Astroturf would’ve been easier

By Mir
April 28, 2008

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.

Uh oh.

“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?

*When I asked Otto, later, why in the world he made the comment about Jakarta’s poverty rate, he said he’d just wanted to be a part of the conversation, since this guy seemed to be all about discoveries. Heh.


  1. RuthWells

    I love Otto.

  2. HG

    I would have lost it. I don’t do well around salespeople; my fight or flee kicks in hard with both and neither is pretty.

  3. Jessica @ A Bushel and a Peck

    It will all be worth it when the carpet it gone. I have one that sounds very similar in my family room and I am counting down the days till we can rip it out.

    Also, Otto cracks me up. I would not have been able to keep a straight face with that comment.

  4. Caution

    I am so glad I read this post on a chilly, gray Monday morning. The laugh compensated for the weather!

  5. Katie

    You don’t know how many times I’ve gone to the store to make a “big purchase” and have known more about the item than the salesperson. Granted I’m sure they aren’t really trained in everything little thing they sell and are paid in pennies but still, it’s a bit annoying.

    Congrats on your new flooring!

  6. Cheryl

    I wanna shop with Otto!!
    We are having our hardwood (natural light oak) installed this week. We have been living on a very dusty sub-floor with stacks of randomly dumped boxes of flooring for a week now. The horrible, horrible carpet is gone from the living room and hallway, and the equally horrible lino is gone from the kitchen/dining room – and believe me, even the dusty sub-floor is better! We also painted one feature wall in the living room, it is sorta the same deep red color as the background on your blog! Hubby and I went looking for new accessories yesterday for our living room and kitchen/dining room, and I think his head exploded just a little bit. He just does not seem to understand that other than the couch, love seat and armchair, nothing else from before can go back into these rooms!!! I can hardly wait for this home-improvement project to be done, we have been waiting forever to be able to do this. Your choice of hardwood sounds fabulous, Mir!!!

  7. TNMom

    I’m giggling over here. My DH is a certified master flooring installer and I know he’ll be amused by your blog. Good luck with the installation, it’ll be worth it in the end because you will LOVE IT!

  8. Marissa

    OHMIGOD! Wow Jakarta is a city, who knew.

    My lovely husband, from Atlanta, who spent his 20’s in DC, and now lives in Buffalo, NY has a theory about the South. See it’s warm there most of the year, so kids spend more time outside running around and less time inside reading books. In the North it’s too cold to play outside for several months and kids spend the time indoors, reading and apparently watching educational TV. Therefore people from the North are smarter, or at least know a lot more “stuff.”

    I’d be less likely to post such a northern elitist comment if it hadn’t come from a Southerner himself!

  9. E

    Congratulations on the new flooring — it will look beautiful, I’m sure.

    And good for you(!)purchasing real wood. Ours — which was listed as hardwood when we bought the house — is actually a laminate, and I’m not crazy about it. See, it’s scratched and scarred, and I always thought we could just refinish it and make it all better. But it turns out you can’t refinish the laminate? Or something? Bah. Next house I’m putting down concrete and calling it good.

  10. sumo

    The saleswoman’s name is Bubba?

  11. Judy

    And I thought my husband and I were the only ones that went to Lowes on date night. Hey, it’s time without the kids, I’ll take what I can get. LOL

  12. Lisa

    OMG! I don’t know how you did it! I would have been breathing into the paper bag to keep my head from exploding when the manager explained his Jakarta discovery – my patience with salespeople is so limited. The huz would have had to take over from there…

  13. Kris

    OOOh, nooooooo…. Shred that contract. Take your money and go elsewhere. Seriously. This is not going to end well. Yikes.

  14. Aimee

    I do not know HOW you kept a straight face after the manager’s “discovery” of Jakarta. I would have lost it, and no amount of studiously not-looking at my husband would have helped.

    Sorry it was so stressful, but Otto’s telepathy was right. This did in fact make a STELLAR blog entry!

  15. Cheryl

    LOVE the wood but have to wonder where the store finds its employees.

  16. Kristi

    We went through that two years ago, or rather, I went through that because my husband? No opinion on the matter. Which is just as well because his opinion wouldn’t have really mattered. I chose hickory, which is very hard and has the multi-tonal quality you like, mixed with light and medium tones.

    If you visit that above, you can see pictures.

    Those salespeople?? Totally clueless.

  17. Lindsay

    Quite possibly my fave entry I have read on your site. With spring coming/here, tis the season for these types of hi jinks at the home stores. Best get my own paper bag out.

  18. Tammy

    LOL @ sumo

    Let’s hope that their installers are sub contractors and not employees of the Big Flooring Store, given their RIGOROUS hiring standards!

