Doing it right

| 11 Apr 2012 | 06:55

    Janelle was running late for work, so she just had time for a quick look at herself in the mirror as she was going out the door. What she saw there made her stop dead in her tracks.

    Her white blouse was — shudder! — wrinkled.

    Normally, this would not be a huge problem for her. Being a busy college student just one year removed from her teenage years, she wasn't exactly obsessive-compulsive about the neatness of her clothes (do the words Grunge Goddess mean anything to you?). But her boss at the restaurant where she works saw things a little differently. He had recently lectured the entire staff on the importance of appearance, and had specifically mentioned the need for servers to wear clean, unwrinkled blouses. As assistant manager, Janelle felt it was important to set an example for the other employees. But if she stopped to iron the blouse normally, she would be late —and promptness was an area of even greater concern to her boss.

    So she grabbed her iron — well, OK, she had to rummage around for a few minutes to find the blasted thing — and plugged it in and set it for low heat. Carefully holding her blouse away from her body, she proceeded to iron it while she was wearing it.

    It didn't seem like such a bad idea at first (although OSHA requires that I issue this official disclaimer: PLEASE DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME!). It seemed like a logical — if somewhat impulsive — answer to a pressing problem.

    If you'll pardon the expression.

    And it seemed to be working — until Janelle tried to iron the collar and accidentally ironed her neck by mistake. Then it suddenly seemed like a really dumb idea — and a really painful one, as well. It took more time to treat her burn than it would have taken to iron her shirt properly. And she spent a miserable shift dealing with the pain of the burn while trying to convince her leering co-workers that the unsightly mark was not.. well, you know.. a hickey.

    We've all been there, haven't we? Maybe we didn't try to iron something while we were wearing it (although I can't believe Janelle is the first to try it). But we've all done stuff like that. For me it was cutting my own hair (whoever said it only takes two weeks to recover from a bad haircut lied). For a former roommate it was trying to pull his own wisdom teeth (in his case, we had to rename them "idiot teeth"). For another college acquaintance, it was trying to change the oil in his car while the motor was still running (hey, he had a bad battery, and he wasn't sure he could start it again if he turned it off).

    We think we're going to save time or money or effort by doing something spontaneously creative, and we end up costing ourselves more of everything in the long run.

    "There's a right way and a wrong way of doing things," Dad used to tell me whenever I'd botch up the look of our yard by trying out a faster, easier, spontaneously creative way of pulling weeds or edging the lawn (remind me to tell you sometime about my idea for eliminating the need for lawn edging with generous applications of gasoline).

    "If a thing is worth doing," he said, "it's worth doing it right."

    And then he'd send me out to do the job again.

    Right. Don't get me wrong. I'm all for creativity and spontaneity. But there's a reason why certain things are done in certain ways. Those old, boring, predictable ways work.

    And they don't leave unsightly, painful marks on your neck.

    (To read more by Joseph B. Walker please go to