Friday, May 25, 2012

Signal to Noise

(Read the previous blog. I can't force you to do it, but this will be the ravings of a madwoman without it.)

So, the noise. First, I lay in bed and listened to it for about five minutes, dully hoping it would go away. Then I placed one of the adorably coordinated shammed pillows over my head for about five minutes and dully hoping it would muffle the noise. Then I lay there for about five minutes and contemplated how if I had become a Buddhist twenty years ago as I had threatened to and meditated all this time, I’d be able to accept the noise for what it was and equably sleep through it. None of these things made the noise any less itself or any more appealing. Finally, curiosity overcame retroactive Buddhist-longings and I went in search of it. It came from the bathroom, I discovered. Actually, from a wall in the bathroom. Specifically, from a spot in the wall in the bathroom. The place from which the sound sprung was no larger than my hand, but it made up for its size by being the most annoying sound in the world. I did what any reasonable person awakened at 3:30am in a bed and breakfast would do; I grabbed my iPhone and taped the sound. I’d like to say I did this because of my naturally scientific bent, but really I did it so I could send it to Consort and annoy him as well.

Readers, here is the noise. Please note the picture of me holding up the iPhone is from a later time, because I really only planned to annoy one person with this. Once I realized I would blog about it, we had to create a visual so I could attach it. But the noise is real and non enhanced; my phone was about six inches from the wall.

Restful, isn’t it?

I sent it to Consort at 3:50 and tried to read. In case you’ve wondered, Joan Didion is a compelling writer but cannot be fully appreciated over Hector. Yeah, I named the sound. I named it because if I’m spending the night with something in a b&b, I really should know its name. Also, I appreciate a proper noun which is also the verb of what it was doing to me. Ten minutes later, my phone dinged; Consort had written back.


I typed back:

I have no idea. More to the point, WHY ARE YOU AWAKE?

After a few seconds:

Got up to go to bathroom. Heard the email come in.

Hector was powerful; he had awakened someone over a hundred miles away.

The phone rang. Without preamble, Consort said “Take me to the noise.”

We all walked to the bathroom together. I held the phone to Hector. Hector buzzed happily in response. I put the phone back to my ear.

“Hmmm,” Consort said in his Oh, I do love a mystery at 4:00 in the morning voice. Honestly, potential engineering issues in what he thinks of as the shank of the evening meant I probably didn’t need to get him a Father’s Day present now. “It’s the bathroom, but it doesn’t sound like plumbing. It could be electrical. Did it sound electrical to you?”

There was a pause. That darling man has known me fifteen years and still he thought this was a conversation I’d contribute to.

“I’m sorry,” I said politely, “I was rolling toilet paper into ear-stoppers and was pretty much ignoring you.”

“Wet them,” he said absently, “they’ll fit more tightly.” He then got outraged. “I can’t believe the owners aren’t around to take care of this!”

“They are,” I said, dampening toilet paper, “They live right downstairs in the back. They said to come over if I had any questions.”

There was another pause. Consort took in what I assume was sort of like a cleansing breath.

“And,” he said in a slightly strangulated tone,”This doesn’t strike you as...a question?”

“I don’t want to wake them. I’ll get them up here and the noise will stop. You know, like the car-noise.”

“What car-noise?”

“Never mind.”

Pause. Finally, he said, “I’m going back to bed now.”

“You should, you sound tired.”

In order to create white noise, I cranked the air-conditioner to top speed and then added a small oscillating fan I found and turned up high. There was a lot of air flying around. It was as if I had situated my bed inside a wind-tunnel or a photo-shoot for Cosmo, circa 1979. Hector sneered at my white noise, at my sodden-paper ear inserts. Hector and I watched the sun rise. At seven, I staggered downstairs and found one of the owners, a man who until that moment had assumed his early morning would involve making breakfast and not a hollow-eyed harridan waving an iPhone at him. I played "Andrew" the noise; I was gratified that he winced. I explained that I hoped he didn’t have a guest arriving early and expecting that room, because I was going to try to sleep until whenever I could, so that the audience at the reading wouldn’t think they had stumbled into an autopsy.

I crawled back upstairs, opened the door and heard silence. As with the car-noise, the minute I mentioned it to a qualified professional, it slithered away. I had the phone in my hand and was about to call Consort when the noise started up again. Hector was screwing with me. Finally, exhaustion trumped Hector and I slept, dreaming of a nation full of dial-up modems, coming for me.

Two hours later, I ambled downstairs. It wasn’t a full night’s sleep, but it was six hours sleep in total, and I can make six hours of interrupted sleep work if I attach a caboose of three cups of tea. The other owner, "Robert", made me breakfast, which was delicious. You all have heard about my delight in toast and I believe I’ve covered my feelings about pie before, but the third leg of the Table of Quinn’s Carbohydrate Delights is biscuits. A warm fresh biscuit and great lashings of tea later, I was almost myself. The owner and I listened to Hector’s tape. Robert looked at me oddly, opened his mouth, shut it again, and then said tentatively, “Have you ever had any...paranormal experiences?”

