Kerth: Ironing out the wrinkles in a weighty scientific theory
By TR Kerth
When my son was 8 or 10 years old, he said he might want to be a scientist when he grew up.
“That’s great,” I said. “As luck would have it, I know a lot about science. Let’s try an experiment together.”
I fetched two sheets of paper and handed him one.
“Let’s drop them at the same time and see what happens,” I said.
He counted to three, and we let them go. They fluttered to the floor and landed at about the same time.
“So what did we learn?” I asked.
“Well, they weigh about the same, I guess,” he said.
“Excellent!” I said. “Now let’s try it again, but first…” I crumpled my sheet of paper into a ball.
He counted to three again, and we let them go. This time, my wad of paper plopped onto the floor well ahead of his, which still fluttered down.
“Now what did we learn?” I asked.
“Um-m-m,” he said. He wasn’t sure.
“Isn’t it obvious?” I said as I unfolded my wrinkled sheet of paper and showed it to him. “Wrinkles are heavy!”
“Um-m-m,” he said again as he shifted his uncertainty from the experiment to my sanity.
“No, really,” I said. “Look, who’s heavier, you or me?”
“You are,” he said.
“And who has more wrinkles?”
“Yeah … but …” he said.
“Isn’t science fun?” I asked.
He grew up and became a banker. Not everybody is cut out to be a scientist, I guess.
Anyway, speaking of weights and measures, the other day I stepped on the bathroom scale and was surprised to see the number it flashed up at me. I had hoped to see something smaller, a little farther from the atomic weight of plutonium.
I gazed at my image in the mirror and saw the problem right away. When I got dressed in the morning, I had pulled my shirt directly from the clothes dryer. It sported more wrinkles than a Florida dermatology clinic.
I thought back to that science experiment that proved to my son how heavy wrinkles are. Those hefty creases in my shirt were weighing me down. It was a chance for me to put my scientific knowledge to a practical use.
I scoured the house to find an iron – an implement I haven’t used in years. My wife and I abandoned ironing long ago. She switched to easy-care fabrics to cut down on the ironing chores. I just decided to go with I-don’t-care fabrics, like cotton. So while she turned her back on wrinkles, I made my peace with them.
But when your bathroom scale threatens to call a support group to report abuse, you have to do something. I couldn’t do much about all those weighty wrinkles on my body, but banishing them from the shirt seemed like a good place to start.
I found the ancient iron in the laundry room, fired it up and went in search of an ironing board. As I said, it’s been a long time.
I found the board and spent a few minutes trying to figure out how to unfold it and keep it standing. With each attempt, it wobbled like a newborn fawn. I gave up trying to assemble it and laid the board across the top of the washer and dryer, which seemed to be standing just fine on their own.
I ironed the front of the shirt, unplugged the iron and slipped the shirt back on. It even felt lighter. I didn’t iron the back of the shirt, because they say it’s not wise to lose weight too fast. Besides, I wouldn’t be able to see the back of the shirt when I looked in the mirror anyway. No point in wasting precious time on stuff you can’t see.
I went back to the bathroom, but before I got up on the scale I glanced at my reflection in the mirror. I had done a great job of flattening the shirt, except for the strip of cloth that held the buttons. It looked like a meandering stream with staggered pebbles poking above the surface. I didn’t want a little oversight like that to spoil my weight-loss experiment.
I dashed back to the iron, which I figured would be still hot enough to finish the job without re-plugging it. It was cooling fast, so to save time I unbuttoned and leaned over the top of the washing machine to iron out the remaining creases while I wore the shirt. The “caution” section of the iron’s manual probably devotes a paragraph or so to that approach to pressing garments, but who saves manuals?
Besides, even if I could find the manual, I had no idea where my reading glasses were. And after all, how can you expect a guy to find his glasses when he can’t see without his glasses? I would just have to wing it.
Ironing between the bottom buttons went well, but as I got to the top buttons the game changed. For one thing, I had to turn my head to the side to keep from scalding my chin as I pressed between the first and second buttons at the top. It’s hard to iron a shirt when you’re glancing out the corner of your eye through heat waves that ripple the blurry air like a flashback scene in a B-movie. The manual probably has a sentence on that hurdle, too, but … well, you know.
In the end the shirt was smooth – at least in the front – and I dashed to the bathroom and hopped up onto the scale, excited to see how much weight I had lost by shedding all those hefty wrinkles. I would call my son and tell him the news.
But to my surprise, the number on the scale remained unchanged.
My science gene kicked in as I analyzed the anomaly.
It turns out a dab of aloe burn-relief salve must be a lot heavier than it looks.
• Tom “T. R.” Kerth is a Sun City resident and retired English teacher from Park Ridge. He can be reached at email@example.com.