Wednesday, July 17, 2013

We Can Do It!

While Jean is on a well earned vacation, Valerie would like to tell an inspiring story of personal triumph over inanimate objects.

In one way, at least, I have become my mother.  I have a transistor radio that I carry around the house with me.  This one does its job perfectly well, but is very badly designed.  If I hold it on the left side, I muffle the speaker.  If I hold it on the right side, I accidentally change the channel or turn it off.  But worst, as you can perhaps see, is that I have had to permanently remove the cover to the battery chamber on the bottom because I just about need a pair of pliers to pry it loose every time I want to change the batteries.  Leaving the chamber open creates additional problems because with the slightest touch the batteries come loose or fall out.  And just like in the movies, it always happens when the speaker is going to reveal the name of the killer.  By the time I put the battery back in, they're announcing today's sponsors.

One recent day, I had carried the radio to the bathroom so I wouldn't miss the killer's name while I was washing my face.  I put it on the side of the sink to keep the audio close to my ear.

In the quintessential demonstration of Murphy's Law (anything that can go wrong will), just as I had a faceful of soap, the radio went flying into the sink (did I touch it?  was it poorly balanced on the sink?),  AND lost its battery, probably just as they were about to reveal the name of the killer.

Eagle-eyed readers will have noticed that in picture two above there is no filter in the drain.  Usually there is, but that day there wasn't.


Well, you know what that means.  The battery has gone down the sink, and is probably stuck in the elbow of the drain.  Now I'll never find out who the killer was.

The first thing I did was to take out my trusty tool box.  There's a big bolt at the bottom of the elbow of the drain.  I've unscrewed it before, so I figured I'd just do it again.  But it didn't matter which of my tools I used, I couldn't even loosen the bolt.  Nothing seemed quite big enough.  I thought maybe my tools were getting old and losing their traction.

Time to bring out the big guns. I asked the doorman if he had a wrench larger than mine. He had two! But they were too big to fit under the narrow sink AND allow for turning.

When I explained the problem to him, he brought me this, asking if it was long enough to retrieve the battery with.  It wasn't.
I had a closer look at the elbow, and suddenly remembered: there had been a leak in the elbow last year, and the super had sealed it shut.  Well du-uh!  No wonder I couldn't open it.  I really like this picture that shows a bit of excess sealant dangling from the elbow of pipe.  It has a certain gritty artistry, like a Lewis Hine photograph of construction workers on the Empire State Building.

But back to the story.  Luckily, I have a magnetic globe just for occasions like this.   Antarctica marks the magnetic part.  The battery you see in the photo is a duplicate of the one down the drain, used to test whether the magnet would be strong enough to do the job. As you can see, it was quite strong enough.

The trick is to get it down the drain without getting draingunk all over it.  So I got a plastic bag out of my rare plastic bag collection, 

cut out a piece large enough to cover the magnet with,

wrapped up the globe, got ready to attach it to a string that I could lower it into the drain with, 

And it wasn't till then that I thought: Wait a minute!  Isn't this globe TOO BIG TO FIT IN THE DRAIN?  And a quick test showed that in fact, it was.  So the idea went down the drain instead.

At this point, I had no more magnets and no more options, so I asked Amal, the doorman, if the building didn't perhaps keep a magnet on a very long pole.  (Doesn't every home have one?!)  And Amal said no, he'd never seen anything like that in the building's collection of Useful Tools.  So I was stymied, when five minutes later Amal appeared at my door again.  "Is this what you need?", he asked, brandishing a thing we had no name for.  You can see a felt tipped pen dangling from the end of the unnamed thing, the pen's clip firmly in the grasp of the magnet.

Since this was the building's unnamed tool, it would never do to put it 'naked', shall we say, down the drain, so it was time for another bag from the rare plastic bag collection.
And in less than a minute, the battery was retrieved from the elbow of the sink, and the nameless tool returned to Amal, who returned it to the building's arcane collection of Useful Tools.


  1. I love a story of an intrepid woman venturing into manland. You did well!

  2. It's never a dull moment at your place, is it? Now if you had a larger radio with more volume power that meant you could hear it no matter where you were in your apartment,things like this wouldn't happen ;)

  3. Love this story! I will remember this for when it happens to me!

  4. Who knew that one didn't have to take the plumbing apart to retrieve an article stuck in the pipe? You and Amal make quite the team and I have learned something today!
    jill in Ontario

  5. I just love a can-do-gal looking especially good wearing her dashing earrings/assesories! As my Abuelita would say; "always ready!"

  6. Brilliant "visualisable" writing! I am with you every moment LOL! Delicious!
    Now. To be practical: put a piece of any kind of tape across the battery opening.
    And keep writing. You are very funny. And universal.