clothes - walk the
entire lengths of each line with a damp cloth around the lines. Mine are covered in pigeon poop.
2. Hang the clothes in a certain order, and always hang "whites"
with "whites," and hang them first.
3. Never hang a shirt by the shoulders - always by the tail! What
would the neighbors think?
4. Wash day on a Monday! Never hang clothes on the weekend, or
Sunday, for Heaven's sake!
5. Hang the sheets and towels on the outside lines so you could hide your
"unmentionables" in the middle (too bad my neighbor doesn't abide by this one)
6. It doesn't matter if it was sub zero weather . . . Clothes would
"freeze-dry." My update: use the radiators and dry away while the heat's on!
7. Always gather the clothes pins when taking down dry clothes! Pins left
on the lines are "tacky!"
8. If you're efficient, you would line the clothes up so that each item
does not need two clothes pins, but shared one of the clothes pins with the
next washed item.
9. Clothes off of the line before dinner time, neatly folded in the clothes
basket, and ready to be ironed.
10. IRONED?! Well, that's a whole other subject!