  19. Niki

    I so would have walked out at that point. When people who SHOULD know about the actual product that they’re selling, but don’t, and just make something up, figuring that you (the stupid consumer) will just believe it, then it’s time to walk. After telling them that you know that what they said is crap, of course. There is a woman in a hoity-toity clothing store who will no longer look me in the eye because I called her on what she was referring to as “privacy laws”. I know that a sale is a sale, but (and I’m apparently channeling my mother here) it’s the principle of the thing. Educate your employees to educate their customers. Man, there’s a reason I don’t work in retail anymore!

  20. The Other Leanne

    Cool flooring! A few words of caution, though…
    “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?”

    Your furniture will be in the kitchen for more than a day, because you will clear it out the day before and you won’t put it back until the day after the job is done. And it will take more than one day to install, because there is always a glitch. And then are you going to stain/varnish this beautiful wood? because you will have to vacate the house ocmpletely because of the fumes.

    Just sayin’it might be a week, so be prepared.

  21. The Other Leanne

    Need more coffee. “ocmpletely” is completely misspelled.

  22. Ani

    the JAKARTA wood! Of course! That makes perfect sense. WTH?

    Thanks for the laugh, it’s made my day.

  23. pam

    Unfortunately I was eating watermelon when I discovered, via the brilliant manager’s discovery above, Jakarta was in fact a city in Indonesia. I assume you know what happened to the watermelon seeds ;)

  24. Niz

    “Well, I’ve done some research,” he announced. “And here is what I’ve found. Jakarta is actually a city in Indonesia!”

    Ah, thank you for making me laugh aloud at work. Best post about flooring ever.

  25. Headless Mom

    Hmmm… Makes me want to deal with my ugly BLUE! carpet for a wee bit longer.

    Well, at least I’m armed with the knowledge that Jakarta is a CITY, for pete’s sake.

  26. MomCat

    Maybe the manager was trying to diffuse the tense situation of this almost-fraud of floor naming with…stupidity?

  27. jennielynn

    And now we see why thay are working in Big Flooring Store and not, say, performing brain surgery!

  28. Chewie

    no. Seriously?! “I’ve done some RESEARCH and Jakarta is a city in Indonesia”….seriously. Just no.

    Aren’t you amazed at how easy it is to know as much/more than the typical person who is in the position of knowing something?



  29. steve

    Ya mean Otto’s not going to put the floor in himself? He’s getting LAZY!

    Hope to see y’all soon back here in cold rainyland!

  30. Mom24

    It’s a really, really pretty floor. I bet you will love it. My husband sells flooring–commercial flooring. They also do the name game thing (the manufacturers) to make it more difficult for people to comparison shop.

    BTW–you might want to ask around about this place’s installers. The horror stories I have heard! You definitely might want to call back the cheerleader and explain that you really want the best installers they have–and no all their crews are not WONDERFUL–it just doesn’t happen that way. Good luck. At the end of the process, I’m sure it will be wonderful.

  31. Heidi

    [In Craig Ferguson voice] Jakarta is a city? Who knew? I KNOW!

    And Sumo beat me to the speculation of WSMNGTTRG’s name being Bubba…

  32. The Other Other Dawn

    I, too, have horrid carpet and flooring in my house. And this was going to be the year I fixed that. But after reading this, I am reminded of how terrible a process that will be.

    Never mind breathing into the bag, I’m just going to put the bag completely over my head so I don’t see my floors anymore.

  33. Dawn

    “Well, I’ve done some research,” he announced. “And here is what I’ve found. Jakarta is actually a city in Indonesia!”

    Dude. I snorted. You are a better woman than me. There is NO WAY I could have kept a straight face at that point.

    And Otto rocks.

    Please tell me you did not seriously give these idiots your money??

  34. Sue

    OMG! Love that Otto! Never heard of a Jakarta tree… hmmm… just make sure you are home when they bring the wood so you can see for yourself that it’s the same stuff. I’m now thanking the Lord that my wood floors (battered and scratched though they may be) were already here when we bought our house. Not sure I could have done all that without passing out, even with the paper bag.

  35. Cassie

    ::giggle:: I probably would have bust out laughing and caused a scene. Nicely done!

  36. Megan

    And here I thought Jakarta was a real purty name for a girl. Like Jakarta-Ninja Simone.

    Blast you and your lovely new wood floor. I will have to seethe in jealousy for a while and think sadly about my poor, poor nasty carpet.

  37. Jenny

    I think we are going to nod knowingly and say, “That must be the Brazilian Birch” the next time this happens to us.

    You’re (clearly) way smarter than me, but did you buy enough to floor *all* the floor that you eventually want redone? Because five (5!) years ago, we decided to only do *part* of what we *really* wanted done because we were afraid we couldn’t afford it at the time, but shockingly, we have not, in the intervening five years, wanted to haul all the furniture out of the other rooms so that we could do the rest. And we could have stuck with the ramen for a few more months and just done it all at once. But, noooooo…..

