One thing I have struggled with the most learning how to lay tile is a trait I have that could be a good quality or a defect. I’m not sure which. It’s the idea in my head that I think I can will anything I want to happen, the way I want it to happen. Sometimes it’s like hubris, but sometimes, I swear, I can do it. Like when I close my eyes and will one of my kids to get a base hit—or sometimes a double.
Not for the team, but because he or she really needed to make a hit at that particular time on that particular day in his or her awkward point in childhood. And I swear it works pretty much every time. But I kept remembering the words of one of my home improvement consultants when I first borrowed his wet saw and I was still fiercely afraid of it. He said, “Just take your time and let the saw do the work.” Neither of those things come naturally to me; taking my time, or letting someone (or something) do the work.
It was the same with golf and me. You may already know this, but the club heads have angles that do the work for you. They lift the ball—I think that’s called loft—into the air to provide the best landing for the distance and type of shot you are up against. The club head angles make it roll a little after it lands or stop short, or whatever it’s supposed to do. So all you have to do is focus on swinging smoothly and hitting the ball straight on.
I could never do that. I could never trust the club to do its job, which is why I never played much. In my mind I had to control the whole thing, so I scooped the ball off the fairway, which just caused huge chunks of grass to fly up in the air, or I hacked at it thinking I could submit the ball into going where I wanted just because I wanted it to go there.
Same with cutting tile. I kept pushing the tile in the direction I wanted it to go, thinking I was cutting a straight line, but then the blade would protest and stop when the pressure got to be too much for it. Finally, I figured out that the saw would cut straight if I just let it. Its straight diamond edged blade and cutting guide weren’t going to bend when all it had to do was cut through some ceramic and baked terra cotta. So I started letting the saw do its job and I did mine, and when the cuts looked crooked, I assumed it was my astigmatism or the unplumbed walls and moved on.
Today, however, I was working in a particularly tricky area between three doors that all come together in the corner of a small hallway. I had a short window of time to cut my tile outside before the rain stared, so I ran out, reminding myself to go slow and let the saw do the work, and I cut the few pieces I needed.
But when I got back inside to fit them into the various corners and openings where they belonged, only one of them fit. I know walls aren’t exactly square, but this time it seemed way off. So I got out my t-square and held it against one of the angles I had cut. It wasn’t square. Then I did the same with the next one, and the next one. All three angles were crooked. Instead of being ninety degrees they were more like somewhere between one-hundred-five and seventy-two.
So now what am I supposed to do with that? Apparently a wet saw can cut crooked if you put too much pressure one direction or the other against the blade. It was not a good day for me. I thought I had submitted to the truth only to find out it wasn’t the truth at all. Plus, I had to recut all the pieces. Then I lay them all down in the hall and when I got to the last piece–the one in the middle of the doorway–something really bad happened. It didn’t fit at all.
I was NOT going to drag that stupid wet saw out again. There was nothing I could do but will it to fit. And how was I gonna do that? I was up against two walls and stuck in the corner and the adhesive was starting to dry. So I hacked away at both sides of the door trim until the tile just barely fit. But there was no room for grout lines. So I willed the grout lines into existence. I grabbed the flat head screwdriver I’d used to gouge out the wood trim around the door and wedged it into where I wanted the grout lines to be. I twisted until I got enough space to shove grout spacers around three sides and that was it.
I couldn’t help but wonder the whole time how many paid professionals do this sort of thing alone in someone else’s basement. I figure they probably do it all the time because in the end no one will notice. They probably just do it without calling the tile an F’n bitch as loudly as possible because they don’t want anyone to know they messed up at those prices.
So I thought I was done, but it looks like crap, so maybe in this case a different approach would have been better. I guess I just need to figure out when it’s appropriate to will things into place in my little universe and when it isn’t. Like trying to will a person to be a certain way, or trying to make lemonade out of grapes, or trying to save things that don’t want to be saved.