I was sitting outside an Irish pub in Monte Carlo. The bouncer had made me poor my Guinness from the nice pint glass into a plastic cup. There was a chill in the air and I was in shortsleeves, having offered my sport jacket to a lady in the group who had been ill-prepared for the early morning air. Inside, a band was rocking, singing English tunes with a slight French accent. I'd been in and out of the bar a few times, but an acute case of claustrophobia had relegated me to the cheap plastic chairs outside.
"You know," I said to the assembled group of Londoners, "you European folk are odd."
"It's the Americans that are odd," a lady shot back.
"No," I said. "Take this, for instance. I've now been in four European hotels. Some of the nicest hotels in Europe. Not one of them has had an iron it."
A co-worker looked me up and down. I was wearing a pair of unwashed blue jeans and a shirt that reeked of three wearings and two cardrooms.
"What exactly do you intend on pressing?" he asked with a half-smile.
"Touche," I said, "but that's not the point. If I wanted to press something, I couldn't I've been in hotels all over America. Some very nice hotels. I'd say 98% of American hotel rooms have an iron in them."
"Ninety-eight percent?" He seemed incredulous.
"Ninety-eight percent," I said definitively.
Now, I picked that number out of thin air. In fact, I'd been in a five-star hotel on Miami's South Beach just three weeks before and it didn't have an iron it. But I wasn't telling the Londoner that.
The lady spoke up again. "Complete with an ironing board?" She said it if an ironing board in a hotel room was quite gauche.
"Yes, complete with an ironing board." I wasn't backing down. Sure, after having spent several weeks in Europe, I do get occasionally embarassed about some American things. For instance, a well-known American personality attended a nice cocktail reception wearing a fairly nice pair of slacks and sport coat. He also wore a pair of open-toed sandals over his white socks. He was not the fist American I'd seen do this in the past month. Still, I'm proud to be an American, despite the sandals and all.
"Yes, complete with an ironing board."
"Well, maybe they want you to use the hotel's dry cleaning service," the lady offered. She could tell I was legitmately perplexed and not a little bit put off by the lack of ironing capabilities.
To wit: In Demark, I spent twenty minutes trying to turn on the lights in the hotel room. Eventually I discovered I had to shove my room key in a slot by the door. Suffice it to say, I peed in the dark once before figuring it out. Once I got the lights on, I went in search of an iron to press my shirt beefore going to the casino. All I culd find was some Medievel device labeled "Trouser Press." The hinged device purported to press slacks, which did me no good, because I needed to iron a dress shirt. I attempted to make it work for my needs but ended up putting more wrinkles in my chemise than it originally had. Trouser press, my ass.
It's odd, I say. These hotels go out of their way to make you exceedingly comfortable, but they won't give you a way to iron your clothes. In Monte Carlo, the housekeeper nearly had a fit every day when she came to my room and discovered I hadn't turned off the "Do Not Disturb" light. By early afternoon--every day--she would call to make sure I was okay and to ask when she could make up the room. Then she would come back to the room and slip a form under the door apologizing for not making up my bed.
While it was all very nice--a little too nice, if you ask me--my clothes were still wrinkled.
Frankly, it almost seems like entrapment. To get into the finer areas of restaurants and casinos, one is often required to wear a jacket and tie. And, yet, no iron.
A co-worker said he endulged--for no small fee--in the hotel's dry cleaning service and was quite impressed with the outcome. Me, however, I just can't justify--even at my employer's expense--spending dozens of euros to let some underpaid worker do what I could do in ten minutes, standing in my underwear in front of a full-length mirror (ugly image, ain't it?).
Now, I'm in Nice, France at the Cote D'Azure airport, sitting in another uncomfortable chair. It was suggested I get ot the airport early. The Delta agents didn't arrive until 45 minutes after I got here. Now I'm through security and waiting for the passport control booths to open so i cann go to the gate.
My bags are stuffed with wrinkled, smelly clothes. I'm wearing the same jeans I was wearing that night in the bar and the same shirt I was wearing when my son was born. There's some sort of grease stain on the chest that I think came from some odd birthing juice. I've developed a runny nose and cough in the past three days that I'm pretty sure is SARS.
In just about an hour, I'll board my flight bound for JFK where I'll catch my connection to Atlanta and then home to GreenVegas.
And you know what I'm going to do when I get there?
Well, I'll tell you this: I'm not going to iron a damned thing.
Blame it on Europe.