  38. Dawn

    I take back my previous comment “Please tell me you did not seriously give these idiots your money??” It did not come out the way I intended and I am sorry.

  39. Noelle

    I have to give it to you, because if a store put me through all that, I would not have done business with them! I hope it looks great when you get it.

  40. David

    A wise choice, madam, for as you know, Eucalyptus has an extremely low coefficient of friction relative to Palmetto bugs, thus allowing you to step on them before they can escape and breed. You’ll also be pleased to know that Eucalyptus resists the sort of stains that can result from the previously mentioned activity. Luck, lucky you! = )

  41. Heidi D

    Only you can make the stress of finding new hardwood flooring seem hilarious… I’m laughing so hard right now. When it comes to too many choices, I about have a nervous break-down every time.
    And thank you to the person who posted the pics of the hickory flooring! That’s exactly what I’ve been looking for but didn’t know the name of it. I so want that someday in my house.

  42. Brigitte

    Ech, David, THAT’S probably what the mysterious carpet stain is!

    I guess we got lucky when we got our hardwood floor. The only problem we had was that we actually WANTED wide-board, soft pine so it would get beat-up and look ancient, but since nobody else wanted that, it wasn’t readily available. Therefore (oddly enough) it would have been more expensive.

    And we went with pre-finished flooring. Not QUITE as pretty, but goes in much faster with no fumes or wait-time.

  43. Liza

    Truly, one of your best.

    I hope this floor turns out to be real wood, that is actually hard, and installed with less hilarious blogging potential.

  44. Brown Eyed Girl

    Oh heavens..this was exactly what I needed….cuz not only was it funny but incredibly informative…we’re going to look at flooring next week.

  45. themuttprincess

    That is too funny. Although extremely painful to imagine.

  46. Heather

    Jakarta! Who knew!
    Also, in my head the sales girl’s name is Payton. It just it.

  47. Bakerina

    Remember those eeeenormous chocolate chip cookies you and I made (I mean, we made them in our separate kitchens but we *compared notes* on them) once upon a time? You so deserve a whole batch — no, two whole batches, one for you and one for Otto — for getting through all that without your heads exploding. Heck, I’m thinking you deserve better than enormous cookies. Maybe a cake as big as a satellite dish…

    (Hello, Mir. I’m sorry I’ve been such a slacktacular slug about saying hello and keeping in touch. Apparently you’ve had a few life changes since I last showed my mewling, puking head around here. ;)

  48. Flea

    You frighten me. We replaced the carpet when we moved into current house (I think someone rebuilt an engine in the living room, and the upstairs smelled like rabbit), but our current nightmare is the siding. Multiple contractors coming out to give estimates soon. I’ll print this post to read when it turns ugly here.

  49. InterstellarLass

    Oh dear gawd. What a nightmare! And I never trust sales-kids. I usually say ‘Are you sure’ and ‘Can you check’ a LOT. You’re going to have a lovely floor though!

  50. Astrogirl

    Wow, wow, and – um – wow. I’m with the rest of the commenters – you are a saint, girl, for not bursting out in fits of uncontrollable laughter at those two nincompoops.

    You have done a great thing here, though. Your sacrifice in going through this and posting the experience for the amusement of the rest of us will earn you quite the spot in heaven :).

    It all makes me much, much happier that we are years from being ready to install flooring in the bunker (see the pics at my blog if you have any doubts) – cement floors and unfinished drywall are looking better and better.

    Now, of course, you are going to have to post pics when it’s all done. We can’t wait!

  51. Deb

    Very funny. But I have to agree with people above, are you sure you want to have them install it? Will their installers be any more intelligent? Don’t you hate when you have to rely on other people to do something for you…ick!!

  52. ImpostorMom

    Um how did that guy become a manager of anything much less a flooring store?

  53. hermia

    Suddenly I feel suspicious of the “Brazilian cherry” floor in my living room…

    I am also flashing back to a date I had fresh out of college. The nice young man made a huge gaffe in a current events discussion about Indonesia. I decided that perhaps it just wasn’t a big deal that he was unaware of the riots plastered all over the news. But an hour later when he asked me, in all seriousness, if I had drawn the picture hanging on my living room wall myself, I knew there would be no second date. It was a framed Picasso print. The dove with the flowers. With Picasso written in the corner.

    At least I didn’t have to buy anything from him. But he was one of the interviewers my then-fiance met with while applying for a job two years later. Hubby didn’t get the job. And, yes, Mr. Suhart-who? most certainly knew of the connection.

  54. Dawn

    Otto is the best. That is all.

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