Unlocking the Hidden Power of the Dryer Sheet

(Originally ran on November 10th, 2003)

The key to unlocking superhuman strength lies in the sublime power of the dryer sheet.

Last year, as a poor, starving graduate student, I could little afford the luxuries of home. When I passed by the Wal-Mart aisles stocked with assorted dryer sheets, I humbly said "nay." What a fool I was.

This year I realized I couldn't be a fool any longer. I didn't understand what it was about that little six-inch-square sheet, but somehow it made my clothing soft and more comfortable to wear. This laundro-implement was a modern miracle, and certainly worth the investment.

The "dryer sheet difference" is the key factor inherent in some of our recent news headlines. Perhaps you've seen the brief story about a fisherman from Iceland on the ESPN outdoors website. Reportedly, Sigurdur "The Iceman" Petursson was working in shallow waters off the coast of Greenland when he noticed a shark heading towards his men as they were gathering a catch. Petursson charged into the shallow waters, grabbed the 600-pound shark with his bare hands, wrestled it to shore, and stabbed it to death.

I searched the article carefully, but was unable to find any specific reference to dryer sheets in the text. In fact, the article has no quotes from Petursson at all. However, were he to provide a quote, I feel confident he would have said, with the heavy manly accent of an Icelander, "if it wasn't for the soft texture of my cotton briefs, made possible only through regular use of Bounce dryer sheets, my men wouldn't be alive today."

You just try and unlock your superhuman strength when your drawers are chafing. It ain't gonna happen, kids.

Another example: Last week I noticed another article on courttv.com detailing the exploits of a Michigan man who took vengeance on an old woman who refused to give his son candy on Halloween. The man returned to the old woman's house later that night and pelted it with a series of ballistic jack o' lanterns.

While this may seem to be another example of the superhuman powers granted by the dryer sheet, I would submit that this is the opposite case. You see, this guy gave the old woman his name and address before he defiled her domicile, and was subsequently arrested later in the evening.

Once again, there are no quotes from the subject, but I'm sure if he were to articulate his defense to the media, he would say, "if only my wife had used dryer sheets in our last load of whites, then the absence of chafing would have lent me the superhuman strength necessary to NOT give the old bag my name and address before vandalizing her home. Woe is me."

At this point you are thinking to yourself, "Josh, so far you're examples contain no connection whatsoever to the claim you've made. In fact, none of the cited stories contain quotes from their subjects, let alone the type of endorsements that would lead us to believe the use of dryer sheets contains some sort of magical formula inherent in the unlocking of the human potential. At best your work is extreme and irrational speculation."

My response to you is, "eat my shorts, weenies. People send Dave Barry stories all the time, and I have to dig up all of my crap myself."

But lest I come across as defensive, I'll submit a personal example as a final piece of evidence. Last Thursday, after a long day of teaching English and discussing the merits of Public Folklore, wearied, beaten, and at the end of my physical strength, I made my way home to the top sirloin steak I'd defrosted the day before. All I had to do was throw it on the grill.

But I knew that it hadn't been tenderized. And we all know how hellish an experience eating a tough steak can be. So I stopped by Smith's on the way home and bought a tenderizing mallet for $5.99. That was probably the best steak I ever made.

Do you think I would have had the strength to make the extra stop if I had spent an entire day squirming in a starchy T-shirt? Do you think I would have had the presence of mind to think of the tenderizing solution if I'd spent twelve hours distracted by unseemly chafing? Do you think this is the single greatest stretch of material I have ever put together as an excuse for a column?

You bet.