You know you’ve been spending too much time editing corrections to your novel when simple word choices become incapacitating. The realization happened last night when I pulled cold sheets out of our GE dryer. I never miss the chance to hang sheets outside to dry because they steal a little of the salty air and spring breezes sneak into my dreams. But, distracted as I was by edits to my Byrne Miller book, I forgot to take in the sheets until it was dark outside and they were too cold and damp to put on the bed.
I have never mastered dryer instructions, and after every failed dryer interaction Gary reminds me of one of two things: that writers usually can read or that I have a masters’ degree. He is genuinely confused by my confusion; he never reads the dryer instructions to begin with. But in my defense, the machine is clearly labeled in the same foreign country that no doubt manufactures it. For example, one of its three dials is marked “fabric care.” There are four choices on this dial, each labeled with a description of temperature – quick fluff with no heat, delicates with low heat, easy care (whatever that means) with medium heat and then cottons. You’d extrapolate this last setting would be high heat, but it just says “regular” so I’m never sure.
The other confusingly labeled dial is for the amount of time you want the machine to run. It’s divided into three sections, labeled in a shaded oval like an elongated pie chart. It’s far too reminiscent of math right off the bat but here’s where it gets really confusing. I’m not sure why, but the two top sections are divided into the categories of cotton and easy care (I guess cotton is high maintenance) and then you’re supposed to pick between the helpful phrases “more dry,” “less dry” and “optimal” dry. This confuses me, so I use the bottom part of the pie, where you point the knob to the number of minutes you want. I pick a spot somewhere between five and ten minutes for the sheets, since they’ve already been hanging outside all day on the line. But it turns out if you want heat you have to point the knob somewhere to the right of 10 minutes. Not optimally helpful, considerably less than easy.
I am a writer. I do have a masters’ degree. But somewhere along the line I’ve apparently become functionally illiterate.