When I was a kid, growing up in South Florida, we always dried our laundry on the clothesline. It dried within a day, and always smelled wonderful. Hanging it out was a chore, but taking it down was delicious.
Then I moved north, to where, three or four months a year, there was no sunshine to hang the laundry out in. Most of the places I lived had washers and driers in the basement, and that made perfectly good sense. Drying stuff on clotheslines indoors, especially in unheated basements, left the laundry feeling and looking really icky.
But it never occurred to me that there was anything wrong with clotheslines as such, in sunny weather. Until I started reading about the cosmic battle between eco-homemakers and neighborhood or condo associations. The former say that clotheslines, at least in sunny weather, are earth-friendly and economical. The latter say they’re eyesores and make the place look like a slum. A slum? The neighborhood I grew up in was a slum? No way! (BTW, whenever the Chinese want to throw some sort of international bash, like the Olympics, the government bans clotheslines, too. So this is not just an American thing.)
Well, the latest thing to fall under the eagle eye of neighborhood and condo associations is window-unit air conditioners. Got that? Things that (back when I was growing up in South Florida) were considered the height of luxury and the badge of affluence. Not that my family had one. But the doctor and the lawyer who lived down the street from us did. I think the lawyer had two of them. Wow!
Window units have been a hassle for a while, at least in our part of the world. In the condo building we live in, owners are expected to take them out of the windows in winter and whenever repairs or tuckpointing are being done on our section of the building. Mr. Wired and I are not as young as we used to be, and we have lived in our unit for forty years. So we have trouble both with physically moving the damn things and with finding any place for them to sit while out of the windows. And we don’t really understand why we’re expected to take them out anyway. We cover them tightly during the winter, so there’s no heat loss. And anyway, we’re on the first floor of a steam-heated building, so if there were any leakage, it wouldn’t matter much. Dutifully, we pay our extra assessment for not taking them out, which is about what it would cost to hire somebody else to do the job, and at least saves us the floor space where they would be sitting if we took them out of the windows. But so far, at least, our condo association has not attacked the concept of window units as such, thank heaven, unlike some developments in the suburbs.
Installing wall units or central air is bloody expensive. But now, apparently, it is on the way to becoming the next required sumptuary expenditure after a clothes drier, in an era when we are all supposed to be pinching our pennies. Whose idea was this, anyway?
And BTW, has anybody done any research on the point at which the heat emitted outdoors by other people’s air conditioners makes it impossible for people in the neighborhood to survive without one? There has to be a tipping point. Maybe it doesn’t matter, if we already require such homogeneity that nobody with an air conditioner would dream of living next door to a household without one?