Monday, August 31, 2009

More Birthday Fun, Thanks to Ronan

My birthday celebrations started out nicely enough. We had dinner with the Alvii and enjoyed coconut cake and some small gifts. This was a very low-key, but pleasant evening.

After dinner, we got the boys down for the night, and Becky and I settled in to watch some Masterpiece Mystery on PBS. Miss Marple was solving "Murder is Easy"! Good stuff!

It was then, about quarter to ten, when the telephone rang.

"Who on earth would call at this hour?" I asked indignantly.

And though the caller-ID said Wolfe, it was Sharon on the phone. That was strange.

Apparently, during the day, Ronan had dropped his prized skateboard down the storm drain in front of our house. This was his $100 skateboard, and Sharon just didn't want to let it go.

Crap! There goes the movie.

Slightly peeved, I figured I would need to open the manhole cover, so I headed downstairs to find my crow-bar. However, when I looked for it in the usual place on my workbench, it was nowhere to be found. Damn it! I hate it when the kids mess with my tools!

Luke, Andrew, and Ronan had taken it to play, and now there was no telling where it went. And to further set my blood to boiling, two of my screwdrivers were also missing from the pegboard. Damn those kids!

Huffing and puffing, I went outside to find Desi had already removed the manhole cover. We all looked down the hole--a very dark, wet and deep twelve feet down--and saw that, yes indeed, there was Ronan's skateboard.

Climbing down this manhole is no easy chore. I've done it before to retrieve things for Eddie, and it is dangerous and slippery and filthy. The hole opens up several feet in diameter after you pass through the cover itself, making grabbing the ladder very tricky. I was not relishing the thought of going down there.

But thinking on my feet, I had grabbed a length of rope in the house, and now set about trying to lasso the end of the skateboard. At first, it looked like it might work. But it was difficult work, because each time I got the end of the skateboard in my lasso, the tapered end of the board forced the loop to come off the board. What I needed was a hook. So Becky ran inside and quickly returned with a coat hanger.

Now with the added weight, the rope was working better. Yet, the inside walls of the manhole chamber were sticky with dirt and mud, and the rope kept sticking to the side of the walls. The kids were all hovering around, and being noisy, and getting in the way, and my temper was still high. Zach was a hyperactive distraction. Maura wouldn't hold the flashlight correctly, and Eoin kept instructing me that I wasn't making good on the opportunities to snatch the skateboard with the rope.

It was then that a hand reached out and started jiggling my rope. Thinking this was Eoin, for all I could make out was dark hair next to me, I swatted at him and barked sharply, "Leave that rope alone!"

Poor Desi. I don't think he quite knew what to do when I swatted him. And I was mortified by my rudeness. I think this mistake may have calmed me down a bit, humbled me somewhat. Phil, Becky and Sharon just laughed and laughed. Mostly at me. It's no fun being grouchy when people are laughing at you.

So, I tried a few more times, and finally hooked the wheels with the makeshift fishing line. As I started to pull up the skateboard, the wimpy coat-hanger hook bent from the weight and the skateboard fell, dropping neatly and completely down the drain hole.

Ka-chunk, roll, roll, roll, roll, roll, roll, roll, roll,
ka-chunk, roll, roll, roll, roll, roll, roll, roll, roll,
ka-chunk, roll, roll, roll, roll, roll, roll, roll, roll,
ka-chunk, roll, roll, roll, roll, roll, roll, roll, roll,
ka-chunk, roll, roll, roll, roll, roll, roll, roll, roll,
roll, roll, roll, roll, roll, roll, roll, roll, roll, thud... then silence.

Damn it! I lost it!

We all just stood there, looking down that hole and listening to that skateboard roll forever down the storm drain.

Then we remembered the culvert at the creek. This is where the storm drain ended.

Phil used the flashlight, but could see nothing but darkness for hundreds of feet. I tried to encourage Maura to shimmy up the pipe (for she was just the right size), but she wasn't having any of it. Then I thought about the interim manhole covers in my yard. There were two, and though they hadn't been opened in a decade, one or the other might contain the skateboard.

Luckily, Becky had found the crow-bar in the garage, so we pried open the cover of the first, a difficult task because the grass and dirt had sealed it tightly shut. And upon shining a light down the hole, we discovered... the skateboard! What's more, this hole was only a few feet deep! It was an easy chore for Desi to jump down, retrieve the skateboard, and jump back out.

It was so easy, in fact, I tried to claim credit for doing it this way on purpose. Yes, dropping the skateboard down the drain was just what we needed to do to get it out easily. Planned it all along.

So, the crisis was over, and I invited everybody in for a taste of my new apple brandy. It was my small way to try to make amends for my grouchiness. It seems that in my late thirties, I still must work very hard to keep my codgerly nature at bay.

Yet, when Pam told me later that Ronan had driven the skateboard down the drain on purpose...

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