TODAY'S TOPIC FOR HOMEOWNERS IS: How to install a tile floor.
Any home decorator will tell you that there is nothing quite like a tile floor for transforming an ordinary room into an ordinary room that has tile on the floor.
But if you're like most homeowners, you think that laying tile is a job for the ''pros.'' Boy, are you ever stupid! Because the truth is that anybody can do it! All it takes is a little planning, the right materials, and a Fire Rescue unit.
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Consider the true story of a woman in Linthicum, Md., who decided to tile her kitchen floor, as reported in an excellent front-page newspaper article written by Eric Collins for the Sept. 26 issue of the Annapolis, Md., Capital, and sent in by many alert readers. According to this article, the woman, who wanted to be identified only as ''Anne'' for reasons that will become clear, decided to surprise her fiance by tiling her kitchen floor herself, thus saving the $700 a so-called ''expert'' would have charged for the job.
Step 1, of course, was for Anne to spread powerful glue on the floor, so the tiles would be bonded firmly in place. Anne then proceeded to Step 2, which - as you have probably already guessed - was to slip and fall face-first into the glue coat she created in Step 1, thus bonding herself to the floor like a gum wad on a hot sidewalk.
Fortunately, Anne was not alone. Also in the house, thank goodness, was one of the most useful companions a person can ever hope to have: a small dog. Specifically, it was a Yorkshire Terrier, a breed originally developed in England to serve as makeup applicators. A full-grown ''Yorkie'' is about the size of a standard walnut, although it has more hair and a smaller brain.
Anne's dog - named Cleopatra - saw that her owner was in trouble, so she immediately ran outside and summoned a police officer.
Ha ha! No, seriously, Cleopatra did what all dogs do when their owners are in trouble: lick the owner's face. Dogs believe this is the correct response to every emergency. If Lassie had been a real dog, when little Timmy was sinking in the quicksand, Lassie, instead of racing back to the farmhouse to get help, would have helpfully licked Timmy on the face until he disappeared, at which point Lassie, having done all she could for him, would have resumed licking herself.
So anyway, when Cleopatra decided to help out, she naturally also becamestuck in the glue. But again, luck was on Anne's side, because also at homewere her two daughters, ages 9 and 10, who, realizing that the situation was no joking matter, immediately, in the words of the Capital article, ''began laughing hysterically.''
Eventually, with their help, Anne got unstuck from the floor and was able to lay the tile. But she still had glue all over herself. So, according to the Capital article, ''she called a glue emergency hotline, but no one answered.''
I don't know about you, but that sentence disturbs me. I think somebody should check on the glue emergency hotline staff.
I picture an office reeking of glue fumes, with whacked-out workers permanently bonded to floors, walls, ceilings, each other, etc. Come to think of it, this is also how I picture Congress.
But getting back to Anne: Still trying to solve her personal glue problem, she called a tile contractor. During this conversation, the glue on her body hardened, such that (1) her right foot became stuck to the floor, (2) her legs became stuck together, (3) her body became stuck to a chair, and (4) her hand became stuck to the phone.
''I had to dial 911 with my nose,'' she is quoted as saying.
When the rescue personnel arrived, they found Anne still stuck.
Perhaps this is a good time in our story to bring up the fact that she had been working in, and was still wearing, only her underwear.
Fortunately, the rescue crews were serious, competent, highly trained professionals, and thus, to again quote the Capital article, they ''laughed until they cried.''
Once they recovered, the rescue crews were able to free Anne by following the standard procedure for this type of situation: licking her face.
No, seriously, they freed her with solvents, and everything was fine. Anne got her new floor and saved herself $700, which I am sure more than makes up for suffering enough humiliation to last four or five lifetimes.
So the bottom line, homeowners, is this: Don't be afraid to tackle that tile job! Just be sure to have a dog handy, and always remember the No. 1 rule of tile-installation professionals: Wear clean underwear.
(c) 2000, Dave Barry