The kids were off with their dad this weekend, so Otto and I immediately set about making fancy romantic plans for ourselves. You know the sort—a run to the hardware store, a few hours spent cleaning up the office, meal-planning for the week and fetching groceries, and a trip to the local flooring place.
What? You don’t express your love for each other through home maintenance? Pfffft.
Actually (and this is probably more about me than you wanted to know) (sorry!) the very idea of tearing up the carpet in our living room really does get me all hot and bothered. (Oooh baby!) There are many, many things I love about this house, but you have to understand that when I first stood in it slightly over a year ago one of the first things out my mouth was “Well, the carpet in here has got to go. OBVIOUSLY.”
I think that the previous owners had a dog. Or maybe some cats. Or perhaps an entire herd of wildebeests; it’s hard to know, really. During that period of time between when we closed on the house and when we started filling it with our stuff, we needed to spend our extra money (you know, during that fateful interval when we owned THREE HOUSES we were just ROLLING in EXCESS CASH) on frivolous things like a new roof, so rather than replacing the floor just then, we spent our remaining pocket change on paint and spent three days making the walls look nice, at least.
We also had some awesome friends come over to help us paint and such, and one of them owns a Rainbow vacuum cleaner. I had thought I was all FANCY with my twelve-ton Kirby (Motto: Is the floor clean? It no longer matters, because after pushing this thing around you’ve pulled every muscle in your body and can’t bend over anymore to check!), but that Rainbow, man, that’s some fancy apparatus, right there. Anyway, our friend took her Rainbow and vacuumed every inch of the house, I think, and when she was doing the living room the water (Rainbows suck dirt into a water-filled receptacle, to make the squalor more visible) turned black OVER AND OVER. When she was done, the carpet was still ugly and stained and disgusting, but it no longer caused me to break out in hives to sit on the floor.
My POINT here is that I have put up with this carpet for NEARLY A YEAR, and I deserve a medal of commendation.
And a pretty new floor.
So on Saturday—having been informed by a fellow local homeowner that this particular flooring place was having a GREAT BIG SALE—we went out to take a look at flooring options.
Now, we knew heading out that we wanted to put hardwood in there. And we knew that hardwood ain’t cheap. Otto drove, because I needed both hands to hold the paper bag I was breathing into. If you know me, you know that IT DOES NOT MATTER that money had been set aside for this very purpose. I need a lot of time and several anxiety attacks to prepare for spending more than $10. It’s just how I am.
We arrived at Big Flooring Store and a tiny, peppy cheerleader type immediately descended upon us. “Hi!” she chirped. “Welcome to Big Flooring Store! My name is Weird Southern Male Name Given To Trendy Rich Girls! Can I help you find something today?” Otto and I looked at WSMNGTTRG and then back at each other, and I cleared my throat.
“Hi, WSMNGTTRG. We’re, uh, looking for a wood floor. Real wood, not engineered. Something relatively light in color and pretty hard. And we prefer a wider plank style. I think we probably just need to look around.” She may not have understood me, since I said all of that into my bag. I mean, I’m sure that’s why the first thing she tried to show us was pine, because “pretty hard” could’ve meant “the cheapest, softest wood you carry” when translated through brown paper. Right?
Anyway, we poked around and about 60 seconds was all it took for me to realize what poor Monkey must feel like EVERY SECOND OF EVERY DAY, because I became so overwhelmed by all of the choices that I really, really wanted to flee the store and never return.
Only the clear vision of our current carpet—and that one stain over by the couch that I have never been able to get out, WHAT IS THAT??—kept me rooted to the spot, discussing the relative merits of oak vs. exotic hardwoods. I even tried to talk Otto into a nice zebrawood, but given that it’s all stripey like a zebra FOR SOME REASON he thought it was too “busy” or something. WhatEVER.
And then… then, I saw it. The One. Not too dark, not too light. Actually a lovely mix of warm-toned woods, perfect to go with The Copper Wall of Despair. “Otto!” I squealed. “Look. Look! I love this!” As I showed it to him, WSMNGTTRG came back to see how we were doing and I showed it to her and she agreed that it was just lovely, and I it was then that I realized there were no prices on ANYTHING.
“Yeah, um, so, could you maybe look this up and let me know how much it costs?” I asked, trying to keep my voice casual. WSMNGTTRG agreed and found the price list and told me how much it was.
I went back to breathing into my paper bag while Otto was quick to quip that it was actually cheaper than most of the other choices (he’d looked at the list). Ouch.
Then I wandered off to look at some other things while Otto and WSMNGTTRG had a discussion of the relative merits of various thicknesses of flooring. He had been looking at the super-thick stuff, whereas this was a three-eighths and doesn’t that warp more easily? WSMNGTTRG launched into some explanation about how the thicker boards are actually more prone to warping than the thinner ones because they’re less pliable, or something, I DON’T KNOW, I was busy standing in the corner with my sample plank, whispering sweet nothings to it.
And then… then, we got into the Wood Discussion.
The flooring we liked is eucalyptus. Hooray for eucalyptus! It’s environmentally sustainable, quick-growing, and kind to small animals! But—how HARD is it? We do have two tasmanian devils in the house, not to mention one very klutzy adult. We need to know if this will hold up, naturally. So we ask WSMNGTTRG what she can tell us about eucalyptus.
Here dear WSMNGTTRG was clearly a bit stumped. After some thinking during while I swear I spotted a bit of steam curling out of her ears, she brought us over to a different section where a different manufacturer had a nice laminated Janka Scale available for our perusal. We looked up eucalyptus.
