I was on the road, including a mid-afternoon, mid-August drive through the Mojave desert, a red-eye from San Francisco to Des Moines, and then, finally, Saturday morning, a small run-in with security at the Des Moines Airport on the way back home.

(‘But they’re just magazines and newspapers!’ ‘It doesn’t matter, you can have only two carry-ons.’ ‘But I got upgraded to first and the plane’s empty and there’s no one here – it’s 7:30 Saturday morning – it’s just you 17 security guards and me and my roll-on bag, my computer bag, and this bag of newspapers.’ ‘You can only have two carry-ons.’ ‘You want me to check the newspapers?’ ‘You could do that.’ ‘Go all the way back to the counter and check this little bag of newspapers?’ ‘Or just stuff them in your suitcase.’ ‘You mean just smash ’em in and scrunch everything together even worse for three minutes while I go through security and then take them back out? That will make America safer?’ ‘That would be fine. It’s the government. Only two carry-ons allowed.’)

My bag was already stuffed – 10 days on the road in a single roll-on – but I got them in somehow, all the while thinking of Philip K. Howard’s book, The Death of Common Sense (and its sequel, The Collapse of the Common Good). I had managed fine with my little bag of newspapers at LaGuardia and at LAX and at SFO. But here in Des Moines, the jig was up.

And my suit got even more grotesquely crinkled than before.

Yes, Charles has tried to show me how to do this stuff. You turn the jacket inside out, smooth some things, fold just so, lay in on top of all the other neatly folded things – voila!

I got to Des Moines, unpacked the suit, and it looked like origami. (This was on the way in from San Francisco, where I had just had it pressed in the same hotel that charged $17.54 for a grapefruit.)

There was some thought of sending it out to be pressed yet again, but I was afraid it would not come back in time. I pulled out the ironing board, plugged in the iron – I have seen this done before – and tried to imagine how to spread the jacket out in a way that would allow ironing it. Should there not be some sort of ironing mannequin? My suit is not shaped like a board.

After a little on-the-job training (oh! I guess I should take my glasses and stuff out of the breast pocket!), a light bulb went on. Two, in fact. The first bulb was the bright realization that I cold never, possibly, under any imaginable circumstances, succeed at this. The second, retrieved from the dim recesses of my memory, was that there was another way. I hung the jacket in the John, turned on a light spray of scalding hot water, closed the door, and left. Half an hour later, miracle of miracles, the wall paper was still on the bathroom walls, steam was everywhere, the jacket, though dank, was perfectly smooth, and I think I saw two guys sitting with towels talking about the baseball strike, but it was so steamy I couldn’t be sure. (Later, when the steam cleared, they were gone.)

I took the jacket out and hung it in front of the air conditioner for a couple of hours; put it on, and went to dinner.

The other way to do this in August is simply to send your jacket to Florida. Speaking of which – come back tomorrow.


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