Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Extreme ironing

As noted, Trevor is away on holiday and has graciously arranged for Troy, Phil, and I to help with some postings here in his absence.

I'll start with a story about a trip by car from Rhode Island to Fort Kent, Maine. The car was borrowed from my brother-in-law. Six of us fit into the sedan for the 12-13 hour ride north. My mother brought along a small (travel version) ironing board. Yes, we were going to be staying at a hotel but this was in the days well before finding an iron and ironing board in your hotel room was standard. This trip was for my brother's wedding. Mother thought it was very important that we all were dressed properly. Something, whether a dress, or suit coat, or shirt, or whatever might need some touching up after the trip, hence the board and iron. However, the board did not fit into the trunk so it was destined to ride on the laps of those in the back seat. It was handy for playing cards to pass the time away but other than that the board began to get in the way.

The board earned a few choice names from the back seat passengers as they took turns being the primary holder. It was long enough, about 3 feet, to spread across two people at a time. The person in the middle never seemed to get away from it at all. Eventually, on one of the pit stops, the passengers began rotating spots to get a break from the board. We did make it without a mishap to Ft. Kent. The wedding was a grand success partly due to our clothes being so well pressed for the event. No doubt this single fact has contributed to my brother and sister-in-law celebrating their 25 wedding anniversary this September.

At the beginning of August, I joined a group of folks to do a hike up Mount Mansfield, Vermont. We were all hiking to support our friend Marty on his 67th and final ascent of a peak more than 4,000 feet above sea level in New England. He picked a good day. Gorgeous weather (70 F, no humidity, clear skies) and a good mountain to be the last one on the list. Mount Mansfield peaks at 4,393 feet and is the high point for the State of Vermont. The group rendezvoused at the trail head in Underhill State Park. For additional details, Marty filed a trip report with the View from the Top that you can read. My photo essay of the day can be found here. The main point of this part of the story is shown in this picture which was taken on the summit.

We met up and I talked with the "extreme ironing man"”. This was something I had never seen in my previous hikes so I had to find out more. We did have a brief conversation as he mounted the board to his day pack. He seemed to be on a schedule so I did not pursue the 20 questions that where ready to be asked. His collared shirt was nicely pressed as headed down the trail.

When I got down from the mountain I was anxious to do some research on this phenomenon. Mr. Extreme Ironing had mentioned that he had a book about extreme ironing.

Someone had written a book about extreme ironing? Yes, indeed. This was true.

It turns out that a Leicester lad by the name of Phil Smith in 1997 had the urge to go hiking but was also faced with a pile of ironing to do in order to have some clothes to wear for the week ahead. He decided to combine the two and took part of the ironing with him on the hike. Others have since taken this form of ironing to further extremes as photos on the web site and book will attest.

So my mother may have been on to something 25 years ago and we did not realize it!

What does this have to do with Simplicity?

To be different, to be great, to find your niche does not mean you need to do anything really extreme. Phil Smith took two simple activities; one purely domestic (ironing) and one active outdoor (hiking) and put them together. Hiking, a rather pleasurable if somewhat strenuous activity, combined with ironing, a somewhat tedious but necessary domestic activity. He made an opportunity. He found a niche. He did something great by asking a simple question: Why not?

Why can't I do my ironing on my hike?

We may not all be as successful as Phil. We may not be the first to find the next big thing. It certainly won't happen to us if we don't ask Why or Why not?

So what are you going to why not about?

When are you going to ask why?

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Phil Gerbyshak said...

Interesting. Extreme ironing as a simple lesson for us all. Whoda thunk it?

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

Nice piece. Just a couple of quick things. The guy in the pic isn't me (EI does seem to have an awful lot of followers). But I like the idea that EI is a demonstration of simplicity. It's probably why it's taken off, I guess.

Iron on
Phil 'Steam' Shaw.
EI Founder