The Bands Face West

People like order. I know that some would argue there are many who hate organization, and would rather live in their own mess, but usually these are younger adolescents who really aren’t sure what it is they want.

I was recently hanging clothes on the line with my grandfather when it struck me once again how much order matters to so many people. Having spent some time in the US Navy, my grandfather with his military style neatness is no exception. Everything around the house has its own place and function, and after an article or tool is used, it goes right back to the exact spot from which it came. Everything is labelled and put away in boxes to ensure that it is always there when it is needed. 

And so it was, that as I began to help him hang the clothes, we got to the underwear, and he reminded me that “the bands should face West.” Each pair of underwear had to be hung on its side, and all in the same direction, with the elastic band facing West, toward the old garage. I’m not quite sure why that orientation was chosen, but regardless, that was the way they were hung. The result, was a neat string of underwear on the line all facing west with no discrepancy between them. 

And the tendency towards order doesn’t stop there. The very fact that roads run in straight lines and rules are made to keep cars on them are testimonies to the value of order in the running of infrastructure. People shuffle along in lines, waiting for tickets to football games while others wait on a bench for the bus to arrive at its designated stop. We live in a country where things work and are designed to work like clockwork – and for the most part, they do. Buses and trains arrive and depart almost precisely when they were scheduled to. Even engines and machinery have to work according to a certain order and system, and if they don’t, they’re usually considered broken or finicky.

However, there are places where order is not the rule of thumb. It is there that you find all sorts of creativity in transport, from how much is transported, to how many are transported.  Buses tend to come at whatever time they arrive, and cues are usually replaced by mobs of elbows and fingernails competing to get to the desired booth or door. Electricity goes out for hours, and traffic lights are often dim poles that hang over the demolition derby below. Things do get done, but when is usually a mystery and how is usually a miracle. So, unless people would rather move and live to these places where life is generally a colourful chaos, which personally I enjoy – they should buckle down, clean their room and make sure their underwear band is facing West.