From the window by my desk I can see my neighbors, who range in age from 65 to 95, tromping through the woods, gathering sap from the sugar maples. It’s sugaring season in Vermont, which means that the temperature still drops below freezing at night—which means that static season is still with us.
In my war against static electricity, I have enlisted all the weapons suggested by the internet homemaking goddesses. Since dry air makes the problem worse, I keep the humidifier going full tilt day and night. I pour generous quantities of white vinegar into the washing machine, keep wool balls in the dryer (which never fail to get lost inside pant legs), and remove clothes while they are still damp. But nothing works very well. (Dryer sheets supposedly help, but my green conscience prevents me from using them.)
My poor dog, Bisou, has been shocked so many times that she flinches when I reach down to pet her, especially if she’s lying on her favorite, an ancient afghan that I crocheted out of polyester yarn before I knew that the material attracts static like nothing else on earth. Her red-gold hair stands up corona-like all around her as I draw near, and I have trained myself to touch metal before I touch her.
There are mornings when my clothes stick to me as if I were heading onto a gale. Should I idiotically decide to put on a skirt, it gloms onto me like ivy on a dying oak, and clicks in protest if I try to separate it from my thighs. The household pundits on the web say that spraying water on oneself helps, but in my experience this only works if I drench myself until I’m dripping.
But even worse than clingy clothes is the hair magnetism. If I sit down anywhere in the house, I get covered in long red strands from Bisou, short gray and white wisps from Telemann, and my own brown and white contributions. When I stand up, my legs are a palimpsest that reveals who’s been sitting where.
Why don’t I brush my animals, you ask? But I do! Faithfully! Every week I compost handfuls of dog and cat hair (I used to put it out for the birds to use in their nests, but I have learned that pet hair holds moisture, and can get tangled in the legs of baby birds, cutting off circulation). However, regardless of how much I brush there’s always more–I suspect that at least fifty percent of the nutrition in pet food goes to making hair–and it homes in on me with the kind of determination only seen in lemmings headed for the sea.
Why don’t I use a lint brush? I do, but only on special occasions and within five seconds prior to leaving the house. If I used it every time I get hair on my pants, I would go through several of those sticky paper rolls every day.
People who know me probably think that I mostly wear gray, or that grayish/brownish/yellowish shade known to wildlife biologists as agouti. But what looks agouti to the world is in fact black with a frosting of pet hair. Fully three-quarters of the garments I own are black as midnight. That, however, may change soon, when I grow weary of plucking, picking, and brushing and, choosing to join those whom I cannot beat, get rid of my sober and, on a good day, slimming black clothes and replace them with items in gray, tan, taupe, ash, khaki, oatmeal, camel, fawn, or mud.
Here’s a story about static electricity, from the era before safety belts and bucket seats: one cold day in New Jersey, a friend’s elderly mother, wearing polyester slacks, went for a ride with her husband. As she slid across the front bench seat to sit next to him, she felt a shock and said, “Honey, please remind the mechanic to fix those shock absorbers.”