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Anatomy of a need.
I need a second drying rack I think to myself as I attempt to hang three loads of laundry on the only rack I own, “need” being the operative word.
I’d draped wet sheets over doors and chairs. The condo looked like a group of ghosts playing fort. On the rack I had layers, three deep, of shirts upon shirts upon pants, bunches of underwear and socks hanging off the side like grapes, the plan being that as the day progressed and the sun and air did their thing, I’d peel away the dry and expose the damp, onion style. If the rack didn’t collapse under its own weight in the next few seconds, all the clothes would be dry by this time tomorrow.
I’d done the washing itself down the street. My own machine died a year ago, its date with destiny nothing if not punctual. Every washer in the building seemed to give up on the same schedule. Washing machine?, I’d ask yet another uniformed elevator mate. The repairperson would consult their work order. Yup. The year before it was running toilets and plumbers that abounded. Defective flappers. We residents really ought to find a group discount plan. Mass breakdowns were how I learned that planned obsolescence was a real thing. Following my own repair person’s pronouncement of washer death and determined to not give the Whirlpools of the world another cent, I decided to throw in with my neighbourhood laundromat.
I’d wanted an excuse to go there anyway; it had caught my eye. There was a time when I wanted to own one. This one had been bought and updated recently by a savvy young couple intent on making the doing of laundry pleasant. And efficient. It now has an offensive line’s worth of beefy state-of-the-art machines. So confident. So self-assured. The signage is fresh and fun and plentiful, the owners anticipating a laundry-doer’s every question. They’ve added an old-school corkscrew-operated vending machine full of healthy but still tasty and affordable treats and installed a magic trick of a change machine, any bill or coin that goes in coming out in some slot-friendly version of its former self. And the laundry soap, planet-friendly washing soda, is free on Sundays. I took my grandson to visit as if it was a stop on a seven-wonders-of-the-world tour. It’s not. But ten washers and ten dryers sloshing and whizzing away simultaneously are not without their appeal for a boy from the country who has, as luck would have it, a pouch full of coins needing to insert themselves into machines that dispense treats.
Last week I had three very large loads; I’d let it go too long. I washed it and then pulled it home in a cart someone had kindly left in our communal bike room. Very handy. I could have used my dryer to dry the clothes, it still works, but I prefer the way they iron themselves if hung on a rack, stretched to flatness under their own wet weight, folding a breeze. And I like that air drying works with instead of against the planet. As I proceeded, however, that old “need” thing reared its head: I need another rack. I asked my neighbour if he had one. No. In that case, I have to buy one, it was that simple. I was moving swiftly through the stages of I-had-no-idea-I-wanted-one to I-can’t-live-without-it. I went online, found one, and used the 3D viewing tool to place it in situ using the camera on my cell phone. The retailer had thought of everything. It was practically already mine. How could I resist? Why would I resist? Yes, I thought, This is the one. I’ll get it. And there I was again, poised to purchase.
We’re all but programmed to spend our way to solutions at this point in our human history. We’ve become model consumers, resourcefulness and creativity seemingly options of last resort. Why was a purchase my almost-first thought? How else might I approach this? How about not letting the laundry go so long? How about that? Aha! Simple. How about revisiting my idea of “dirty?” I’m an office worker. My clothes haven’t seen real action since babies last threw up on me. But what about smell? Yes. That’s a thing. Sweat stink is still sweat stink and people who don’t wash their clothes because they’re not visibly dirty can be noxious to be near. Semi-monthly trips to the laundromat, a willingness to see the identified insufficiency in a new light, is all it takes to eliminate the “need” for another rack. I have everything I need-need and most of what I don’t have is a puzzle waiting to be solved in some new and creative way using things at hand. Need a compost container? How about repurposing those large chip bags that are destined for the garbage anyway? In my case, this provides the added bonus of justifying my chip consumption.
Instead of the fleeting thrill of a purchase I have the lasting satisfaction of feeling like I’ve outwitted the retail world. I can get my thrills from the savings and the free space. Resourcefulness. I have it in spades and it’s free and it doesn’t take up any room in my closet. I’m gunning for you, need, you’d better be real.
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