Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Achilles Heel

While we’re counting down to the mother's reveal, here’s the first of a handful of stories relating to the new bathroom tile.

The ever-faithful Lawrence arrived Monday morning as planned, loaded with humor, a can-do spirit and that joyous nature that sometimes makes my cynical side say: “No one can be that happy all the time. Not really.” But somehow I think Lawrence can.

His first order of business was to fix the wayward kitchen sink. Luckily, I hadn’t attempted to replace the shut-off valve; there was nothing wrong with it! The culprit was a tiny washer and spring. I ran to our local Ace (closest hardware store, even after Lowe’s opens later this year), got a replacement kit and less than 10 minutes later, we had hot water in the kitchen sink again! Meanwhile, I was busy preparing to lay the bathroom tile. I’ve never mixed thinset so I wasn’t sure about consistency. “You want it just about like the mortar you used for your bricks,” Lawrence coached. Oh. Well, I can handle that. While most of my bricks were dry-set, I’d mixed my share of mortar to build both the perimeter around the porch and the facing for the front stoop.

Then, I wasn’t sure how thick thinset is to go on. (They don’t call it thickset, after all, but how thin was too thin?) After warning me that tiling was “not his forte,” Lawrence spread some all over the floor and pressed one tile of the hex mosaics into place. Thinset immediately began to come up over the top, completely filling the grout lines. The next three tiles did the exact same thing.

I took over from Lawrence and immediately made thinset live up to its name. The next few tiles went down, seemed to grab almost immediately and oozed out thinset in one or two spots. Looks like I’ve got the hang of this, I said proudly.

When Lawrence came back to check on me, I was sailing right along. When I got up, those first tiles disturbed me. “I’m going to pull those up, take them out and hose them off, and just start over in that corner,” I told Lawrence. He volunteered for that job. “I’ve only ever done four tiles,” Lawrence said, almost apologetically. Really? I wondered what rooms and materials he’d used before.

“No,” Lawrence said. “I’ve only done four tiles. Those.” That made me laugh, in part, because it was comical that Lawrence – the poster child for jack-of-all-trades – had never done tile before! So I guess I’ve found Lawrence’s Achilles’ heel.