Things that go bump in the night


For almost eight years there has been a sound in our house that I couldnít identify.

Took a while before I first heard it, truth be told. When you move in to a new place, there are all sorts of noises that are strange and different. Heating or cooling systems turning on. The way the wind comes across the yard, moving trees and bushes, and just creating that whooshing. Even the way traffic sounds come off the street and into different rooms isnít quite the same.

I heard it in the winter to begin, and I shrugged it off as part of the heat kicking on. But the next time, as I was working on something else, it dawned on me that I didnít really feel the heat coming through the floor vents. So, I went downstairs, and sure enough, it wasnít the heating system.

Over the course of time, I began to wonder if maybe I had left the air conditioning on and for some reason that was running on that winter day. Perhaps the compressor. It had been a slightly warmer day, maybe the other days were as well. Nope.

Hot water heater? No.

Dehumidifier? No.

Did the house have something strange I didnít know about? Maybe a system in the attic with a fan. Of perhaps some radon or other harmful this-or-that ventilation. Again, no and no.

But tonight, I figured it out. Itís the water softener system.

Now, I will admit, Iím a bit embarrassed it took me years to discover that. In fact, even though Iím now positive it is, part of me wants to believe Iím wrong. After all, I spent a lot of time running up and down stairsÖ looking at the heating and cooling unitsÖ examining the duct workÖ heading outside and walking lap after lap of the house, looking for exhaust pipes and staring at the roof for some additional cluesÖ and, grand total of nothing.

On at least one of those times, I must have been in the basement, not even thirty feet from the water softener, staring at other options but for some reason not hearing that running. Either I have horrible timing and managed to get downstairs seconds after it shut off every time, or, Iím the worst player of peek-a-boo outside the age range of newborn to eighteen months.

But it gets worse as an admission. I solved the mystery with a combination of another chore and random timing.

The reason I figured out was because I had been doing laundry. Heard the noise, couldnít place it. Went to empty the washer and the echo of water running in the pipes caught my ear. Suddenly dawned on me the water softener had to be running.

Ding ding dingÖ we have a winner. (Finally.)

Now hereís the crazy part when it comes to sharing that story. Over the years, one thing that really scared me was that the noise had to be something running. And, so, what would happen if it didnít? In other words, what was going to happen if a time came when this this thing stopped running, only I didnít know what it was, so how was I going to figure out it was broken? Would something go wrong, or, would it just dawn on me that I hadnít heard the noise in a while and maybe I should look for something that didnít seem right anymore?

Around the house, weíve had some funny things happen. Nothing crazy when it comes to home ownership. One of the caps of a pipe on the roofÖ the heating exhaustÖ had the top portion snap off. Had to replace that and the wire mesh that goes along with it to protect the pipe and keep birds from flying down it. (Which, yes, a thrill to experience.) Replaced some electrical outlets. See? Nothing unusual.

But to twist on the tree falling in the woods classicÖ if something that had been running is no longer running and you never knew it was there, does it need to be repaired?

In one of the bedrooms, we have a clock. Kind of a decorative display thing with a pendulum on it. And it does make that metronome-like clack-clack-clack sound. We donít even notice it most of the time. Itís just there.

Sister was staying in the house several weeks ago. And every morning during her stay, I would find that bedroom door shut, even though no one was staying in that room. Finally, I asked about it, explaining the doors didnít need to be shut. She pointed out the obviousÖ noisy clock.

Trees in the woods, noises in the house, and I seem to be oblivious to all of it. No clue if thatís good or bad. But I can tell you when the water softener is on, and thatís a start.


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