Clearly, I had the whole town against me! It was, admittedly, a small country community, but most of the population seemed to be here. Town councillors, the town engineer and financial controller, the hospital C.E.O., the local flooring company, including the floor layer who installed the vinyl flooring in this newly built hospital, the local press – at least I hoped that they were local and not state-wide – the hospital cleaner, the head nurse, they all were there waiting for my reaction at seeing their brand new hospital flooring.
Judging by their damning looks they had already made up their mind: ‘This flooring installation has gone wrong and it is the manufacturer’s fault! Why, the floor layer himself, is most upset about all this and since he was a ‘bloody good bloke’: a good member of the golf club, a shouter of drinks at the pub, and with a wife who is well known for her local charity work, it cannot possibly his fault'. Such was their reasoning.
‘And here comes this outsider from Melbourne, representing an overseas manufacturer, in a business suit, why, he looks as guilty as hell. Just look at him – he’s never done any real work!’
This was the message their dark and bitter looks conveyed to me when I introduced myself. Upon offering my business cards, a lot of hands snatched them out of my hand. The architect stepped forward, since the hospital committee and the local council were his clients.
‘Peter, this is the floor we talked about on the telephone. As you can see, the installation is unacceptable!’
We were standing at the entrance and looking inside, towards the reception and further down the hall into the interior. Since the daylight was excellent we all could see the complaint immediately. There were so-called ‘bubbles’ everywhere, the vinyl seemed to be blistering, and in the light, everything was so much more noticeable.
Now the crowd all raised their voices in disgust, trying to outdo each other.
As a routine, I said nothing but went through my standard procedure of checking my facts, point by point. However, it was difficult to make my assessment, to concentrate and ignore the background commotion.
Yes, the substrate was smooth enough, my moisture meter showed a negative reading, the blisters, when depressed, did not stay down, even for a moment before bouncing back with a ‘click’, the seams of the vinyl sheets were heat-welded to a good standard…
I continued my investigation and when I pulled out of my satchel an electric microscope, placed in on the floor and squinted at he vinyl pores, I seemed to gain a few points in the eyes of the onlookers.
Step-by-step I continued and by process of elimination, kept narrowing down the possible cause of this terrible installation. When I finally pulled back a corner of the installed vinyl and saw a whitish, powdery substance, with no trace of adhesion, the cause was clear. I straightened up and brushed the dust from my suit, especially from my knee area. Sweating slightly, I looked at the notes I’d made so far and knew from years of experience that there was uproar in store for me.
‘Well? What do you have to say for yourself?’ the floor layer said, stepping forward, with a defiant lower lip and his chin jutting out.
Everybody else seemed to be searching for the right words of condemnation for me and my flooring product.
I ignored him and directed my words to my client, the architect. ‘I am sorry, John, but this flooring has been installed with the wrong adhesive.’
‘Whaaat?’ An incredulous shout rent the air.
‘Yes,’ I continued ‘It has been installed using a latex-based adhesive whereas we specify a water-based acrylic adhesive.’ All eyes went to the floor layer who assumed a scandalised expression.
‘Which adhesive did you use? I asked him.
‘Well,’ he shouted at me enraged ‘which adhesive do you recommend?’
‘There are a number of very good adhesives that can be used for our vinyl floorings’.
‘Name one!’ he cried defiantly.
‘One such would be Orion 606, another one that can be used is…..’ but I did not get any further.
‘That’s the one I used!’ moisture was spraying my face as he bawled out his words.
‘That is very unlikely as the powdery residue shows a latex glue……’ To interrupt one seemed to be the acceptable standard in this town.
As everybody was siding with him, the floor layer continued:
‘Listen mate, I am using no other adhesive but the one you recommend.’
The crowd nodded as if they had known this all along. And with encouraging looks they seemed to appeal to him to go on and ‘sort this fella out’.
‘For your information, I am using no other adhesive – I have no other adhesive in my car! So, how can I have used the wrong adhesive? Tell me that, ha?’
Again this logic worked on everybody present.
I had to say something: ‘Well, I do not know what’s in your car, but this flooring has been installed with the wrong adhesive, hence nothing sticks properly. The material expansions are due to the air temperature causing the vinyl to lift off the floor and also around the edges……’
Suddenly the pandemonium reached a new level and I would not have been surprised if somebody had shouted ‘Hang him!’
‘Do you want to come to my car and have a look? Do you want to see what’s in my car? I have no other adhesive products in my car than the one you recommend! Do you want to see? Do you, do you?’ Again the floor layer screamed, clearly in a rage.
As everybody started to turn and walk towards his clearly marked panel van, parked at a short distance away, I had no choice but to collect my instruments and papers and head for the car as well, with the hostile crowd escorting me.
On the way, nobody talked to me and I had the feeling that somebody was already slinging a noose over a tree branch!
Leading the way was the floor layer his face leathery and expressionless but his body language was clearly saying to everybody the immortal words: ‘J’accuse!’
Finally we reached his car and without hesitation he opened its back door to invite a public inspection of its interior. It was full of pailes of adhesives, for all purposes and all brands – except the one he should have used to install the hospital flooring!