I knew they'd be gorgeous; I couldn't wait to have them installed. Somewhere, deep in the idealistic recesses of my mind, I envisioned that the entire process would be rewarding -- as if there would be a great unveiling on the final day when Chip and Joanna Gaines would sit me down on a couch, gesture broadly toward the new floors, and say, "Welcome home! We hope you guys live here happily every after."
But it wasn't quite like that. I had been forewarned about the dust and the noise, and I had expected the feeling of displacement that comes when you shuffle your living quarters. I hadn't anticipated that the workers would be loud and unprofessional, creating a tense atmosphere during the times when I was at home while they worked, or that they'd neglect to fill nail holes or caulk properly as they rushed to finish the job. I certainly hadn't anticipated that they'd somehow manage to place the one board that didn't match any other boards directly in the center of our hallway.
This board -- so unfortunately and prominently placed, so unnecessarily short and stubby -- simply refused to blend in with any of its neighboring boards. It was positioned in such a conspicuous location that I could spot it from every direction, and once it was seen, I couldn't unsee it.
I don't know how a singular hardwood plank could trigger a groundswell of memories, but that evening when the workers left, I had flashbacks to an earlier moment in life. I was 22, on the cusp of my college graduation. As a treat, I decided to get a haircut and, for the first (and only) time in my life, to splurge on highlights. It cost more money than I would normally spend on myself.
The results were disastrous. The haircut was shorter than anticipated; the highlights were stark, like my hair had been frosted instead of sunkissed. I remember looking at myself in the mirror, shocked and disappointed, but unable to articulate those reactions. I had paid and tipped the hairdresser, walked away from the salon, and then cried in the parking lot.
I never returned to express my disappointment. I never asked the hairdresser to fix the mistakes. I still cringe a little inwardly when I see pictures from graduation, partially because the haircut was so unflattering, but mostly because there was some unspoken shame that I didn't know how to advocate for myself to repair it.
Still thinking of that mishap from over a decade and a half ago, I sent a picture of my floors to my friend to ask if she could identify the misfit board. Her response was swift, reassuring me that I wasn't making it up. "That one right in the center? Absolutely."
Throughout the next day I regarded the board warily, wishing it would stop bothering me the longer I looked at it, but it never did. We had spent a lot of money on these floors, more than we'd normally spend on ourselves, but this time I came to a definitive, but different, conclusion: the board was wrong, and they'd need to fix it.
I contacted the flooring store and explained that we wouldn't be paying the remaining cost until the floor was finished properly. Once his schedule cleared, the foreman of the job returned. As I showed him the deviant plank and pointed out the unfinished caulking and nail holes, he shook his head. "I see exactly what you mean, and I apologize," he began. "We really should have done this right in the first place, but I'll make it right now."
And he did.
It wasn't quite like Chip Gaines wishing me happily-ever-after, but somehow that brief interaction brought immense closure -- on multiple levels.
It was wrong, but I advocated, and now it is right.