According to the scale, it had a hardness of approximately 800. In case you’re not walking around with a Janka Scale embedded in your brain, this was slightly harder than pine, but not by much. It wasn’t even close to the hardness of oak. In short, it was soft. Too soft.
I didn’t cry, but I sort of wanted to.
As I went to put the sample back on the rack, I made a discovery: Right next to the Jakarta Eucalyptus Natural (the one I loved) was something called Jakarta Tigerwood Natural, a very similar but slightly darker option. I grabbed it and ran back to Otto and WSMNGTTRG, who were still conferring over the Janka Scale.
“Wait!” I said, “look up tigerwood! See if it’s any harder!” Otto bent back to the chart and triumphantly reported back that tigerwood had a hardness of around 1500—plenty sturdy enough for our purposes. Hooray!
We looked around some more, but really, it was the Jakarta we loved. (Well, the Jakarata Eucalyptus. But I was willing to compromise!) So we went back to WSMNGTTRG finally and told her to go ahead and write up the quote.
She brought it back to us pretty quickly, which was good, because then I had plenty of time to stroke out before we had to sign the paperwork. WSMNGTTRG graciously offered to let us take the sample home to look at it in the room, too, and told us to just call back if the color wasn’t right or whatever.
We left and went to do some other things before we returned home. Once we finally got back to the house, I tossed the sample square into the middle of the living room floor and we stared at it in horror.
Too dark. Wayyyyyyy too dark. I may have started to tear up, a little.
“But but but we didn’t see anything else we liked!” I whined. “Except the eucalyptus and that was too soft!”
We did what anyone does in such a crisis, which is to say that we turned to Google. I started with the Mohawk website because both of the Jakarta floorings we’d liked were multi-tonal, and we hadn’t seen that from anyone else, so I figured MAYBE they had something ELSE that was multi-tonal that we just hadn’t seen.
Of course, they didn’t have anything else. But in looking at the Tigerwood and the Eucalyptus side-by-side online, I realize something. The tigerwood was listed as having a hardness of 940. MUCH lower than the Janka Scale at the store had indicated. And the eucalyptus? 1690. Much HIGHER than the scale at the store.
So I called the store and asked to speak to WSMNGTTRG. I had to hold for a while, but eventually she came on the line and I explained the problem: First, that the color we’d chosen wasn’t going to work, and second, WTF with the hardness ratings, lady?
She was baffled. “Let me do some research!” she offered. “I’ll call you RIGHT BACK!”
Three hours later we decided we’d just go back to the store. I mean, gas is only, what, $4/gallon now? Why not!
Of course it turned out that WSMNGTTRG had been simply SWAMPED with customers during our absence, probably owing to her extensive knowledge of… ummm… wood… and not the high heels she was wearing. But she did manage to rip herself away from her current customers when she found us talking with the manager.
“See,” Otto explained, “we looked up the woods on this chart, and picked this one because it’s listed as being much harder. But then when we got home, we looked it up on the Mohawk site, and Mohawk claims that the eucalyptus is twice as hard as the tigerwood, even though the Janka Scale says it’s the other way around.”
The manager did that head-bobbing congenial nodding thing that I hate. “Uh huh, uh huh, I see, yes, well, you’ve got to understand that none of these woods really exist.” We both stared at him. “Uh huh, uh huh, that’s right, you see, because these exotics? We just call them whatever. We just make up names for ’em! That’s right! Because when they cut it down in Brazil or whatever, it’s got some name that we can’t hardly pronounce! And so we look at it and say ‘Oh, that looks like birch!’ and then we bring it over here and call it Brazilian Birch, even though, you know, there’s no such thing as birches in Brazil. That’s a fact.”
“Ooooookay…” I said, “soooo… is this actually eucalyptus, or not? Because that’s an actual exotic wood variety.”
“Uh huh, uh huh, well, let’s just have a look here.” He surveyed the two samples, then declared, “See, now, here it is. This isn’t eucalyptus, and this isn’t tigerwood. That’s just the COLOR names. Uh huh, yes, both of these are actually made of Jakarta. That’s the wood name.”
Otto and I looked at each other again. At this point in our marriage we have that glance-telepathy thing pretty well down, and so he was able to read my glance as “WTF is this guy for real??” and I was able to read his glance as “This is going to make a stellar blog entry for you later, just try to go with it.”
“So you’re telling me these are made from the same wood, but two different colors?” I asked him.
“Uh huh, uh huh, yes ma’am,” the manager told me.
“But they have completely different hardnesses,” Otto pointed out, rather mildly, I thought. “That can’t be right.”
At that point, WSMNGTTRG reappeared, and we recapped for her. The manager—apparently mulling over Otto’s observation—told us he was going to go do some research and be right back.
We stood there with WSMNGTTRG, making small talk. She assured us that she’d been SO BUSY all day with the sale. Indeed.
The manager returned. “Well, I’ve done some research,” he announced. “And here is what I’ve found. Jakarta is actually a city in Indonesia!”
I couldn’t even look at Otto, this time. It was taking every ounce of my energy not to laugh. Otto, however, was willing to keep playing along.
“Yes!” my darling husband agreed. “A city with an extremely high poverty rate!”
Well, it turned out, of course, that the eucalyptus IS eucalyptus, despite the knowledge (or lack thereof—congratulations on “discovering” that Jakarta is a city, sir… you are now smarter than a first grader!) of the manager. Although it pained me to give money to this particular duo, a sale’s a sale, and we did end up purchasing the floor we’d wanted in the first place. After all of that.
At least now when I’m breathing into my paperbag I’ll have memories of our own little flooring-themed Who’s On First routine to keep me chuckling. Please remind me of this over the summer when they come to install it and we have to put all of our furniture in the kitchen for the day, okay?