Monday, October 06, 2008

Squirrel in the Toilet

I was on the my phone with a client the other day, when I heard some animated discussion coming from my downstairs home office. Two accounting contractors were there working on a project. They called to me, and I explained that I could not come right now, as I was on the phone.

Then I heard my husband, recently retired, saying something like -- "I've never seen that happen before....I will take care of it." I figured some piece of equipment had broken and he, the engineer, was coming to the rescue.

When my call ended, I went to investigate. No it wasn't the copier, the computer or the fax machine. It was a squirrel, dead in the toilet. Steve had removed it, but all concerned were a bit stunned. What on earth was a dead squirrel doing in our toilet?

We offered various theories. The cleaning lady had the deck door open when she came on Tuesday. Maybe he got in then. But why was there no damage or even evidence of his presence until now? Or maybe he got in that very Thursday morning when Steve was putting the trash out.

That night, when all got quiet, I went online and typed in squirrel and toilet. Turns out this is not such a rare occurence.

But here's the interesting part. They come in through the roof vents. Apparently toilets have roof vents. I never knew that, but then I am not a plumber. Squirrels like to investigate roof vents. So when a squirrel (usually a young, dumb one) is sticking his/her noses down a vent and a toilet flushes -- they are sucked down the vent and into the toilet somehow. Apparently, some squirrels survive the experience and emerge from the water angry and confused. So, while I pity the poor deal squirrel, I am glad that he did not escape into the house -- can you imagine the mess!

So, now we have someone coming out to "cap" the vents for the toilets. Wire mesh is required to keep the nosy little characters out. While we are at it, we are also capping the chimney and cleaning the gutters.

My husband did not share my trauma. His theory is that since he has lived 65 years and never before had a squirrel in the toilet, he will not likely see another in his lifetime. But we will never find out because soon we will have vent covers.


Monday, January 07, 2008


My mother used to complain about how expensive everything had gotten – and that was in the 1950s. Today’s prices would shock her beyond belief – perhaps even more than they shock my husband (and his sense of price is stuck at about 1962).

I wish I understood about economics; none of it makes a lot of sense to me. In high school I took a course in summer school (no I didn’t fail anything; I needed some extra credits for my very cool and impressive Advanced Academic Diploma). It was a very confusing course – somehow if the government spent more than it had had, things were supposed to work our well and everyone will live happily ever after. Personally, I have tried that approach and found it not to work so well in real life. But maybe it is different for countries.

Actually, I think that whole mindset (even for countries) might have been blown out of the water back in the Reagan years. But then again, seems like that is what the politicians are still doing. They talk a lot about not doing it, but they still do it.

My father said that the problem was that the country got rid of the gold standard. He may have been right! On the personal level -- if everyone had enough money in the bank to pay their credit cards and we merely used them for convenience, then what would happen to interest rates? My guess is they would go down – but then I am not an economist and, as I say, none of it makes any sense to me. And maybe if interest rates were lower, then everything would cost less?

When I was a little kid you could buy a nice house for less than $10,000. When I was a teenager, good houses cost about $25,000. By the time I was in my 30s, they cost at least $50,000 by the time I was in my 50s that number had tripled. Now even in a deflated housing market, the average house is about $250,000 and those of us who had the vision to buy on the water have values well over $1,000,000 (at least in Maryland).

I remember buying a car for $5,500 in 1971 and thinking we were being pretty extravagant. Now I have to replace my 1998 Olds and everything new costs at least $30,000 (or at least so it seems to me for the features I want). Strangely, the “regular” cars and the “luxury” cars end up costing about the same when you get the same features on them. It is not that I want anything all that special really – just leather seats, a split fold-down rear seat, and a CD player.

I paid $26.95 for a small container of crab meat last night. It was Backfin—had I gotten lump it would have been $32.95. Well, the crab cakes were tasty and I did use a bit more cracker meal than usual so I was able to squeeze 13 nice crab cakes out that small container.

About the only thing that hasn’t gotten more expensive is technology. But then again, we didn’t have computers in the 1950s. Yes, we DID pay more than $400 for simple calculator back in about 1974. The same thing would cost about $4 today. As I say, none of this makes any sense to me.