How TL And His Cat Defused A Ticking Time Bomb And Kicked Six People Out Of Their Homes Before Lunchtime

6:15 a.m.: My alarm goes off. I arise, wash my face, and step out of the bedroom witn an intent to get a cup of coffee. The cat attempts to sneak in to the momentarily-open bedroom door but is deterred by a nudge from my foot, and announces my presence in the hallway with a loud “meow.”

6:17 a.m.: The Wife hears the commotion and says, “Honey, something’s making a strange noise in my bathroom, can you look at it, please?” I stop my trip to the kitchen to get coffee and instead go to her bathroom.

6:18 a.m.: I slide past The Wife and indeed, there is a strange humming noise. It sounds like a busted motor or a fan with something obstructing it. “It’s coming from the ceiling,” The Wife says and indeed that seems right. But oddly, there is nothing in the ceiling from where the sound seems to be emanating. “Go get the stepladder and see.”

6:19 a.m.: “No, that’s the wrong stepladder. It’s too short. Don’t rest the edge of the stepladder on the toilet. You need the big one from the hall closet.”

6:20 a.m.: The cat chases me into the living room, meows loudly again as I stumble over her trying to avoid kicking her ribs. She runs in fear from the stepladder as I pull it out.

6:21 a.m.: I take the stepladder into the bathroom. “Here, I’ll do it.” The Wife unpacks the bigger stepladder and looks around on the ceiling. “I don’t know, but it’s annoying and been going on since I took my shower. I’m afraid it’s going to start a fire.” I agree that this sounds like a reasonable sort of threat at this point.

6:25 a.m.: I go to the garage and gather what seem to be likely tools — screwdrivers and pliars. I suspect I’ll need to remove the can light and the two vents. The HVAC vent has locking hex bolts and I’m not sure how I’ll be getting those off.

6:27 a.m.: I move the stepladder to the side of the bathroom where The Wife is not putting on her makeup and look up on the ceiling from where the humming seems to be emanating. It’s about a foot to the side of a can light, and about three feet from the HVAC vent, and about five feet from the fart fan. Just a spot of drywall on the ceiling. The ceiling and surrounding walls are dry, cool to the touch, and not vibrating at all. The Wife: “Maybe you have to call your dad, he might have an idea.”

6:33 a.m.: I have checked the swamp cooler, the air conditioning unit, and the water pressure. Everything looks fine. So I go outside and turn off the circuit breaker to the front rooms. Upon returning inside I see that yes, all the lights in the bathroom are off but the noise continues. Maybe it’s one of those last four circuit breakers that we’ve never been able to figure out what they do.

6:36 a.m.: Nope, turning those breakers off does nothing, either.

6:38 a.m.: As I return out to the garage, something warm and hairy slithers between my ankles and rolls on her back on the floor, batting her paws in the air. What’s that damn cat doing underfoot? I almost tripped over her.

6:40 a.m.: Turning off every circuit breaker in the house does nothing. The noise continues. It’s clearly not something related to the electric system, and I turn the circuit breakers back on.

6:43 a.m.: My handsfree headset will not communicate with my parents’ cell phone and instead calls The Wife’s phone. The Wife leaves for work.

6:45 a.m.: I call my parents to see if they have any bright ideas. My handsfree set does not connect with their phone and all I get is silence.

6:47 a.m.: Get that damn cat out from underneath my feet!

6:51 a.m.: I call from a different phone and my parents ultimately suggest looking for a fan in the attic. If there is no fan in the attic, maybe it’s some kind of plumbing or water issue? This makes sense; after all, if it’s not electric, then the only other thing that would move would be non-electric ventilation equipment (like a fan or a turbine) or something involving water. And something is very obviously moving.

6:59 a.m.: I pull the stepladder out to the hallway in front of the bathroom, which is where the attic access panel is. I push the drywall panel aside, and instantly my right eye is in an astonishing amount of pain. I cry out, and step in the bathroom. A fiberglass fiber has fallen in my eye. A small speck of unidentifiable crud came with it, and my eye requires several rinses and touching my iris with my finger to remove it.

7:01 a.m.: The cat decides that the right place to lay down and lick her ass is directly below the foot of the ladder, at the precise time I need to step down and take the fiberglass out of my eye.

7:08 a.m.: My eye cleared out, I go to the garage to gather safety equipment.

7:15 a.m.: The cat has somehow snuck in to the laundry room and wants to shoot through my legs into the garage. She has been waiting to pounce for seven minutes, and meows loudly in protest when I nudge her with my foot back into the house.

7:17 a.m.: I put on goggles and stuff a paper towel inside the goggles and wrap it around my nose and mouth. Then I put on work gloves. Again, I ascend the ladder. I can move the panel aside and a large square of pink insulation falls in its place, dropping itchy fiberglass on the uncovered portions of my face. The “bigger” stepladder is too short and so I need to get the adjustable aluminum ladder from the garage.

