I enjoy traveling, although the past week in Switzerland and France has been rather grueling. One of the aspects I like most is seeing how cultures are different, and the practical application of that difference. From the new and unexpected breakfast selections to the odd bathroom appliances, I find the differences a refreshing reflection on the evolution of the human condition.
But one cultural oddity drove me up the wall: the lack of irons in the hotel rooms. Although I’ve seen those videos on how to fold shirts so they don’t wrinkle, I have never been able to master that feat of science. My usual business trip routine is to arrive late in the evening, open up my bag, and iron the shirts I’ll need for that particular stay.
In the U.S. there is always an iron and ironing board in the closet. It can be the Four Seasons or the Motel 6, but they are all the same in this regard. Ok, perhaps with the exception of the quality of the ironing board. I prefer the cedar wood tables of the Four Seasons, but I can iron a shirt just as well on the creaky metal table of the Motel 6, although I sometimes need to put a towel over the stains.
Switzerland, and most of Europe for that matter, is a different story. A story I always forget, otherwise sacrifice some weight and pack another portable appliance. There is almost never an iron in the hotel room. Not only that, you can’t even ask for one. They aren’t available. On this latest trip I stayed in a variety of places, from the Marriott Zurich with the typical hotel chain flavor, the budget Novotel in Besancon, the modern simplicity of the Beaulac in Neuchatel, to the rather over-the-top luxury of the Hotel Kempinski in Geneva. No irons, and no irons available.
The apparent cultural nuance in Europe is to have your shirts pressed by the hotel, at a cost ranging from about $5 to $14 at the Kempinski. It takes a professional a mere minute to press a shirt, so that works out to… well, quite a nice hourly profit. Not only that, but you must get your shirts in by 9am in order to have them back by 5pm the same day. So if you arrive late at night, the chances are you won’t be able to get your shirt pressed in time for your 9am meeting, unless you pay a 100% surcharge after a "discussion" with the hotel service staff.
My time is wasted, other people’s time is wasted, my money is wasted. Yes, I supposed I should learn how to fold a wrinkle-free shirt. But I have no problem ironing my own shirts. I just wish I could.