19 February 2010

Spin Cycle

Detroit Edison has given us much to contemplate here—or 'there', back in 1956. Anticipation and regret, freedom and servitude, humanity and automation: Pretty heavy stuff, coming from a utility company.

The washer is imperturbable, despite its novelty. Newly ensconced as the electric savior of the household, it sits dutiful and uncomplaining, even though it is fated to a life of loneliness.

The woman exits the laundry with a slightly uneasy backward glance. She knows full well her future is 'touch and go'. How will the inevitable additional appliances impact her world? Will they support or supplant her?

Marshall McLuhan said, 'The future is not what it used to be.' I say, it's enough to keep you up at night.


  1. You're right. The copy is foreboding. John Ciardi's A Browsers Dictionary: A Compendium of Curious Expressions & Intriguing Facts has the following to say about touch and go.

    1. Maritime. Said of a ship that touched a reef or other obstruction while under way but was able to sail on, having suffered no serious damage; hence with ref. to a near wreck. 2. Metaphoric ext. Labels any narrow escape from disaster or downfall.

    In other words, near misses. These near misses form a very loose association with Miss and Mrs. — you'll never have to miss anything again because of laundry. So, you will and won't miss. You'll miss the reef, but nothing else.

    Then there's what pilots do. They touch the wheels down, power up and take off again. A practice run. Touch and go. Like living together as a Miss before landing a job as Mrs. Homemaker.

    Sounds almost like a musical, doesn't it? Remember when we lingered in the laundry?

  2. PS I'm praying for an early and exuberant springtime in New York. Somebody we all know needs it.

  3. I like the exalted position of that washing machine as if at the foyer of a home --the first thing you see when you walk in the door. Judging by the stair rail detail, I doubt if that is a basement.

    I remember my grandmother's washer that was allowed a space in the kitchen among the other appliances in the new house they built (ca. 1959). No dryer in those days --just a line in the back yard. Now my dad (86) still lives in that house. The kitchen has since been remodeled. The washer (along with it's companion dryer) have been relegated to the storage room of the detached garage --to be taken for granted along with all the other modern marvels that have seen their day in the limelight come and go.

  4. @ Evan Jones: I attempted to compose a second line for the musical number, and was surprised at the paucity of words that rhyme with 'laundry'. And I greatly appreciate your seasonal wishes.

    @ PamDesigns: Thanks for sharing your memories. In one of my childhood homes, a fearsomely large washer/dryer combo dominated the basement. It was like an appliance troll, hiding in the semi-darkness.


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