7:20 a.m.: While moving the adjustable aluminum ladder past my car, I drag my knee across a headboard recently removed from the bed in our spare bedroom. The lumber-induced equivalent of road rash breaks out all over the side of my knee. I find this unreasonably painful, although it really shouldn’t have been all that bad. Again, however, I cry out in pain. And frustration.

7:23 a.m.: The cat, once again, wants to help out, this time by caressing against my leg and purring loudly in the faux-loving maneuver that all cat owners quickly come to translate as “Hey, you. You’re my bitch. Give me a kitty treat, right now, or I’ll scratch your eyes out. Don’t think I won’t do it, bitch.”

7:25 a.m.: After wrestling with the ladder to extend it to the appropriate height, I re-don my improvised insulation safety gear and ascend the ladder again. This time, I can get high enough to push aside the insulation brick and look in the attic. It is dark.

7:29 a.m.: I descend, retrieve a flashlight from another room, and again ascend into the attic. My head pokes, Kilimanjaro-like, atop a sea of fluffy pink insulation. Atop the location where The Wife’s bathroom is, reflective flex-tubes of ducting and an electrical conduit go to their assigned places on the floor of the attic (which is, of course, the ceiling of the house). No additional mechanisms are visible. There are no fans. There seems to be no plumbing, but it is impossible to tell without moving aside the insulation.

7:33 a.m.: I e-mail my progress to The Wife, leaving out a few of the details set forth above.

7:34 a.m.: The cat sails between my legs as I try to walk back out through the laundry room to get outside.

7:35 a.m.: Thinking that perhaps a bird or some other kind of thing has become trapped in a roof turbine, I conduct a perimeter walk of the front of the house and perform a visual inspection of the roof. There are no turbines on the roof of Soffit House. Another theory excluded.

7:37 a.m.: The Wife calls to find out what’s going on. We share theories and I repeat my progress report to her verbally.

7:45 a.m.: I have court in forty-five minutes. I must shower and get to court. I put the ladder to one side and leave the tools and other things on a shelf.

8:05 a.m.: Still coffeeless, I depart for the office with a rueful heart, leaving the buzzing noise behind me.

8:20 a.m.: Once at the office to drop off my dry cleaning, I tell my story to a partner in the firm, who used to be a contractor. He concurs with my father’s idea that if it isn’t electrical, it has to involve water somehow, and this makes him nervous. We vow to consider the matter further upon my return from six, count ’em, six eviction trials.

11:20 a.m.: I return from court with a half-dozen eviction orders in hand, and speak to the head of the property management company who holds an office in our suite (it’s a long story). She gets in touch with her “smart” handyman, and determines that he is free to help out later tonight. I speak with him and arrange that he will come to our house around 4:00 to help solve the problem. Fearing a flood or a fire, I return to Soffit House to check up on the animals and the condition of hy home.

11:30 a.m.: Upon approach, I determine visually that the house is not on fire. So far, so good.

11:32 a.m.: The buzzing noise is audible from the laundry room. As I’ve set the ladder aside and I am wearing my suit, I do not want to get back up in the attic. What I’m really concerned with is whether I will find the wall weeping with accumulated water or a build-up of heat in some location.

11:34 a.m.: The walls are not visibly weeping. I decide to deal with the Wife’s irritation at smudge marks on the bathtub later, and wearing my wingtips, I step on the edge of the bathtub with one foot and put my other foot on a tiny ledge across the tub so I can reach up to the ceiling.

11:35 a.m.: I wonder why the buzzing sound has changed in pitch all of a sudden. But the walls are not vibrating, not warm, and not damp. What’s that strange feeling in my toe?

11:36 a.m.: My toe has come to rest on a vibrating razor blade in its plastic cradle. I move my foot, ever so slightly, and the buzzing sound surroudning my head stops. I step down, pick up the razor, and look for where to turn it off. Unlike my vibrating razor, the button is not on the handle but on the very end, and when I locate the switch, I turn it off.

11:37 a.m.: Silence. The buzzing noise, the underpowered-motor-straining-to-turn-over noise, the fan-with-a-dead-bird-in-it noise, the oh-shit-the-house-is-going-to-burn-down noise, is gone. Gone, I tell you. The whole thing had been caused by the razor somehow being turned on in its cradle and the vibrations transmitted through the plastic shower stall cover. A trick of the acoustics in the bathroom made it seem like the noise was coming from the ceiling.

11:38 a.m.: I confirm the result by turning the razor back on again and returning it, cradled, to its original location. Sure enough, the noise returns, exactly as before.

11:40 a.m.: I e-mail my blogworthy findings to The Wife. I start thinking, maybe a nice Greek salad for lunch would be good.

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering litigator. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Recovering Former Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.

One Comment

  1. Ah, the vibrating razor. I’ve had mine go off in my luggage. Is it possible the cat was shaving?

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