Strange vibrations in the night

| 13 Nov 2023 | 02:32

The publisher of this newspaper very kindly invited me to write a column about Thanksgiving for you. Problem is, I’ve got nothing to say about Thanksgiving except it would probably be a good idea for all concerned not to invite Uncle Jim this year.

Instead I thought I’d tell you about something weird that happened at our house last night.

Bob and the dogs and I were watching a Dave Chapelle comedy special, but we had to put it on pause while I went to the bathroom. I meant it to be a quick trip, but when I got there, I heard a strange vibrating sound that seemed to be coming from the ceiling exhaust fan above the toilet.

This scared me because I figured it must be some kind of electrical issue gone awry, and I assumed a fire would soon break out in the crawl space above the bathroom.

I summoned Bob, and he heard it, too. He went to the basement to turn off the breaker switch, and he successfully shut the power to the bathroom ... and to the basement, kitchen, hallway and garage. Bob was down there stranded in the dark, so he yelled for me to come light his way, which I did after rummaging around to find a flashlight.

When we both returned to the bathroom, the vibrating noise was still going on, even without electricity. In fact, it seemed louder. We felt strongly that we needed to get to the bottom of this, so Bob made his way to the basement to put the lights back on, and I poured us each a glass of wine. Another glass of wine, truth be told.

Dave Chapelle was still on pause in the living room.

Our first idea was to check the crawl space for any kind of vibration-causing issue, but the only way up there was through a hole in the ceiling of my office closet. To get there meant emptying the closet of all the clothes plus some pillows, blankets, a cowboy hat and an ironing board.

There ensued some confusion over which ladder I should use to get up there and whether the steps should be facing in or out, but I eventually got positioned in such a way that I could shove the crawl space floor board up and poke my head in to see what was causing the vibrating noise.

Well, it was dead quiet up there. No vibration. No humming. Not even a bat flying around in the dark. Before descending, I asked Bob to get my cell phone, and I took a picture of the crawl space section just above the bathroom. Here is what it looked like.

Once I was down, Bob and I studied that picture as though it held some magical answer to what was going on in the universe ... or at least in Congress. We had no idea what we were looking at, of course, but we noted that the crawl space seemed reasonably clean as crawl spaces go.

Meanwhile, the bathroom continued to vibrate.

Our next solution was to pour another glass of wine and go outside to see if something on the roof was vibrating. By this time, Scout and Ozzie had grown concerned about us. They followed us out through the dog door and stared at us while we stared at the roof. I saw them look at each other with furrowed brows. They were probably wondering if we still knew their eating schedule and where the kibble was kept.

Our next good idea was to remove the exhaust fan from the bathroom ceiling. We got the ladder from the office closet, and Bob began unscrewing screws. The dogs sat and watched while I held the ladder steady. When the final screw was turned, the fan dropped. It was hanging by an electric cord, which was attached to some kind of metal box in the crawl space. (See photo above.)

Well, common sense prevailed and we determined that we couldn’t leave it dangling over the toilet like that. Bob went back to the basement to shut off the breaker switch so we could cut the wire without getting electrocuted, which we did.

After he turned the lights back on, I began to tidy up the mess we’d made. At one point, I bent down to pick up a screw that had dropped, and I noticed that the vibrating sound was louder near the garbage can. It sounded like something unusual was going on in there.

I was a little nervous about opening the lid without backup, so I hollered to Bob to come quick. He and the dogs had returned to the living room to watch Dave Chapelle’s frozen image on the tv screen.

They all came running. I told them I thought the vibration was coming from the garbage can, and in a flash I remembered something. When I had brushed my teeth after dinner, I discovered that my battery-powered toothbrush was out of juice, so I tossed it into the garbage. Could it be? Could it have come back to life in there?

I slowly opened the lid. Bob and the dogs moved in closer for a better look. We all took a deep breath. And sure enough, there it was - a vibrating pink toothbrush carrying on at the bottom of the can.

I picked it up and turned it off. We refreshed our wine glasses, and all four of us returned to the couch to finish watching Dave Chapelle. I’ll call the electrician tomorrow about the hole in our bathroom ceiling.

Anyhow, happy Thanksgiving.