Friday, October 22, 2010

The Pull of Technology

Here, as in most of Europe, people don't use electric clothes dryers. We have a large space next to our washing machine (where a dryer would go in the US), where we keep a clothes rack, and David rigged up an outside line for us, too.

Drying clothes this way requires some planning—I need to hang clothes on the rack 12-24 hours before we need them. But hanging clothes to dry instead of tossing them in a clothes dryer has not diminished our quality of life. At all.

Which exasperates me because I already knew that I wouldn't miss our clothes dryer, and yet, in the US, I always used an electric dryer. I had gotten used to the whole clothes rack routine when we lived abroad before and had resolved that I would maintain the habit of hanging up our clothes to dry when we got back to the US.

So, when we moved back to Florida, I bought a large and very sturdy drying rack from IKEA. But when we bought our secondhand washing machine from Craigslist, it came with a dryer. “It will be nice for emergencies,” I told myself. But by the time we left Florida, I was using the electric dryer for every batch of laundry.

I think this is practically a law of human nature—if an automatic technology is available, we tend to use it, even if it is more cumbersome, less effective, or more costly than the simpler technology it replaces.

David’s students struggle for hours to find something online that they could find in seconds by opening a book on the library shelf. Parents who live half a mile from the school drive their kids to school every day. And I toss my clothes in the electric dryer instead of hanging them up.

Is there a name for this tendency? Other than laziness, I mean.

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