My floor buffer and I are in battle. Well, it's not exactly my floor buffer. I rented it from Home Depot during a moment of characteristic indecisiveness.
"Are you completely refinishing your floors or just polishing them?" the associate asked.
Lord Christ, what does he mean by completely refinish? I hate to do anything completely. The wood floors at my rental house are sixty-eight years old, and my real-estate agent Ramiro told me that if I wanted to sell the place, I'd need to pull up the carpet and refinish the floors. But once you pull up carpet, you're kinda committed to what's underneath. So before I jumped in whole hog, I decided to just pull up the carpet in the living room to see how it looked in that patch alone.
It did not look good. But what do I know about how sixty-eight-year-old wood floors are supposed to look when they've been sitting under carpet for who knows how long? I keep thinking of that mummy they pulled out of a glacier more than a decade ago that caused such a stir. "Wonderfully preserved," everybody said, when to me it looked like he'd been crapped out the ass of a diseased mastodon. Still, the mummy sparked a field day of speculation on how he might have died. Did he die in battle? Was he felled by the arrow of a rival warrior? Whatever happened to him, it's believed he escaped the battle and died at a distance after arranging his equipment next to him in a neat pile. "A fascinating specimen," scientists genuflected, thrilled because they had their own criteria and the mummy met it.
I was hoping maybe home buyers were like that, too. I know most want everything to be shiny and new and smelling of putty, and there are others who love things to be "wonderfully preserved." My friend once bought a house where the hardwood floors had been used as a collective toilet by all the neighborhood crack whores, yet he bought it because it still had half a historic fireplace mantle that remained "wonderfully preserved." My rental house doesn't exactly qualify as historic, what with it only being sixty-eight years old, but the wood floors kinda look like they'd been crapped out the ass of a diseased mastodon, so maybe that was a good thing.
"I think I'm just going to polish them," I told the Home Depot associate, who then explained the different grades of buffer pads I had to choose from. Evidently there are as many kinds of buffer pads as there are particles of silt that had matriculated through my old carpet and then fused with foot sweat and spilled beer to create the dried paste that now needed to be scraped up from the floor boards. So I simply picked the pad that was the most sandpapery of textures without it being actual sandpaper, because if it were actual sandpaper then I would be completely refinishing the floors, and I'm not ready to commit to that.
"Make sure you have the handle locked and you brace it against your leg before you turn it on," the Home Depot guy said, showing me the little switch, "otherwise the whole process is pretty hopeless."
A floor buffer looks like the kind of metal detector geriatrics use when they hunt for watches that fell from the pockets of spring breakers who copulate on the beach, only the buffer is enormous and made from melted communist statues. And it spins.
To get the thing to my property, I practically had to hook it to my bumper and tow it there. Once inside the house, I plugged it in and flipped the switch. The only thing is I forgot to lock the handle and brace it against my leg like the Home Depot guy advised me, and all I have to say is this: If a Home Depot guy ever uses the words "lock and brace" to you in a sentence regarding a piece of equipment, I suggest you put the piece of equipment down, surround it with flares and flag people away.
Because the amount of destruction that buffer did with the simple flipping of a switch was awe-inspiring. With the simple flipping of a switch, the buffer drum spun with the speed of a boat propeller, causing the whole contraption to spring from my fingers and hit the wall with the velocity of an airplane crash. I tried again a number of times, but no amount of bracing and locking could control it. Unfailingly, when I flipped the switch, the buffer would fly out of my hands and then around the room, crashing into things, including me, which was akin to getting hit by a wrecking ball. In the end, the buffer did nothing but beat the hell out of me and everything else in the room. Finally I simply decided to escape the battle and crawl, bleeding, to a distant corner. There I lay quietly, my equipment arranged next to me in a neat pile. Maybe the discovery of my remains will cause a stir, I thought. Maybe I will be considered a fascinating specimen.
Hollis Gillespie will host her Shocking Real-Life Memoir Writing Seminar in Charlotte on Sunday, Jan. 20. For more information, visit www.hollisgillespie.com.