There are about eight cities in the world where you can ask this without fearing a side-eye and Los Angeles is one of them. I told him about the poltergeist who pestered our house after my father died.

(I’ll tell you another time, I promise. It’s good, but it’s even too digressive for me.)

“Well,” he said, sitting down at the table,”Then you should know we had a paranormal investigator come here after we bought the place. She said the woman who had owned the property originally was still hanging around and that, well, she has a crush on me. She seems to like your room and there’s been a couple of guests who’ve given me attitude when they check in and if they’re in that room, they complain about how the room is freezing. The room is at the top of the house, it’s never freezing. We think she gets mad at them.”

I was appalled; I had managed to offend both the living and the dead. Until now, the greatest concern I had about a bed & breakfast was having to make small talk before I brushed my teeth.”But,” I spluttered, “I didn’t even meet you last night! Your biscuits are delightful!”

“We’re fine,” Robert assured me. We both looked upstairs, towards Hector. He said supportively, “She’s probably just jealous that you’re cute.”

This was an adorable thing for him to say, because after an evening with Hector my only wardrobe-related question was going to be “What goes with midnight-black eye-bags which cover me to mid-calf?”

The reading was fun; Eduardo, the man who created the writer’s tour is an excellent interviewer and the audience was more sizable than I’ve had in some cities of millions. They sold out of my book, which I hadn’t expected and was awfully nice of the Idyllwildians to do. They even had their books autographed, which means they couldn’t bring it back the next day and get something they really wanted. The owner of the b & b came to the reading. In sum, everyone I might in Idyllwild was incredibly gracious and seemed pleased to have me there.

Well, nearly everyone.


Blogger dhanks said...

Well, that was worth waiting for! Truly disturbing.

11:10 PM  
Blogger knit one, knit two said...

Oh that's creepy...

4:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very funny, for us, now. To me, the noise sounds mechanical. Wind in a tight space combined with a loose part of something. When in a hotel, cheap or otherwise, I always get a bed on top or next to the global ventilation system. Couldn't sleep in said hotels in the past 15 years. Would ask for a different room if not for the person next to me sound asleep. That said person having superhuman hearing and me having only one good, and only for my age bracket, ear.

5:11 AM  
Blogger Debbie St.Amand said...

Wow. Would definitely love to hear about the poltergeist stuff, too. I had an experience in that line, myself, years ago, when I was about 13 or so.

10:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's the thing...if they know they have an issue with that room, paranormal or otherwise, they need to STOP renting it out.
I'm so sorry that you had to deal with that.
On the other hand, next time you travel, take some sage and salt with you. Not as a snack, but to purify and protect yourself. I know it sounds silly, but burn the sage and walk clockwise around the room. Sprinkle the salt around the perimeters of the room, walking clockwise.
If you're ever "stuck" with a ghost again, you can try this---sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but it never hurts to try.
Say, "In the name of love and light, I did not call you here, please go away." Try this three times and be polite when you say it. Yes, I do know that sounds silly, but saying it politely and not feeling angry when you say it can make those annoying dead people leave.

11:18 AM  
Blogger Deb said...

Hmmm. Either electrical, or a really PO'd animal trapped in the wall.

2:41 PM  
Anonymous Robin Raven said...

You are the best storyteller. What a compelling read.

I totally thought our house had a poltergeist after my dad died, too. I had a lot of really strange experiences that, to this day, cannot be explained.

Then again some of my favorite movies in the world are Poltergeist 1, 2, and 3.

I am a skeptic these days, but that is sooo strange. That noise is truly bizarre.

What a fascinating read. Thanks for sharing.:) I'm glad the reading went well. I hope to see you with your new book this summer!

12:16 AM  
Blogger Little Miss Sunshine State said...

The second I heard the noise I knew it was the Undead!

8:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like a dryer. Or a washing machine?

11:39 AM  
Anonymous NancySongbird said...

Thanks for not keeping us in suspense too long! ;-) Definitely weird! Never heard anything like that...

11:34 AM  
Blogger lisa i said...

Probably a pump run dry somewhere & the noise vibrates through the plumbing.

9:50 AM  
Blogger JimS said...

Somewhat reminds me of the song by Peter Gabriel. :)

Off topic: I love the modern Internet world we live in where I can start with doing a search for St. Elmo's Fire and end finding a blog by a former child star that I was very much entertained by as a child myself, and get to reply to her writings, etc.

12:26 PM  
Blogger Maya said...

While this only reveals what an unrepentant geek I am, and doesn't even remotely help solve the Great Hector Mystery, the first thing I thought was, "ooh, it totally sounds like the Tardis!" Any chance there was a British dude with a young companion and a strange little wand-gadget staying at the B&B? Because that would explain everything. Also? One of the captcha words is "chap" so thereyago.

12:58 PM  
Anonymous Mitzi said...

Not sure if this helps but when I played Hector it woke my sleeping dogs and seriously disturbed them. It actually sounds like a plumbing issue to me. The faucet in one of the bathrooms at my parents' house makes a gentler version of that noise when too many people are using water.

11:13 PM  
Anonymous Xenia said...

when are you going to tell us about the poltergeist? that sounds like a fun story!

11:21 AM  

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