Sometimes I wonder if our house is haunted by ghosts. Why do the most unexpected things happen at the most unpredicted times. Take for instance the time when I had suggested my visiting brother-in-law use my son’s bathroom when other bathrooms were occupied. Our son does not live with us anymore, so his room is vacant and available for guests to use. My brother-in-law dutifully did that. When he came downstairs, after his shower, he had a serious expression on his face. We were all sitting in our family room watching some program on the television.
“What’s the matter?” I asked. “Is everything okay?”
“Yes,” he replied. “But there is something hanging from the ceiling.”
I was confused. What could that be?
“Are you sure? Is it one of the light fixtures?”
“No, no. It’s from the center of the ceiling.”
The light fixture above the sink is the only thing I could think of that may have gotten loose and came off from the wall. A loose screw maybe? But the lights were on a wall not in the center of the ceiling.
“Let’s go and see,” I said.
We both went upstairs. I turned on the light in the small bathroom and looked towards the ceiling. Sure enough, something was dangling from the middle of the ceiling.
“See,” my brother-in-law said. “What’s that?”
I instantly recognized the “thing” was the exhaust fan. I turned on the fan it buzzed.
“It’s just the exhaust fan,” I said.
“Can you fix it?”
“I’ll see. Looks simple enough.”
I knew from experience that most things that appear simple enough are anything but. The perplexing thing was how in the world the fan got loose and came down. We have lived in the house for over twenty-five years and have used the fan many, many times. It is not something that one expects to come off of the casing unless someone pulls it down. It is also not within reach of an adult to touch it accidentally unless one is over six feet tall, even then it wouldn’t come off that easily. I had no clue.
I consider myself somewhat of a handyman. I can tackle easy things but generally leave the heavy lifting to the professionals. I was confident about fixing the fan was within my ability. One thing I don’t do is attempt to handle something without understanding how it works.
I searched Google for information on exhaust fans for bathroom ceilings, especially for the model number we had. The most common cause was the springs holding the fan coming off the notches. The YouTube videos showed the man simply pinching the U-shaped springs and pushing them in the slots and pushing the outer casing in. One, two, three and done.
I went upstairs to inspect the fan. I couldn’t see the rectangular slots and the springs. There was only a square metal box. I checked again with a flashlight, but there were no slots. When something is not clear it helps to wait for a while and try again. I decided to do just that.
I thought of many scenarios about what will happen if I don’t fix it. Maybe sometime in the future, we may decide to upgrade the bathroom and then the workmen would do it. Maybe we may call someone to fix something else in the house and get this done. Then again, in my mind, it was not such an urgent thing to fix. Nobody uses the bathroom except an occasional guest, and it may go unnoticed.
I hated myself for procrastinating something I thought was easy.
A day later we received a call from our air conditioning service company that they would be coming to replace the leaking coil in the heat pump in the upstairs attic.
“Ask the man when he comes in to see if he can fix the exhaust fan,” my wife recommended.
I know how these service people are. They will do just the thing they have been assigned and get out as fast as they can.
“I don’t know if he will do that,” I said. “He’ll say that is not his job.”
My wife looked upset.
“That’s what I don’t like. You always have this negative attitude.” She added.
“It’s a fact,” I said. “I don’t want to get embarrassed if he refuses or asks exorbitant money.”
The young man who showed up seemed amiable enough. Instead of asking whether he would fix it I was diplomatic.
“Would you, by chance, know someone who can fix an exhaust fan in the bathroom upstairs?”
I was expecting a rude ‘No” or a suggestion that I look up a plumber or a handyman.
Instead, I was surprised when the young man said he will take a look.
It took him over three hours to replace the coil. I was a bit hesitant to remind him to take a look at the fan, but I did anyway.
“Yes, in a minute,” he said.
He climbed on the toilet, took a look at the fan, pulled out the electric plug at the top of the casing and pulled the whole assembly down. He took it to his truck to straighten the blades that were noisy. I realized that the reason I couldn’t see the U-shaped springs because they were part of the assembly that was hanging.
Anyway, the man fixed everything in about fifteen minutes.
“How much do I owe you?” I asked expecting a large amount.
“Oh, forget it,” He said.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. Not a big deal.”
It was an amazing gesture, in this day and age. I asked him why the fan would come loose. He also didn’t have a satisfactory answer.
I pulled out my wallet and paid him twenty dollars in cash.
“Have a beer on me,” I said after I thanked him.
He went away satisfied. I was happy one problem was solved. My wife had a look of “See, I told you so.”
Two weeks later our guests returned to India. Our house was quiet. Activities that started early morning every day and continued through the day — the hustle-bustle, tea under the umbrella on the deck, talking and gossiping, loud laughter, happy hours followed by preparation of various exotic dishes— were gone.
One afternoon I had planned to do some writing after a refreshing nap. When I came downstairs, I saw my wife reclining on the sofa in our family room.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
“Take a look at the pond,” she said.
We had the local garden center build a pond with rock formation around it in our backyard. Over the years we discovered that it needed periodic maintenance. The pump had a safety mechanism. It was designed to stop working whenever debris accumulated around it. My wife had mastered the technique of cleaning it and starting the water flow again. It was not a hard job, but an occasional nuisance. Sometimes the pump would freeze in winter, and we had to call a pond service company for a thorough cleanup.
I looked through the kitchen French door and saw that the water had stopped flowing into the pond.
“Didn’t you just clean it a while ago?”
“Yes. But, you wouldn’t believe what happened.”
My wife described that she had gone to see why the water had stopped and noticed a snake stuck in the pump.
“How did that happen?” I asked.
“I don’t know. It’s still alive. Its body is stuck in the middle with the mouth on one side and the tail on the other.”
“What are we going to do?”
Why should this happen now, at a time when all we wanted was a bit of calm and quiet. There was no chance in the world that I was going to go there, grab the snake by its mouth in a cloth and pull it out. Again, we decided to wait it out.
“If it comes to that we should call the pond people and see what they recommend and whether they would stop by.”
I tried to ignore the problem and started to work on my computer. I didn’t notice that my wife had gone outside. Incidentally, I looked outside towards the pond and saw the water had started to flow again.
When my wife came inside I asked her what she did.
“It was dead. Apparently tried to wiggle out, but got cut near the tail. I scooped it up with a shovel. I pulled his tail that was stuck in the pump.”
“Eww. What did you do with the snake?”
“I tossed it long and far into the common area.”
“You are a brave soul. I couldn’t have done it.”
Well, another problem solved. What is to come next, I thought. There is no saying what will happen and when. Home ownership has its trials and tribulations. Things happen without any warning and at the most unforeseen times. It is natural to think of the worst that could happen. One cannot be faulted to think the house is haunted, but it is rarely so.