Before reading any further, hold your breath for ten seconds …
It’s estimated that I have over ten thousand regular readers. So, if all my readers held their breath for ten seconds, we just conserved a hundred thousand seconds of air. That’s over a minute of extra air for over sixteen hundred people. See how easy it is to make a difference? You’re welcome, world.
Did that make ANY sense to you whatsoever? No …me neither. I’m pretty sure we can’t run out of air. We can make it dirty, true enough. But we can’t run out of it. More on this later …
We had the old Maytag for twenty-one years. It had only been serviced ONCE in that time. It was a good, sturdy machine. But finally, its motor gave up the ghost on a Saturday night. It was going to be $400 to fix it or just get a new one for roughly the same price. We decided to go for a new one and make a fresh start with our clothes washing.
So, I went on the search. We wanted pretty much what we’d had: Top loader. Simple. 3 cycles. Easy, right? Nope. Apparently, in the last twenty-one years washing machines have gone through a metamorphosis …especially in the last decade. I talked to four separate dealers (all different ages and races). And they were ALL very unimpressed with the current state of washing machines. In fact, they all pretty much told me (in not so many words), “they’re all the same. It really doesn’t matter which brand you buy. And NONE of them are great.”
When did the washing machine industry stop being competitive? Why are they all built the same way, with the same problems? Well, as it turns out, it’s all about the new government “eco standards.” Built into every new washing machine is a limit on how much water you are allowed to use, how the cycles are allowed to work, how hot the water can be, etc, etc. This is the government wielding its power to protect the planet from all us wasteful, destructive humans.
One of the dealers I talked to said that the entire industry has started petitioning the government to get a lot of this regulation removed. Because there is a climate of “severe customer dissatisfaction” with the products. I had no idea there was so much turmoil brewing in the household appliance industry.
Since I had already hauled my old machine to the recycling center (because, you know …I’m environmentally conscious), I had no choice but to buy a new machine and install it. So I took a day off and did just that. And I started the first load of laundry. The “wash” feature stalled out and didn’t work. I tried it three times. When I called the manufacturer, they told me how those mandatory computer sensors go out a lot. But hey …at least they were sorry. So, I rented a truck and took another day off to take the BRAND NEW washing machine back …and get another brand new one.
While I was driving all over town, burning fossil fuels, making trips I hadn’t planned on making (in order to save a few gallons of water per year), it was raining. In fact, it rained the entire day.
The rain soaked through my clothes, as I unloaded one “high efficiency” machine and loaded another “high efficiency” machine onto my rented truck. And while I stood there drenched, I realized why people get so frustrated with government. I was losing hours and days of my life. I was spending money and burning fuel I didn’t need to burn, to keep from using water someone at a desk somewhere decided I didn’t need to use. All the while, water was literally pouring all over me.
Once I got the machine home I discovered another irony. Because of the water sensors, the new machines don’t always fully rinse your clothes. A lot of people do double rinse cycles to get the soap out. We find ourselves having to do that. So instead of saving water, we’re actually using more. But hey, at least it takes twice as long to wash the clothes, now.
I could buy a Speed Queen industrial machine (apparently we only need to save water in our own homes – NOT laundromats) but it’s not in the budget. Why is not in my budget? Because my profession (songwriting) has been devalued to almost nothing thanks to new technology models that have blazed past established royalty systems. Who set up those systems? You guessed it. Thanks, government.
I was thinking about this whole scenario while standing in yet another TSA line. We all look at each other the same way in those lines. We all know we’re not terrorists. We all know most of this is just a forced formality. We all know the teenage girl doesn’t really need to remove her flip flops for “security reasons.” We all know this whole system is a big reaction to one event that could’ve been avoided if the government had done ONE job well: keep a guy with an expired visa (Mahamad Atta) off a plane. And that’s really the essence of it.
Unbelievably, people are STILL doing the post mortem on why Hillary Clinton lost an election layup to a foul-mouthed, crude, brash political novice. I have friends who still can’t figure it out. But when I’m standing in the rain trying to save water or taking off my belt and shoes to keep air travel safe, or trying to get copyright laws that were designed for piano-roll sales (a hundred and eight years ago) to catch up to the world of digital streaming, I know why.
The government dances and we pay the band. The government cuts itself and we put on the bandages. The government eats and leaves us with the tab. And some of us just want a little reprieve.
My hunch is Donald Trump will oversee as much government overreach as any other president before him. But his election was a cry for help. It was a lot of people saying “please stop trying to fix us. Please get out of every single tiny detail of our lives. Please let us decide how much freaking water to use when we wash our clothes.”
Holding your breath to save air for other people makes no existential or scientific sense. But it’s JUST the kind of thinking that would make a great government program. Put a snappy name on it like, “The Air Share” program and I’ll bet you could force people to hold their breath a few times a day, to make an environmental difference. I could see breath holding sit-in demonstrations on college campuses. But it would still be stupid …as are so many government decrees that try to fix something that is essentially not broken.
I believe in certain regulations that make sense. I believe there is a place for government in our lives. But when people who are completely disconnected from (and ignorant of) an endeavor have complete power over that endeavor – from healthcare to music to washing machines – mistakes will be made. And we, the public, have to deal with it.
The next time you’re in a TSA line or buying a low-flow toilet or installing an “energy efficient” light bulb, hold your breath for a second. It’s all doing about the same amount of good.