Monday, February 27, 2012

Ire over drying laundry on balcony

FOREIGN WORKERS staying at a shop apartment near the Hentian Kajang complex, Kajang, have raised the ire of locals, according to a Malay daily recently.

The sight of clothes being hung out to dry along the balconies of these shop apartments is offensive to the locals and they want the authorities to do something about it.

In the 1970s and 1980s, when the Pekeliling Flats was occupied, I recall that the authorities had also tried to discourage residents from drying their clothes on poles from their balconies. The sight of clothes fluttering like flags in the wind were a cause for concern during times when international events were held in the city, such as the first Pacific Area Travel Association (Pata) in 1972 and the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) a decade later.

When visiting friends who were staying at the flats those days, I was often reminded to watch out for the drizzle from above. I was advised to be especially careful when visiting the flats between 7am and 9am when the wet clothes were put out to dry.

For those staying at the Sulaiman Court (one of the earliest high-rise apartments in the city where the Sogo Complex now sits), clothes hanging from the balcony on poles or clotheslines was a common sight. The shops that lined the ground floor had awnings spanning the width of their five-foot-ways to keep their premises dry and their customers from being splashed by careless flat dwellers.

But in those days, life was less complicated and people were more tolerant of those living in high rises who had to dry clothes from their balconies. They generally understood, and sympathised with, the predicament of those who lacked proper places to dry their laundry.

Some people, of course, believe that it is suay (Hokkien for unlucky) to walk under a clothesline of wet laundry and be hit by dripping water, especially from drying undergarments. That can literally wash away one's luck, some people say.

Those who stayed in high rises back then also took it upon themselves not to put their underwear out to dry from their windows or the balconies. For many, it was an embarrassing act, if not rude, and those who insisted on doing so, often invited a scolding from the elders or ticking from the neighbours.

In Dubai, sometime ago, the local authorities, who were tired of people living in high rises drying their laundry from the balconies, tried imposing a fine on those caught red handed. It didn't work.

Here, the laws are more flexible, and local authorities kinder, I suppose. The reason why people dry their clothes on the balcony in high rises is because these homes are not built to let in enough sunlight to dry clothes.

Often, the laundry-drying areas are located next to the air wells. These places are airy enough to dry machine-washed clothes indoors but, sometimes, selfish neighbours can put a damper on your efforts, especially if they renovate their homes and seal up the air well.

For most people, drying clothes indoors is just not the same, even when using an electrical laundry dryer. Nothing imparts a fresh feel to your old pants, shirts, or blankets the way a few hours in the hot sun can.

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