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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Maintenance Miracle

The self-entombing, self-extracting bird
 Yesterday I was called to an office to investigate a problem. I think the guy said, "It sounds like a critter is in my ductwork." He was right. After shutting myself in the furnace closet for a minute, I heard scratching on metal. I told him it sounded like a bird trapped in the bath fan flue, and went to get my stuff. A woman in the office yelled, Oh no, get it out, it will die and stink!"

At my shop I picked up a flashlight, a Gopher-style grabber, and a long, narrow strip of carpet—thinking maybe I could slide it under him and his claws would get stuck in the weave.

Well, the bird was in a bend about 15 feet down from the roof, and about 10 feet over from the bathroom fan ("fart fan," as the plumbers call them). Too far from either end to use any of my tools. I would probably have to cut open the duct near the bend... which would cause him to run from the disturbance. I decided to remove the fart fan joint so I could look in. Maybe I could at least see who was in there.

Removing the flex-hose from the rigid duct opened a 6-inch hole on the bottom of the long horizontal run of the duct. When my flashlight lit up the opening, I could hear the bird take a few steps at the other end, then stop. I made a few peep sounds, and he came closer. I could only see a few inches beyond the opening, so I put my phone through the hole and used the camera as a periscope. I still couldn't see the bird.

Then I remembered that the BabySoothe app on my phone has BIRDSONG on the menu, so I turned that on. The bird came trotting right down to the opening and I took his picture. (That's the part of the story where my wife said, "Cute! I love you, bird!") I held my hat under the hole and shined the flashlight on it. In only about ten seconds, he hopped down into my hat!

But, with hat, phone, and flashlight in my hands, I couldn't grab him. While setting down the phone, he flew off into the space between ceiling grid and second floor. Still a problem, but better. I moved down the ladder one rung and replaced the flexi-hose so he couldn't go back into the ductwork. I climbed down, closed the bathroom and shut off the light, setting the chirping phone atop a cabinet below the open ceiling tile. I pointed the light up at the phone. In less than a minute, the bird fluttered right down to the phone and sat right on it, as if trying to step into the little box of birdsong. (Again to the later delight of my wife). I climbed up and set the ceiling tile back so he was stuck in the bathroom with me. Intermittently dazzling him with the flashlight, I grabbed him behind the plunger in 2-3 attempts. Then I took him out, showed him off to three of the office workers, and tossed him outside.

Less challenging than rescuing 33 Bolivian miners, but almost as heartwarming.


Brad said...

Awesome! Best use of an app, ever. Plus, you said "Gopher-style grabber."

Chad Woody said...

Yes, maybe I could do an iPhone commercial for weird app apps!