Monday, December 28, 2009

Out, Damned Spot

This afternoon, E needed my computer, so I sat down at his desk to check my email on his laptop. I immediately noticed a brown stain on the pale beige travertine floor next to the desk. I knew exactly what that stain was. I'd seen it before, but I'd managed to forget all about it. Now, I remembered my frenzied efforts to remove it several years ago and before long, found myself once again in the grip of temporary madness.

The stain that caught my eye today is actually one of  four identical marks. E and I first noticed them when we decided to move his electric piano about a foot to the left of its original position in order to make room for a file drawer on the other side of E's desk. When we lifted the piano, we saw that the synthetic footings of the piano had left unsightly brown stains on the travertine floor. I was horrified. E expressed mild dismay, but pointed out that the stains were small and that the two caused by the back legs of the piano were next to the wall and wouldn't be noticeable. That left the two front stains to contend with. E felt confident we could remove them.

I agreed that the stains probably could be removed if I hired a stone expert to buff the area professionally, but like a crazed Lady Macbeth, I wanted the spots out immediately. Unfortunately, no chemical I tried had any effect, except possibly to make the stains worse. I finally admitted defeat, reassuring myself that one day I'd pay someone to fix the damage. The piano is located on the far wall of the living room, behind the couch. Guests don't tend to walk over there and neither do I. Eventually, I moved on to other equally trivial worries and forgot all about the piano stains.

That was a few years ago. From time to time, when standing by the piano, I've noticed the stains and remarked on their unsightliness, but all in a rather detached way, as if I'd taken a special housekeeping antidepressant that allowed me to gaze on household mishaps with equanimity. Until today.

Sitting at E's desk, at slightly closer range than my normal standing position, the stain closest to me loomed large. Possessed by a sudden feverish energy, I felt driven to get rid of it. I searched the Internet, learned about poultices that can be applied, potions that can be sealed under plastic, and a few chemicals I hadn't previously tried. I discovered that when it comes to travertine, there's a difference between a stain and damage caused when a substance literally etches the surface of the stone.

Still seized by a compulsion to do something, I applied acetate, Goof-Off, and even Murphy Oil Soap, all to no avail. I knew they wouldn't work. I'd been through this before. It was a kind of temporary madness. Fortunately, I came to my senses before I created my own Shakespearean tragedy by asphyxiating myself with the fumes. I suggested to E that we go for a walk. Maybe some fresh air would do me good.

On my return, I avoided the piano area and settled on the couch, putting my feet up on the coffee table, the one with the water marks that won't come out. Madness for another day.


  1. Oh Barbara,

    You lighten my spirit. The same type of madness comes upon me when I can't find something. When my husband assures me it will eventually turn up, it seems to heighten my obsession to find it. I've literally spent days, searching under beds, in closets and at the bottom of drawers. I'm afraid if we had a well, I'd be lowering myself down by bucket just in case it had fallen in.

  2. We live with a travertine floor too, and I curse it time and again... The stains can't and won't come off as they have attacked the heart of the matter - all I can hope for when an accident happens is to be able to polish it as best as I can to make it look like a vein in the stone!
    The good thing is - no one else notices them...!

    Like you, I have learnt to avoid looking at the flaws, and sometimes think I wouldn't mind a few more if they spared me the harsher stuff in life that cannot go away, whatever polish you use!