Last Saturday. A memorable day, but not in a good way. The phone line was not working. I was verifying the connection, because no phone company kid under the age of 70 could understand the old Bell System cable bundles that deliver the Internet and Phone service in our 1925 bank building. There are numerous logical breaches, undocumented splices which undermine the original Bell Telephone order of things - a blue wire goes into a wall, for example, and emerges red with white stripes. So, I was crawling around on the floor of my office like the serpent, trying to make sense of it all through the copper boiler pipes, other cables, holes in the walls, lighting, sound, and other studio cables. It's like trying to trace a single thread of linguini through the Alfredo sauce.
All together, now: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
In squeezing behind the console, I jostled an already-stressed wooden shelf system, and now it began a low, relentless, painful groan. Wrenching myself out from under the console, I stood up just in time to see an entire 6 ft section of shelving weaving over, starting to lean into its final descent - a kamikaze dive to oblivion. It's all my equipment! My babies! Two ancient 75 lb. reel-to-reel tape decks, an amplifier, cassette drives, and a vintage pre-amp. I managed to swing the shelf upright again, but as soon as I let go, gravity had its way, and my moral support was the only thing keeping my beloved tape decks from crashing themselves into sad little heaps of irreparable scrap metal. I frantically one-handedly disconnected all the power and audio cords in anticipation of rescue. I wedged a ceramic tile shim into the shelf. First one deck and then the other. After the weight was alleviated, I left the shelf on its own, and great was the fall of it.
And that probably contributed to why the phones were sounding so weird that day.
The phone rang - it's one of those modern beige table models with a lucite rotary dial. A voice came through the crackling, a lady's high voice with a heavy foreign accent. All I could make out was:
"I have a low voice in the basement".
I thought it was a telemarketer, but although I couldn't understand what she was talking about, this lady knew too much to be a telemarketer. So I didn't hang up.
"Is this Gaddy, maddy to Joss Barka?"
Well, yes, I'll admit that was close enough for me: Gary married Joyce.
"There's a low voice in the basement."
So, I shout through the static "Who is this really?"
"The Petting Saloon, not Chinese restaurant, but the next store after on the end"
"Oh, the Eyebrow Studio!" I don't see what's a Petting Saloon, whatever that is. Jani is OK at English, really, but with the crackling phone lines, she sounded like an entirely different person. We got down to the problem at hand:
"A low voice in the basement".
OK. ENOUGH ALREADY! This I gotta see. Who ya gonna call? Voice Busters!
"I'll be right over".
I entered the heavily-incensed salon. Jani pointed calmly to the basement stairs. "There."
As I descended the stairs, I could indeed hear the low voice - an eerie groaning, much like the leaning shelf I had just left. The sound modulated and ululated - as if someone is working in the next room with a floor sander. But there was no next room in the basement, and no floors to sand. The noise was emanating from the water pipes, and the low voice was vibrating the whole building. And with nobody using any water, how was this possible? I finally traced it to a Chicago faucet with a failing washer - the miniscule water leakage slipping through the washers was enough to set up a resonance. Shut off the water supply valve to the sink, and the small voice was stilled.