Thursday, April 22, 2010

Anita Saves the Day

Yesterday Ben Swartzendruber and Kevin Kauffman came over to do the final job in our new kitchen--putting in the tile backsplash.

[And yes, I know some of you would like to see pictures, but my camera hasn't been seen since "someone" borrowed it to take pictures for the American Girl photo contest, and Amy's isn't behaving and Ben's is falling apart. Sigh.]

So after spending way too many hours on the internet and driving around Eugene and even Portland looking for The Right Tile, I finally settled on basic white tile in 4" squares accented with these cool little 1" blue and white tiles I ordered from Mexico.

We experimented with various arrangements and finally settled on a stair-step design. Picture a flight of stairs with a small block sitting on the edge of each step, and then the next flight sits on top of that. Or something. It was supposed to be creative and interesting and so on.

"I've never done an arrangement like this," said Ben.

So the guys came, took over the kitchen, and started in on the west wall. I left and did some other stuff around the house and then marched through the kitchen doorway and stopped. And looked. And looked again.

There's a strange optical illusion that happens when you line up tiles in this fashion. They look like they're falling over, and all the lines look slanted.

I mentioned this. The guys stepped back and yeah, they could see it too. Ben took the level and checked, and the lines were perfectly straight.

What should I do? Was I just being silly or should I actually ask these poor men to pull those tiles off and start over? And if they did, what arrangement should we use?

I needed a second opinion badly. I called Paul at school. No, he said cheerfully and cold-heartedly, there's no way he can come home.

Oh dear. I felt like it was speak now or forever hold my peace, and--to continue the analogy--the situation felt like getting married--the sort of permanent decision that you're going to be stuck with for 30 years or more. And to stretch it further, it also felt like those awful dreams where you're about to get married to that weird guy in your old youth group, and you can't bring yourself to speak up and stop the process.

But at the same time it went against everything in my compliant nature to stop these two nice hardworking men and make them undo all that work.

I needed help. So I called my friend Regina from down the road, who would have been happy to come but was down in Eugene shopping. I tried calling Aunt Susie; she wasn't home. I called Anita the next neighbor east. She would be happy to come over as soon as she combed her hair.

And she did, about 5 minutes later.

She came into the kitchen, looked at the wall, and said, in effect, No, that will not work at all.

Oh how wonderful it was to have my desperate thoughts affirmed.

But what should we do?

"If you look at it from THIS angle," said Ben, "it looks fine. It won't be that big of a deal to pull them off and start over, and if we have the steps going up from the edge instead of down, it should take away that weird illusion."

So that's what they did. And it did, mostly.

Then they did the wall east of the fridge, and part of the sink wall, and then they went home. The design still messes with your mind just a bit when you look at it for too long, but when I put stuff back on the counters, like my paper towel holder and my utensil pitcher from Poland, it looked fine. Pretty, even, and creative, and unique, and other nice words.

We all need friends who will drop everything and come over and tell us if we're crazy or not.

Quote of the Day:
[THUMP thump thump]
Jenny: [coming into the kitchen looking pale] That was scary!
Me: What happened?
Jenny: I was skipping down the stairs and the toe of my shoe caught on the carpet and I almost fell.
Me: My stars. NO MORE skipping down the stairs!
Jenny: Why not?


  1. I can empathize with your dilemma exactly because the same thing happened to me! Those tile guys should learn that before they get too far into the job they need to step back and look at things from a distance! I came into the room midway through the process and could clearly see that some of the little tiles were being placed upside down, which definitely messed up the pattern. When I pointed it out they disagreed. So I asked them to come and look at it from where I was standing and then they had to agree that I was right! Fortunately they were still able to correct the problem! And it DOES take courage to interfere and say something!

  2. I've been there too. My sense is that men hate being challenged by a woman. So more than being afraid of being unnecessarily critical, you were afraid of challenging their ego. Takes some careful words, doesn't it? -Sharon