Tag Archives: arbitrary rules

There’s a Chilean in my Closet!

Guess who's hanging up what?

Guess who's hanging up what?

Whoever invented the wire hanger should have established universal rules for using it.

There are certain rules that seem to have been established arbitrarily at some distant point in time and space when someone made the first move and said, “I’m going to do it this way.” If you had asked why, they may have simply said, “No reason, I can do it the other way if you prefer,” or “because I’m left handed” or “because my sister was standing on the other side,” but for whatever reason the reason happened to be, their method ended up carved in stone and we don’t even think about it until someone upsets the balance.

Like what, you ask? Like driving on the right-hand side of the road, unless you’re a Brit-influenced driver, of course, and therefore prefer the left. Or whether the toilet paper drapes over the top of the roll or dangles from below. Or whether you draw a circle by moving toward the right or toward the left. I’m sure there are plenty of other practices that we could all indulge any latent OCD tendencies in, but today I think I’ll just dwell on hangers.

In my orderly little pre-Chile world, we hung things up with the hanger hook pointing toward the back of the closet. Never thought about it much. Wasn’t much reason to. Until I noticed that the woman I first lived with in Santiago would always hang things up “backward” as in hook facing forward,** toward the door.  Personal quirk, I thought. Until I went shopping and oddly enough, most of the stores did the same. The sales clerks glowered at me for hanging things up the “right” way. And when I started sharing a closet with my husband, we ended up with a mishmash of hanger-use practices that bugged me to no end but that turned out to be a non-issue for the Mister… And in his world, non-issue is synonymous with unimportant… which means not much chance for change… and I have more important re-training priorities (like the fact that plates should be washed on BOTH sides, but we’ll save that for another day…)

** How often do we see backward and forward meaning the same thing?

In my northern-hemisphere-oriented brain, the outward hook maneuver does seem to be more practical in that it only takes just one outward-downward movement to hang something up, rather than the push in, up, back, and down movement required for the “Chilean” method.

It is in my nature to try and make sense of things. Maybe, I thought, it’s because we’re on the other side of the world—like that bit about water in a sink swirling counterclockwise in the southern hemisphere (it doesn’t, by the way). Not even I, as originator of that cockamamie theory could muster up much enthusiasm for it. So I’m back to arbitrary. Not a very satisfactory answer.

I googled around for a while, searching for an answer to my relevant-to-not-much-of-anything question, and although I did find a few versions of the hanger’s rather recent invention (might have been US President Thomas Jefferson, could have been someone else in the mid-1800s, although Albert Parkhouse generally gets the most credit for having designed the first wire hanger in 1903. Too bad he apparently misunderstood the directions on the patent form and signed away his rights to the fortune his employer then received. Parkhouse never saw a dime). I also found a nifty voodoo coat hanger and a slew of hanger manufacturers, but not one who would take a stand on which way the hanger is “supposed” to go.

So let me be the first to go on record as saying that hanger hooks should definitely point toward the back of the closet… In my world. Because I said so. Even though my husband doesn’t believe me… Or care.