Laundromats have a learning curve when it’s been awhile since using one. The first week I used the normal size washers and the gluttonous beasts swallowed quarter after quarter. When I noticed the big washers, I thought to myself, “Next time.”
This week, with eight days of vacation laundry, I sorted the loads into the big machines. Then I noticed how much a load cost: $5.50. That is a lot of quarters. I consolidated the loads, mixing varieties of sheets and apparel. Sudsy water churned like milk against the glass portals as I sat down to wait.
“HUGE FAMILY SIZE WASHERS” I noticed for the first time. The brightly painted letters yelled out from giant signs with images of hands pointing down at the machines. “55 lb. Capacity” they read.
“D’oh!” What a bonehead. I looked again. Signs over every row of machines: “20 lb. Capacity,” “40 lb. Capacity.” Each with its own sign and larger than life hands pointing downward.
The very first week I noticed, “Please check inside your clothes and the machines for CRAYONS, LIPSTICK, GUM, ETC…” but missed the washer capacity signs. Maybe it is because I generally do not look up. At six foot five (shorter than I used to be), I tend to look out or down but apparently not up at really large signs with huge red letters. Tall people tend to have invisible antennae on top of their heads, scar tissue from all the bumps and cuts along the way. The only time I do a lot of looking up is in basements and attics where pipes, vents, and spiderwebs want to greet my bald crown with unwanted intimacy. Still, none of that is an excuse for not reading signs, especially ones flagging me in the face.
If you weren’t sure, that is what this is about – not paying attention to signs so clear that reading them isn’t even a required skill. More than three-hundred years ago, Isaac Newton penned the Third Law of Motion: For every action in nature there is an equal and opposite reaction. Wishful thinking aside, human societies are part of nature and subject to its laws. So, when trade tariffs are applied on the principle of “America First,” as if we can take actions on the international stage without equal and opposite reactions, it is, well, just plain stupid.
While “stupid” is not a label I would use to categorize someone’s personhood, not reading the signs right in front of our noses qualifies as stupid behavior. Ignoring lessons from history available to everyone is a singular act of stupidity. The “Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act” of 1930, for example, raised duties on hundreds of imports as an effort to protect America from the global Depression. Instead it sunk us harder and deeper into Depression and so it was reversed four years later. One of the universal lessons of the Great Depression and what led up to it, is that no country can act in isolation and no economy is big enough to protect itself from the interconnectedness of international trade. That is even more true today than it was then.
Captain Trump is steering us into that iceberg again, and no matter how often we imagine it will be different this time, each and every time the Titanic sinks.