Friday, April 18, 2008


Today Joelma, who is Ruan's aunt and helps out at the house a couple days a week, cleaned the room we call my office while I was away at my 'real' office. That was fine, it was great in fact, but the problem is that she dragged a very heavy bunk bed across the floor to clean behind it. And left a huge gouge in my wood floor.

Brazilians, or at least the Bahians that I know, seem to have very little affection for wood as a building material. Especially for floors. As I mentioned in an earlier post, they all want to rip out their old wood floors and put in poured concrete ones, which they cover with tile. My office, the one outside my house, has a parquet wood floor- with cheap linoleum over the top of it. I don't know how many times I've passed a big pile of construction waste (which is constantly dumped by the side of the road throughout the city) with tons of little blocks from what was once a lovely parquet floor. Wood floors are to be gotten rid of.

I, on the other hand, was immediately drawn to the wood floors and the wooden stairway in my house. This was before I bought it, and despite the fact that they were in terrible shape. I hired one of the most absurdly incompetent contractors I've ever met to restore them and after a screaming fight, a threat to withhold payment, and about eight hours of my own labor with a disk sander, I ended up with beautiful, exotic hardwood floors that glow in the light. They are made of some kind of wood that is not commercially available anymore, a tiny sliver of the millions of acres of Atlantic Rainforest that don't exist anymore. I shoulda written down the name of it when I was told, but I didn't, or I'd trot it out right about now.

Ever since I refinished the floors it's been a battle to keep them safe. Joelma is not the first to scar them- everyone who has ever cleaned this house has left their mark (except for me, but I clean so little that I don't count). Before we moved in, I came to the house one day to discover our bedroom floor, which is the fanciest of them all, had been totally scuffed up just a week or so after it had been refinished. I freaked out and called the cable company to complain; the cable had been installed the day before. The servicemen came back, as did a supervisor, who asked me what I wanted. I told him I wanted my floor fixed. The supervisor explained to me that if I wanted to pursue the matter they would lose their jobs. The workmen, of course, denied having done the damage.

That was my only recourse.

The workers would be fired.

My floor would not be fixed.

That's the way things work here- if a waiter screws up your order and you complain, the waiter pays for your food. If you forget to pay the gas station attendant and drive off, the attendant pays for your gas. There's no compromise, there's no let-me-buy-you-a-gallon-of-polyurethane-for-your-trouble, it's axe the workers because they fucked up. Obviously I didn't want to do that, so I told them that I thought they weren't being entirely honest but I wasn't going to push it because I didn't think it was grounds for termination.

About a month later the same thing happened, when a guy came to assemble our new bedroom set. He dragged all the pieces of the wardrobe and the bed and the rest of it around as he was putting it together, and scratched my floor to shit. I called the store to complain, and all the manager would say was: "That's a difficult situation. That's a difficult situation." Why was it a difficult situation? Not because I was unhappy- because the guy was going to lose his job over it.

What the hell, man? I can't even complain about lousy service without someone losing their job? How do you keep an economy running like that? Why don't the people rise up and overthrow their callous employers? I did get the guy's phone number and I called him up at home. He denied everything and I lost it, I started screaming at him that I knew he did it and he did too and to stop lying to me. He finally broke down and admitted it, and begged me not to get him fired. I'm not making this up- that was exactly what he said. I was appeased by his admission and told him that I wasn't going to cost him his job, but he should be more careful in other people's houses.

The thing is that they don't even notice that they're fucking up my floor, and that I might mind. It's not even a blip on their radar. They're used to tile, which doesn't gouge. So I get all freaked out and pissed off and they wonder what the problem is. In Joelma's case, I told her not to drag things over the floor anymore, and that she'd left a big scratch in the floor. I didn't freak out and she didn't lose her job.

Sigh... at least we have only one wood floor to worry about. When this house was built, it had two- but the ground floor one is long gone. It's poured concrete and tile.

1 comment:

AkuTyger said...

Nice. I had carpet on the upper floor when I came here. About two weeks before Ju was born, I shelled out the money to have tile put in because who in their right mind installs carpet in a humid dusty country? My nanny still managed to scratching it though, dragging a table over it. I don't blame her, as I also would have had to drag said table.