Patience By Ironing

Like most people who have been cooped up by COVID-19 shutdown orders, I’m getting impatient for it all to end so we can go on about our daily lives.  But impatience is kind of a self-defeating emotion, when you think about it.  Inevitably, you feel impatient only about something that you have no control over — because if you did have control, you’d have taken care of it already.  As a result, impatience just leads to frustration. 

When it comes to the coronavirus and the isolation orders, we’re just going to have to be patient a little bit longer.

If you’re looking for a way to learn the value of patience, I’ve got one word for you:  ironing.  Since I’ve stopped going to the office, I don’t send my work shirts out for laundering and pressing.  That doesn’t mean that I don’t still value the feel of a crisp, freshly pressed shirt, however.  So, I iron my shirts myself.  And if I’ve learned one thing about ironing, it is that it can’t be rushed.  Ironing may, in fact, be the single most deliberate, patient task on the roster of common household chores.

Consider the sleeve on a man’s shirt.  It’s basically a tube of fabric, and unless you have a special device you can’t iron one part of the fabric at a time.  Instead, you’ve got to carefully lay the sleeve on the ironing board, pat down and smooth out the fabric to make sure there are no wrinkles on the fabric facing you or on the ironing board side of the sleeve, and then apply your iron.  If you rush the process or try to take a shortcut, you’re likely to iron a crease into the sleeve — which kind of defeats the idea of ironing in the first place. 

The same careful process has to be followed with the button down collar, and the cuffs, and the area between the buttons on the shirt front.  Each step must be approached with meticulous attention.  If you take your time and do things right, you’ll end up with a neatly ironed shirt that looks nice that will make you feel good about a job well done.  If you don’t approach the ironing process with patience and deliberation, you’ll end up with a shirt full of unwanted creases and wrinkles that cries out for a do-over. 

My grandmother used to say:  “Patience is a virtue.  Possess it if you can.  It’s seldom found in woman, and never found in man.”  Not surprisingly, Grandma knew the value of a good ironing job.      

FOG Functions 

The father of the groom (or, as I like to think of myself, the FOG) doesn’t have a significant role in the ceremony, and on the wedding day doesn’t have any traditional obligations or assignments.  So, I’m trying to be useful and help out where I can — such as by loading up the car with stuff to take out to the wedding venue, fetching the high chairs for the youngest wedding guests, and ironing my shirt and the shirt of the best man.  I’ve also got the matching ties of the groomsmen ready to go.

Ironing also helps to calm the nerves as the big moment approaches.

The Tao Of Hotel Room Ironing

You awaken in a strange, darkened room, perhaps to the shrill jangling of the unfamiliar alarm of a clock-radio that you don’t know how to turn off.  You stumble to the bathroom, hoping that you do not crash into furniture that is not where you expect it to be.  Moments later, as you check your iPhone or Blackberry, you become dimly aware that you need to get ready for the morning meeting.  This necessarily means your shirt must be ironed, because it is impossible to pack a man’s dress shirt in a suitcase without the shirt become wrinkled, and wearing a wrinkled shirt to your meeting would be . . . unseemly.

You must use the iron and ironing board squirreled away in the hotel room’s closet.  You fumble with the ironing board, lifting it from the hooks that allow it to hang suspended against the closet wall.  You open it and hear that high-pitched screeeel of metal on metal, a sound that is made only by the act of setting up a hotel room ironing board.  Perversely, you are comforted by the annoying, yet familiar, noise.  You retrieve the iron from its slide-in storage rack and plug it in, perhaps struggling with either the miles of cord found in half of American hotel irons or the balky, push button/feed out/scroll back cords found in the other half.  As you slowly, clumsily perform these simple tasks, you realize that the morning fog is beginning to lift from your slumbering brain.

You check the temperature of the iron, and the sizzle of hot metal against your wet index finger feels good.  You place your shirt on the ironing board, dragging it so that the collar and shoulder of the shirt are hard against the squared end of the ironing board.  You iron the plain fabric of the back of the shirt first, your ironing strokes becoming more assured as you progress.  You move the shirt around the board as you go along.  By now, the cranial synapses are engaged.  Be careful you don’t plunk the pointed end of the iron into the row of buttons with too much force!  Snap that sleeve and smooth it to make sure that the act of ironing the top fabric doesn’t leave unwanted creases on the bottom side!  You’ve done this hundreds, perhaps thousands, of times before.

And then you are finished.  You confidently snap the shirt as you remove it from the ironing board and place it back on its hanger.  It looks fine.  You unplug the iron, and as it cools you close up the ironing board, anticipating that sound yet again, and lift it back onto its inner-closet hooks.  Finally, the iron is snapped back into its closet holder.

You have successfully completed the morning’s first chore.  The hotel room shower beckons.