Two nights after Christmas 2017, Angie and I were all set to get a good night’s sleep. The usual routine of brushing teeth, setting alarms, and getting under the covers were underway. A few moments after we closed our eyes, a scratching sound came from the ceiling. It started as a small sound, but it continued to get louder and louder. The scratching would stop, then start again in a different spot in the ceiling.
I kept hoping the critter would find its way out or at least relocate to a different part of the apartment. It was not to be. Instead, our new roommate had become that annoying fellow who would wait one minute then scratch; 20 seconds, scratch; 3 minutes, SCRATCH. After foolishly attempting to sleep through the scratching, I realized that action would have to be taken if we were going to get any sleep that night.
Our bedroom ceiling is quite high, so I didn’t want to do the chair and broomstick attack. Plus, I didn’t want to make a lot of noise for the neighbors. There was also the fact that we have neither a chair nor broomstick in our bedroom. I decided that our trusty massage ball would be a great tool because it is constructed of a light foam which wouldn’t make too loud of a bang compared to a tennis ball.
In the darkness, I waited for the next scratch and whipped the massage ball at the ceiling. Whip! Bang! Thud! Woah, not quite the sound I was expecting. I was imagining the sound of a scurry, but the critter was seemingly unaffected by my throw. Much to my surprise, the ball had literally disappeared into the dark. I didn’t even hear it hit the ground. Now I had created another problem and needed to locate our massage ball.
At this point, I was wide awake and frustrated that I had further complicated matters with a failed solution. I looked up and realized that the massage ball must have been caught in the recessed lighting. What are the odds? Apparently quite high when you’re half asleep. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to sleep until I knew exactly where the ball was. So, I began my reconnaissance mission.
First, I got a chair and extendable window squeegee. I reached over the edge of the recessed lighting and dragged along the side where I suspected the massage ball to be. It wasn’t long before I had to accept the fact that I probably don’t have Jedi powers or the Kung Fu sensitivity to literally feel the presence of the ball through the squeegee pole. I could feel my ego deflating. I had a tired wife below, patiently waiting for me to finish my heroic fantasy and return to bed.
“I need eyes on this thing,” I thought. My next idea was to attach my video camera to the end of the squeegee pole and record the length of the lighting to get a fix on our massage ball’s location. This idea was shot down because I didn’t have any charge left in the video camera’s battery. Damn. So, the next option was to use my digital camera, which has video capabilities, too. It was too heavy for the squeegee pole, so I called on my tripod for tactical support:
I pressed record and swept the ledge to prove the effectiveness of this method. After a couple of passes, I was able to locate the massage ball. I then switched my camera to photo mode and took the following shot. It’s out of focus because I had to guess the proper focal distance and place it on a timer, allowing me time to raise the tripod over the edge before the camera took the photo:
During the whole finding-the-massage-ball fiasco, I didn’t notice whether the scratching sounds had been continuing or not. In any case, it was quiet enough to get back in bed. Knowing where the ball was, I could finally get some rest. Angie was ready for to sleep, too!
As I laid in bed, I was unable to ease my mind, which was still in problem-solving mode. I was only able to fall asleep after I had come up with an attack plan for the following morning. Was I being crazy, or would this idea actually work? Oh, I could hardly wait to try it out and prove to myself (and Angie) that I have still have some awesome left in me!
This is how I brought my vision to life the next day. First, I shortened one leg of my tripod to use as a guide to push the ball into a corner:
Second, I constructed a custom Hitachi-Wong Vacuum Pack (patent pending). Its parts included a Hitachi vacuum with hose, extendable squeegee pole, painter’s tape, and a pair of velcro straps (repurposed from our IKEA mattress delivery):
Putting on my new piece of gear made me feel like a Ghostbuster. I tapped the power button and went to work, aiming for the corner.
It was a no go. Negative. Argh! I tried and tried but just couldn’t get the ball. After reviewing my plan, I decided to up the power! Oh yes, that must be it. I had the vacuum on a lower setting for the initial test runs. I switched to maximum power, fired it up, and listened to the roar of my machine ready to hit its mark. Once again, I aimed for the corner when, “WHEEEE!” screamed the vacuum. It shrieked to a higher pitch, and I knew I got the ball! I yelled, “Woo Hoo!” in celebration of my success.
I asked Angie to come up and take some reenactment photos. I wanted our kids to see how dedicated (and stubborn!) their father can be.
After all was said and done, we were still back to square one. Yes, I saved the massage ball, but I had no idea what happened to the critter in the ceiling. Over the next couple of days, we heard it scratching in different areas of the apartment. Then it stopped. With no foul odor since then, we like to think that it found its way out.
On a side note, our massage ball is near and dear to me because it was so helpful during my recovery from shoulder surgery. It’s practically a member of our family now!