That closet basket has held, well there must be 25 anyway, shirts that must be ironed. No, I do not feel guilty owning 25--let's be honest, more nearly 35--cotton shirts, because the whole lot didn't cost more than $20 tops, being treasures found in thrift stores years ago, beautiful long staple Pima or sea island cotton, oxford cloth ones or chambray ones, plain ones, woven stripe ones, every one costing 10 to 25 cents, maybe one or two a whole dollar, every one pure, glorious unadulterated cotton. Pure, glorious, unadulterated cotton that must be ironed.
I am a good ironer. If there is anything I can do properly it is iron. At around age 12 I innocently suggested to my mother that I would prefer my pajama pant legs to be ironed with creases down the front instead of flat. In a split second the pajama pants, the iron and the adult world of ironing was put in my hands.
I am not half-German for nothing. It was my habit to read every word in the Lansing State Journal whether or not I was remotely interested in what I read. It happened there had been a whole article on "Oscar of the Waldorf" who was the man who saw that shirts of guests staying at the Waldorf-Astoria were properly, Germanically ironed up to the most sartorially splendid New York standard of the 1930s. Perhaps Noel Coward had stayed at the Waldorf (apparently those "in" people called it the Waldorf, and not the Waldorf-Astoria); perhaps Oscar had ironed his shirt; what more glamorous authority could there be?
The ironing board was in the basement--excuse me, rec room--and so was I, all but memorizing Oscar's words, for three hours.
I came up with the most impeccably ironed pair of pajamas you would ever wish to see; they really should have been enclosed in museum glass.
Now shirts--what you do first is the sleeves, see, starting from the shoulder seams to the cuff and then--but no, unlike Oscar, I hold my secrets.
But the trouble is I don't iron those shirts. Once you get beyond 10 there appear to be far too many to ever iron and, anyway, the old iron is terrible. If I have to iron 35 shirts perhaps it justifies buying a new iron.
I comparison-shopped irons all over the place and finally got one at Sav-On. Like all the irons I saw (and boy, did I see a lot of irons) it is 'Light 'n Easy.' I ironed two shirts with it. It is not what I want and I am sure if Oscar of the Waldorf were here he would hate it too. What I want is a 'Heavy and Hard,' a good old proper iron. It says on its pedigree papers "not for commercial use, household only"--what would Oscar say to that?
They won't take it back, I imagine, but I'll have to try; oh, what a battle that will be. Meanwhile, I'll see who has a real iron. Ivers in La Canada--I feel sorry for them going out of business, so I call Ivers. All the stores are open on Sunday now.
"Hello," a dejected man's voice said.
"Do you have irons?"
"Oh, I think so. But could you call tomorrow; we're closed today." Why shouldn't some janitor, called from mopping some distant corner, sound dejected?
"Oh all right, I'll call tomorrow. Uh--I'm sorry you're closing."
"Yes, I'm sorry too. But I'm getting old, you know, and none of the children are interested in the business and so I guess it's better Buffums is buying it. Actually it's David Jones--"
"Oh, are you Mr. Ivers?"
"And what are you doing down there alone?"
He laughed. "Making out a list of things I've go to do. I'm going to manage it for a year."
"Is that a good idea? I've known a couple friends who weren't too happy doing that."
"Oh yeah. I've got to watch it for a year. I'll be here. Call and ask for me anytime."
Call and ask for me anytime--how many owners of department stores say that anymore? (Well, John Atwood of Atwood's in Upland might, but I can't think of any others.)
Ivers has been in business for decades in Highland Park and La Canada. I got a flyer just the other day--here it is. Signed "Sincerely, Jesse W. Ivers Jr.," a paragraph reads, "Some of you still remember our mother, Catherine Ivers, who started the store in 1913 and our father, Jesse, who joined her later in the business. They started all of us kids, Jane, Betty, Mary, John, Bill and myself at the original store in Highland Park when we were still in school."
Of course I'm going to have to go to Ivers first in search of a "Heavy and Hard" iron and I'm terrified of returning my "Light 'n Easy" to Sav-On.
Funny how many houses you notice when you're driving slowly because you don't want to get somewhere.
The Highland Park Sav-On manager has a mustache. How can I explain why I want to return it? No sensible reason, it's just that--"Pardon." He has darted back to the cash register and says something.
He looks up and smiles; the mustache makes the smile broader. "Oh I wasn't talking; I was just singing."
"Singing?" What a glorious breach of the American work ethic.
"Yeah, it's a good day." He writes in a form book--"When I loved you in the rain," he sings. "Didn't like your iron, huh?" He doesn't even look in the box. "Here's your money."
I am so astounded at such pleasantness I go back in again from my car to see his name.
VICTOR A. says his name tag. "Good man," I say to him. Victor A. giggles.