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.      

Test Of Patience

In the modern world, patience is most certainly not a virtue.  We expect everything immediately, and feel incredibly put upon in the absence of instantaneousness.  Whether it is service at a store, fast food at the drive-thru window, or a split-second response when we type in a search, we demand an instant response.  And don’t even mention the possibility of the spinning circle of delay on our computer screens!

But sometimes, extreme speed is just not an option.  Consider, for example, driving on a winding two-lane country road behind a rusting panel truck.  Your GPS told you that it would take 90 minutes to get somewhere, and with supreme self-confidence you determined that you could do a little bit better than that.  But you didn’t figure on being behind a truck driver who apparently is being paid by the hour, because he sure is taking his own sweet time about getting to wherever it is he’s going.  Doesn’t he realize that your time is hugely valuable?  Doesn’t he approach his job with the same sense of urgency and need for speed that you apply to everything you do?  Doesn’t he understand that you’ve got to get somewhere, and so does everybody else who is now stacked up behind his sorry, slow-moving, rusting ass?

So you fret, and rage, but there’s not much you can do about it, is there?  Sure, you could take a chance, blindly pass him against that solid yellow line, and hope that no car or truck is approaching on the other side at that same moment in time, but you’re not that hot-headed and reckless, and anyway there’s a pretty steady flow of traffic on that other side.  There are no passing lanes on this road, and you’re not getting the intermittent yellow line when there seems to be a lull in traffic, either.  So . . . there’s really nothing to do but accept the fact that you’re going to be moving at a ponderous pace for the foreseeable future.

You think that maybe there’s something on the radio,so you fiddle with the channel changer and find a song that you like and haven’t heard in a while.  Because you’re passing the scenery at a veritable snail’s pace you can take a good look at the houses and trees, and some of them are really very pretty. now that you mention it.  And there’s something simple and kind of enjoyable about driving at something other than breakneck speed, and just letting the car drip into the swales of the roadway and feeling it gripped by gravity as it banks into a gentle turn on the black asphalt.  It’s really not that bad.  And soon enough, the truck driver is turning off the road, and you realize you’re still right on time, and losing a few seconds or even a few minutes because of that slow-moving truck really wasn’t a big deal at all.

It’s not a bad lesson to learn anew, every once in a while.