I have long been able to pole vault from a peaceful present moment into the stressful prospect of future catastrophes.
It is a talent. An odd sort of blessing, which I’ve long justified. After all, without catastrophizing, how could I experience enormous relief if catastrophe does not come?
With the current political environment honing my skills, I’m embarrassed to say that momentary relief last month did not come from what I’d recommended to others.
“Meditate,” I’d said. “Or delve into a worthy cause.”
Rather, it came from a humming sound in my house.
This was not an ethereal Ommmmm sound reminding me to drag out the meditation mat. It was not the rude buzz from the sump pump “Watchdog” reminding me to drag out the distilled water, goggles and turkey baster and refill the battery. And it was not deafening (but definitely bigger than a breadbox).
“Sorry about the noise,” I told visitors, who assumed it belonged to a lawnmower somewhere. But later that evening, when I returned after dark, the Ommmm greeted me directly when I unlocked the door.
I traipsed around – upstairs and down. Put my hand up to the drywall. Patted the whole place down.
Finally, in the wall that separates the laundry room from the master bedroom, I found the mother lode.
The wall was vibrating. It was warm. The floor was shaking, too.
Obviously, I was on the brink of an electrical explosion. Silly me for not putting the family photos in the safe deposit box. I called the fire department, which instructed me to leave the house and stay outside.
Within minutes, sirens. And then two ladder trucks and two smaller emergency vehicles – lights flashing – with at least nine firemen in full dress with pick axes and fire hooks.
“Whoa!” I said. “The hum is really tiny.” But they marched courageously past in the general direction of the laundry room, with one flank apparently rushing upstairs and another toward the basement.
Meanwhile, I waited obediently outside, expecting any moment to hear the thump of a pick ax sinking into drywall, followed by absolute silence.
Neither came. Instead, I was summoned into the humming house – a good sign, I thought – to help them pat down the laundry room wall and find the warm spot. To my relief, it was still there, along with the unsolved mystery.
After much head-scratching and wall-patting and checking of circuit-breakers and furnace, the humming suddenly stopped. All of us, in fact, stopped. In dead amazement. One of the firemen, noticing the hum was loudest around the laundry room set tub, had turned on the water.
“Air in the pipes” was the verdict.
And sure enough, a plumber the next day found a thoroughly unglamorous cause: a faulty valve in the upstairs toilet above the laundry room.
It seemed to make his day that he could fix what a crew of firemen could not. As for me, I rest my case. There is no better distraction than finding an immediate life-or-death catastrophe to focus on.
I did not check my Twitter feed even once.
Copyright 2016 Pat Snyder