February 20, 2014

WILLIAMS: To rip up the carpet or not?


---- — On Facebook, I watch videos that display the most amazing acts of courage – people getting out of a flying plane to stand on the wing, navigating high mountain paths via tiny footholds carved into rock, diving from high cliffs into tiny pools, crossing wide and deep gorges on frail swinging bridges. I also watch 43 drivers race at 200 mph, inches from 42 other cars doing the same in NASCAR every week.

Meanwhile, I’m contemplating whether I’m brave enough to take up the carpet in my living room and dining room. My landlord put this carpet down when I was still renting this house. That was in about 1990. I've despised it for that long. I’d complained about the ugly green shag that was here before so he went to North Carolina and came back with a roll of wine-colored carpet. “Oh, my God,” I thought as soon as I saw it, “maybe it’s cheap and won’t last long.”

But the carpet layer told me, “Your landlord must really think a lot of you. This is the best grade of carpet they make. It’s unusual to put it in a rental.” Oh, great.

Here it is 23 years later and it has worn like iron. There isn’t even a traffic path. It looks as good as the day they put it down, except for the layer of white hair that covers everything within hours after I run the sweeper. Then add in the additional tufts of fur that dot the floor for a little extra pizzazz. And all the tiny white dots that shine like mini-beacons on the vast expanse of claret floor. I don’t know where they come from but if you've ever had dark carpeting, you know what I mean. You can vacuum, then walk across the floor and there they are.

During the life of this carpet, I’ve bonded with my sweeper. It practically feels that we are joined at the hip. Whenever I get it out and unwind the cord, I imagine the pain on its face – “Oh, geez, I’m so tired, don’t I ever get a vacation?”

“Sorry, Buddy,” I say, patting its handle, “I feel exactly the same.”

If I’d saved all the hair in the sweeper bags over the years, I’d have enough to knit an entire wardrobe (if I knew how to knit). I’d have white and cream shawls and skirts and sweaters and socks.

Part of this is my own fault. I didn’t have to get a long-haired white cat and a long-haired white dog but I really don’t think my choice of pets should be dictated by my carpet.

I took all the carpeting up from my upstairs. The floors were the most beautiful hardwood. No scratches, no scrapes, no spots. Just lovely white oak throughout.

I took the carpet up in the kitchen and it, too, was hardwood. There was a bad place in front of the sink that John had to repair but once it was all stained you couldn’t even tell it had been there. Mom’s bedroom wasn’t carpeted and it was hardwood as well.

So I’m assuming the floors in the living room and dining room are the same. But what kind of shape are they in? That’s the question. The living room and dining room take some of the hardest living. If there are bangs and bruises and bumps, those rooms are probably where they’d be.

So, there’s my dilemma. Should I take up the hated but perfectly good carpeting? And what will I find underneath if I do?

That’s my version of the kind of nerve required to cross a vast chasm on a swinging bridge.

Vicki Williams is a columnist for the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached through the newspaper at