8.12.04

Ah, to je svoboda!

I recently had my bedroom floor refinished. When I moved in here a little over a year ago, the floor was covered by a butt-ugly grey tarpaulin that the landlord insisted was a carpet. This had been dumped on top of a strata of linoleum that dated from the Cretacious period. Under that was a parquet floor.

Why would anyone want to cover up ornamental flooring? Painting the ceiling? Temporary feeding lot for a small herd of angus? Extended glaciation?

Most people are loathe to get scratches on their floor; hence bačkory. But the landlord's fear of scratches is positively pathological. My hallway, for example, has a painted concrete floor -- no lino, no tile, just concrete, with a runner carpet down the middle. The runner is there (was there -- it's now rolled up in a corner) presumably to prevent scratching of the paint. The paint is there presumably to prevent scratching of the concrete.

The landlord has covered an alarming percentage of the surfaces in my flat with contact paper -- a wardrobe, a vanity desk, kitchen counters and the tiled surfaces in the bathroom. Let me say that again: the tile in my bathroom is covered with contact paper.

Anyway, I suggested when I moved in that, gee, it sure would be great to see that wooden floor all prettied up and shiny. The landlord's silence lasted about nine months until I suggested that I'd like to resurface the floor myself. He said no friggin way, but that if I wanted it done, he'd get it done by professionals. Sounds reasonable, I thought. I'm a devout amateur myself, but I understand the respect many people have for professionals and their gear.

I asked if the floor could be done last summer while I was in Karlovy Vary. No friggin way, the landlord said -- he and the family would be at their country home. I sucked it up and proposed November, when I would be in the US. Agreed.

So before I left, I moved all the furniture out of the bedroom. The landlord was very concerned that the painted concrete floor in the hallway be protected from scratches when the floor professionals arrived with their gear, so he gave me about a square meter of thin cotton rag to cover the hall floor with.

When I returned to Prague, I had a lovely parquet floor in my bedroom. Jeff, who had helped me move the furniture out of the bedroom also helped me bring it back in. It became clear in the process he's picked up a little of the landlord's pathology about scratches, to the extent I think he was hallucinating. 'Is that a scratch?' he asked more than once. 'Did we do that? Oh shit.' Then he proceeds to use my dishwashing sponge to remove phantom scratches from the new floor. (But hey, what are friends for?)

Now I feel perfectly free to do as I please with the floor. I drag furniture across it. I spill drinks on it. I let the dog walk on it. It's a floor. But I imagine the landlord looking at it at some point in the future and shedding a tears of rage when he sees the wear and tear of ordinary living before burying the parquet again under an avalanche of linoleum and carpeting.

I saw this letter to the Times this morning, and I thought 'What a concept: to be able to walk around without ID.' Doug wrote about this some time ago. And for all my complaining about the US, citizens there can still, often, for the time being, walk around without fear of being fined fifty bucks for not carrying a federal ID card.

'But if a policeman stops you in the street, how does he know you are truthfully identifying yourself?' He doesn't. In a free society, the line between security and freedom can become very fine. I'm not free to commit random acts of violence, for example, but I am free to walk down the street without proof that I don't go around committing random acts of violence.

Of course, without such controls, random acts of violence will occur. Without a manky grey carpet, I will get scratches on my floor. I'd sooner see the floor.

5 Comments:

At 2:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Only one correction: that was my very own pathology, not about scratches but fear of reprisal! Galciating an extended painting of a herd of angus.

 
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