Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Labor Day on the Floor


This had been the worst internal demolition job ever, and at last it was over. The last tenant had destroyed and defiled as best he could when evicted by the previous owner. The broken furniture, fetid fast food remnants, dog feces, unspeakably filthy appliances, rotted bedding - all gone. Likewise the filthy shag carpet and the greasy linoleum beneath - all removed over the course of many weeks. Summer of '04. Thanks for the memories. All that remains is an expanse of mostly-intact 3/8" plywood floorboard, original from the 1940s. Since it was fairly complete and fairly level, I decided to leave it there.

So, it is Labor Day Weekend, looking forward to a weekend of relaxation. Next week, the flooring guy will be coming to install the vinyl tile floor. But, that's next week, for now it's time to breathe the clean dust-free air of Labor Day Weekend.

Things changed, as they often do.

The last layer of plywood now has to be removed because it would interfere with the leveling of the new underlayment. (or some such nonsense - i'm a church organist, not a contractor!). If the layer is not removed, the tile work can't start next week. All I could see was my Labor Day weekend swirling down the drain with a sickening sucking noise.

Early Saturday morning, i donned my grubs, grabbed the hammers, channel locks and crowbars, and hit it with a vengeance. perhaps Sunday and Monday could be rescued. No such luck - this floor was built to last, screwed, glued, and pounded. It was held down by pallet nails (the screw kind that don't let go) and screws, usually too deteriorated to be unscrewed. Filthy -- sixty years of accumulated dust and powdered adhesive rising up in a malevolent cloud. Most of the nails popped through the old wood, so they each had to be removed individually. Did I mention it was Labor Day Weekend? It was also very hot.

Saturday blurred into Sunday, a numbing routine of ripping, piling scraps up behind the building, and pulling nails and screws. My glasses were caked with sweat and debris, but what was there to see? The wooden floor at last all removed, i was left with a matrix of nails and screws, and they all had to be removed. Knee pads, crow bar, hot.

From directly behind me, I mean, directly, a loud high voice demanded: "What are you doing?" I turned around painfully, and there stood an Oriental girl about 3 feet tall. In the hot dirty dust-choked world I'd been living in, she stood out like an apparition. Then I realized that it was one of the children from the Chinese restaurant next door. "I'm pulling out the nails" "Why?" "So they can put in a new floor" "What kind of floor?" She never ran out of questions. Her name was Lani, and she was very smart and very bored. But Lani was different. Instead of running around getting dirty, as other children would, breaking things, or hurting herself, Lani was interested in the project.

She watched, fascinated as I used the crowbar and hammer various ways, depending on how the nails were embedded. "You missed one", she said, and pointed right at one that, sure enough I had missed. Well, soon she wanted to try one, and, hoping she would be careful, I let her try one. Soon, we were both pulling nails. Lani had to be more careful, because she didn't want to get her clothes dirty, and she didn't, but she was lots closer to the ground, so she got better leverage. Although she came from a house where only Chinese was spoken, Lani's English pronunciation was careful and precise.

Over the rest of the afternoon, she told me everything she had learned in school. She made me ask her addition problems, as we worked, all combinations of numbers up to 15, she wasn't allowed to go any higher. And multiplication up to nine. Lani knew 2nd grade math up one side and down the other. She worked until her father came to get her.

The next day, she came back. I was sweeping up the last of the dusty gray dreck that covered the floor. Again, the little voice. "you missed one!" I couldn't even see it, it was halfway across the room. But on closer observation, there was indeed another one. And she found another and another. She said to me, "How come you can't see all those?" I explained that my glasses were dirty, and I couldn't see that well to begin with. I reversed the question: "How come you can see all those nails so well?" She told me, without hesitation: "Because I'm better Looking than you!"

Thanks for listening and contributing. For up-to-the-minute thoughts, come on over to twitter.com I'm @dimbulb52

1 comment:

Lydia said...

BWAAHHA!! That last line got me. And WOWZA on that renovation!! That has to feel good!! I'm shocked at your descrip of the beasts that lived there. What is wrong with people??