Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Pertinent Question

Today I have come up with the perfect, define-the-candidate question for the next presidential debate. 

Have you ever painted a floor? 

Well.  Have YOU? 

If you have painted a floor, you likely understand the seriousness of the question. 

I have just painted my first floor. Today. And I feel pretty certain a successfully painted floor is no less a feat for a thoughtful, critical thinking, problem solving, patient person than whatever work it takes to earn a Nobel Peace Prize.

Bear with me.

For starters, if you've painted a floor it's likely because you were stuck with a mostly unbearable situation, coupled with some limits on what you could do to make it better.  I mean, why else would a person paint a floor?  Really.  There are contractors who happily come into your home and tear up an ugly floor to replace it with a new one.  But the limits are an issue. A significant one.

So you decide to paint.  The next step is research and advice.  You must plug the factors of your existing floor situation into the DIY equation.  What's the existing surface?  Can it be prepped without unrealistic expense and labor?  Is one solvent/sandpaper/paint/polyurethane better than another?  Is the woman who works the paint counter at the local hardware store as knowledgeable as you are?  When she says, "Well, I can't guarantee the results," do you abandon the project entirely or push on? 

 Once pushing on is chosen, there's the terribly un-fun work of preparation.  First, patching.  Yes, there are holes in the old floor that need to be filled.  Ugh.  Boring.  Perhaps, if you are me, this work is slightly outside your skill set.  But you are determined. 

Then comes mopping with a chemical that requires goggles and gloves, mopping again with water, scraping with a wire brush, mopping again.  (An aside for your amusement:  My bathroom floor has now been mopped more times in 24 hours than it has been in 24 years. I'm pretty sure of this.)  Once the tedious, unglamorous, back breaking work of mopping is finished, some real change begins.


I can't tell you what lengths I usually go to to avoid primer when I'm painting.  It just seems like a completely useless step in the process of changing something from one color to another.  I like quick results.  Primer just delays that satisfaction.  Right?

But this is a floor, for pity's sake.  That means it will endure human foot traffic and human droppage, and perhaps an occasional human mopping.  Primer seems like a reasonable - albeit unsatisfying - step in the process.  Some change is noticeable...but it's not mind blowing.  At priming, we are a long way from the finished product. 

And then, primer must dry.  Completely.  Does the phrase, "as exciting as watching paint dry" conjure up anything for you?  Still, this is a necessary step, I am told, if you want the cure to your previously mentioned unbearable floor situation to stick.  So you open the windows and wait.

The next day is the fun day.  New color on the floor.  You're excited as you pour the beautiful terra cotta paint out of the can and get brushes and rollers ready.  Oh, oops, except it's probably a good idea to tape the edges around the floor so your adjoining almost-new carpet doesn't also end up terra cotta.

Then - finally - the starter's pistol - "Woman, start your painting!"

If you have painted a floor, I'm sure you are laughing now.  You are thinking..."This nut is going to paint herself into a corner, sure as the world." 

Ha!  In fact, the phrase "painting yourself into a corner" is a very recurrent one for a writer of fiction, and I had a plan to avoid it.  My "absolute essentials" had been spirited from this bathroom to another and I had mapped out (during primer phase) the place to start the work and end it so I would not be trapped. 

But execution of the plan is not as easy as you might think.  First, there is paint involved, and paint always has a way of being the boss of the application situation.  There are also doors to consider. should paint behind them before you paint in front of them.  And toilets (if you're painting a bathroom floor). Painting around a toilet requires a generous helping of ambidextrous and head-standing talent when the floor around you is fresh, wet terra cotta.

Then there's the whole squatting/standing thing. Trust me when I tell to beware of getting caught in a tightly painted circle with nothing to grab onto to help yourself stand. Ouch. Who knew yoga would come through so amazingly in the middle of a painting project?

The ultimate goal, of course, is to paint yourself OUT of the room without stepping into anything.  Anything meaning, you know...paint.  Because if you do that, well...everyone will be able to follow your trail of failure for years to come. 

And then there's more waiting for paint to dry.  Which gives you waaaay too much time to think:

What if it doesn't dry?
What if it comes up with the tape?
What if it really can't stand up to the dripping water from the shower door?
What if my husband hates it?
Is painting a floor the stupidest thing anyone has ever done?
What if the woman at Lowes was right?
Yikes! How do I get to my clothes in the closet on the other side of the sticky floor? 

If you have painted a floor successfully - I applaud you and bow to your ingenuity and celebrate your genius.  You used limited resources to solve an unbearable problem.  I will assume you are walking on the floor, spilling things and mopping them up, and receiving lovely comments about your artistry, your industriousness, your patience. 

The jury is still out on mine. 

What about Governor Romney?  President Obama?  Do you think either man has tested his problem solving skills with a brush, a roller, and a gallon of thick, sticky goo?

Hmmmm.  Surely being President for three and a half years gives a person some floor painting cred. 

Still...a good question.


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