Of Dryers, Nests, and Falls

The husband complained that our dryer wasn’t doing the job and we’d need to buy a new one. “No way!” I thought. Our dryer is magical. It’s sixteen years old and has dried clothes for four children and two adults most of those years. There’s no reason for it to quit working now. “Let me take a look at it,” I replied.

I often find the lent trap filled to capacity, so I looked there first. To my surprise, it was empty. That post-it note I stuck above the controls that read, “Empty after every load” must have had its intended effect.

Not one to give up easily, I went out to the side of the house to check the vent on the outer wall. It’s on the second floor of the house, but I could see bits of dried grass and twings sticking out of it. “Aha!” Air flow. Maleficent winged creatures turned squatters had taken up residence in a spot that I would have thought was too hot for breeding.

I borrowed a friend’s ladder to pull out the nest. I didn’t set the ladder correctly on the ground, failing to extend its four legs beside the wall as I should. Instead, I leaned the ladder against the wall. When I pulled at the vent cover I lost my balance.

I knew in an instant I was going to fall. But in that instant I thought many things. I can’t get my legs under me in time to avoid twisting an ankle. I can’t break my fall with my arm for fear of also breaking my wrist. Hold your head up as you hit the ground our you’re going to get really hurt. Don’t land on your tailbone; those things are fragile. No, don’t grab for the ladder; it will only fall on top of you.

Somehow I managed to twist so I landed on my left buttocks cheek. I was OK. The vent cover was in my hand.

While successful, I thought, “This is how fifty-one-year-old men break a hip.”

I got up and climbed back up the ladder. I pulled about three feet of house finch nest out of that dryer vent. I imagine it was some sixteen years worth. Were they raising chicks all year round, having found a heated habitat even in the cold of winter?

It’s a wonder the plugged dryer vent hadn’t caught fire and burned down the house.

A week later, I checked the outside vent again. Yep. New nesting sticking out. The vent cover wasn’t closing properly, allowing the birds access. I’m smarter, or at least more stubborn, than these birds. On my way home from work, I stopped at Home Depot for a new cover.

Of course, I didn’t have the cover with me and there were multiple choices. A Home Depot employee saw me pondering in the aisle and asked if he could help me. I explained the situation, as if the story of the bird nest in the dryer vent would help us determine what replacement cover I would need.

“I had the same problem several years ago. Do you have access to an old pair of pantyhose?”

I instantly saw where he was going with this, and I was grateful. I nodded and said, “I bet I can find some.” Somehow I managed to keep a straight face and not tell him about Sister Ann Wenita Morelove, who owns plenty of drug store knee-highs. She’s a frugal one, that Sister Ann.

And so am I. I now have an old, fully functional dryer and an original, though malfunctioning, vent cover, improved with a repurposed knee-high in charcoal gray.

Hopefully the house finches have found another place to live. Part of me expects to look out at the feeder soon to see them sporting tiny knee-highs on their tiny legs, looking fabulous.

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