Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Drier Dryer

Originally written on May 25, 2010

Recently our dryer started taking forever to dry clothes. This might sound like a petty complaint, but that's pretty much the machine's only job after all, and it has been slacking. This is unacceptable, Dryer. You need to do your job, and in less than 3 hours.

Lois started consulting the troubleshooting guide to see what could be making the dryer so inefficient, and came up with a few ideas. But then one day as I was arriving home from work, I saw a bird (I think it was a starling) fly INTO THE AIR VENT!! The vent has little flaps that are supposed to keep things out (like birds, for example), but this little starling deftly flew up, nosed the middle flap up, and crawled inside.

At this point, it seemed like the thing for me to do would be to get out of my car, and gaze up at the air vent. So that is what I did. The washer and dryer are on the top floor, so the air vent is probably about 12 feet up. So there I am, gazing, now knowing that there is a nest in the air duct and why the dryer is unable to perform its basic, and only, function.

After I gazed for a while, I decided that the next thing to do would be to go into the house and ignore the situation for a period of time. So that is what I did.

Well, as I feared, the problem failed to fix itself without some intervention on my part. The next time I gazed up at the vent, I could hear mad chirping coming from it. I was sure that the nest was right inside the entrance, so I got an extension ladder, extended it to its fullest extent, and began the assent to the vent.

There is still mad chirping. I lift the middle flap (that somehow seemed like the correct one to lift since it's the one the mother bird always used), and peered inside. It's dark in there. I lift the top flap. Still dark. Well, might as well lift the bottom flap. Yep, still dark. I poke my fingers in. That doesn't do anything. While these flaps fail at keeping birds out, they do an exceptional job of keeping me out. Hey, these flaps are plastic and quite flexible. I remove the flaps. By this time the chirping has stopped. I don't see a nest, but there is a feather, some weed twigs, and bird poop. I clear this out. I carefully reach my hand in a little ways. Nothing. I put my arm in clear up to my armpit. I can barely reach a few twigs. I use curse words in my mind that I would never utter aloud. I climb back down the ladder.

I momentarily consider going back into the house and doing the thing I first did after my initial gazing. But no, that won't do. I obtain a stiff wire that is hooked on the end. I take this tool with me back up the ladder. I reach my hook as far in as I can. This time I am able to hook out quite a bit of nest. I let this refuse fall to the ground. I repeat a few more times. Finally, as I withdraw my hook, I can feel that it has found something a little more substantial. The bulk of the nest comes with it, along with four naked, ugly, quiet, baby birds. This is the time the gravity of the situation sinks in. I always knew that I would be exterminating these squatters, but now that I get a look at the pink little blobs, I start to feel bad. I gingerly place the nest with the babies in my right hand and make my way down the ladder.

Just before I reach the bottom, one of the babies squirms. Well, this freaks me right the heck out and I drop the nest, babies and all. They seem to be relatively unharmed at the moment, despite their fall. In order to avoid getting freaked out again by live, squirming blobs, I go get an empty plant pot and put the nest and its occupants in it.

Now is the time to decide what to do. The fact that the birds are doomed is already a given. There is no question of the mother returning to a new location to care for her babies. So, do I find one of the neighborhood cats, thereby allowing the birds to somewhat fulfill the measure of their creation? I decide against this for many reasons, but mainly because hunting down a willing cat would be more of a challenge than I was prepared to invest in. No, a swift end to their suffering is all there is to it. So I take them to the field behind the house and quickly send them to what I'm sure is a far better home than a dryer vent. If it's any consolation, the piece of wood I used was a very efficient instrument of death. Not only did all four go at the same swift instant, but it gave me a small cut on the palm of my hand in retribution.

And now, the dryer is happily able to once again fulfill the measure of its creation. So, I guess it's a win-win situation. Well, except for the blobs. They didn't really win very much.

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