The day before yesterday, we had our contractor come back over here so that we could have a little chat about the state of our brand-new maple floor.
Otto and I have become effortlessly adept at playing Good Cop, Bad Cop together. Although, more accurately, I suppose in our case it’s more like Nice Guy, Crazy Melodramatic Woman.
(It’s a real stretch for me, of course, but I didn’t get that degree in theater for nothing!)
Mind you, I’m calm, I’m cordial, I don’t raise my voice, I don’t make accusations. I just say things like, “You’ve done a lot of work for us and you’ve always been extremely conscientious. And I have to tell you, we got back and we walked in here to look at the floor and I cried.” It helps if you visualize your objective, evoke a powerful sense memory, and—oh, fine, you got me. I’m lying. It mostly just helps if it’s TRUE. (It was.)
The contractor listened and nodded and offered various bits of information. Like that quite a lot of the wood was warped or damaged.
“Oh! Well, then, should we call the warehouse and complain? Was it defective? Was this worse than other wood you’ve worked with?” I am nothing if not ready to throw the blame to someone else, you see. It’s one of my finer qualities.
“Well, no,” he said, “I don’t think it was, really, I’m just telling you….”
Right. He is just telling me it’s the wood’s fault, UNLESS I want to call the place I bought it from and complain, in which case, WHOOPS, probably not the wood’s fault! I mean, it was, but it wasn’t!
I half-expected him to suggest that I look into his eyes and FEEL VERY SLEEPY.
4-inch wide boards are harder to work with than the thinner ones, he said. When there’s some warping it’s harder to beat them back into shape, especially with a wood as hard as maple. And, well, it was very difficult to get the wood tight to the wall, there, see where he’d pushed as hard as he could, but there were still gaps (and now a few dings in the baseboard for his trouble)? Well, that’s just how it goes sometimes….
Basically, it was clear to me that he knew the installation wasn’t up to snuff. He was sorry about that—genuinely sorry—and willing to try to fix it. And in the face of that, all fantasies I had about demanding a whole new floor or a reduction in price sort of evaporated. I don’t know WHY the job wasn’t done right, and I do think some of it boils down to sloppiness, but he said he’d do whatever needed to happen to make it right, and as he has a circular saw but no wand, that had to be good enough.
Otto left on his trip and yesterday the contractor came back to fix the floor.
First there was the matter of two boards that had been badly scratched by someone dragging a tool across them. I know the floor is going to get scratched, I do. But I WOULD LIKE TO BE THE ONE TO SCRATCH IT. So those boards were drilled out and new ones put down. Fine. Next came the board in the middle of the dining room that had a long edge which appeared to have been nibbled on by squirrels. (“Oh, that’s not good. How did we not notice that?”) He set to work drilling that one out, and when I heard swearing I came back to find that in removing the defective board, a neighboring one had split, as well. Those were replaced.
In trying to get the boards close to the wall a bit tighter, he tried some strategically placed nails to firm everything up… and the final nail split the board, which then had to be replaced.
There was missing trim to be cut and existing trim that was crooked that needed to be redone. A whole can of foam went into the space around the new door (which has been leaking hot, moist air onto MY PRESHUS VENETIAN PLASTER and causing me apoplexy). Half a tube of wood putty went into too many cracks to count, all of which are still glaringly obvious to me, but maybe over time (and under furniture) it’ll all blend in, eventually.
I hopped on a conference call in the afternoon while he was still working, and when my callers asked how I was I couldn’t resist mentioning that I was just FINE AND DANDY except for the part where my brand new floor was STILL being fixed, HAHA, SO FUNNY, EXCUSE THE NOISE, and P.S. please kill me now.
All in all, he was here about seven hours. At the end, he billed me the original estimate for installation; part of me thought that was too much, and the rest of me told that part of me to stop being such a cranky bitch, because the poor guy had just worked FOR FREE for an entire day. I wrote him his check and thanked him. He left, and I walked out of my office and into the family room.
Where I immediately got a huge splinter stuck in my heel. Of course.
Otto called to check in, late last night, and I reported on the day’s activities.
“You know,” he said, “I was at [colleague’s name]’s house for dinner, tonight, and he has wood floors. I couldn’t stop staring at them. And do you know what I saw, when I looked really close?”
“Gaps?” I said, figuring that small pink eels would make for a better story, but were less likely.
“Yeah,” he said. “Lots of little gaps. I mean, I never would’ve noticed. You never WOULD notice, normally, but I just keep staring at it all night. I don’t think he saw me doing it, but I was concentrating on it so hard that I nearly walked into a wall on my way out.”
So, you know, it’s all fine. It’s lovely. And on the bright side, I never want to change anything in this house ever again. I find myself strangely attached to the worn blue vinyl and battered cabinets in the kitchen! The windows that barely open! The gouged walls! Those ridiculous popcorn ceilings!
They’re all PERFECT just the way they are, AMEN.