Of Michigan J. Frog (Lifehacking at 50+)

It was the weirdest thing. Every other morning at 5:00 – maybe 5:02 – I would be awakened by this wailing noise outside my window. It sounded like a siren gone bad, or maybe some electronic nightmare warble: waah-oooh-waah-oooh-uh-uh-uh-waah…

I thought at first that it might be the start of a shift at the cement plant not too far from us. Maybe their “factory whistle” had gone haywire or something. Then I worried that it might be a tornado siren. But when I got out of bed and stuck my head out the window, it sounded like it came from my own back yard.

I even went out there one morning and narrowed it down to a particular juniper bush, and determined that it must be from the irrigation system watering the bush.

Then I started the horrendous task of trying to get the noise to happen when someone else was listening. Now this is like when I take my car in to a repair person, say “it’s making a funny noise,” and it doesn’t. The mechanic looks at me like I’m high – again.

Or when I take my computer to Vu, Emperor of All Things Cyber, and say “it makes this sound when I…” Vu (who is the best for computers, or I wouldn’t be going to him) patronizes and says, “Uh huh.” Because he can’t hear it.

Because the irrigation system wouldn’t make the sound. Not for my husband, not for the irrigation lady, not for anyone. I was so frustrated, I was nearly in tears. Not to mention sleep-deprived. I was wailing myself – “I am not imagining this!”

Warner Brothers had for years a cartoon character, Michigan J. Frog. Some of you might remember him. He was this very ordinary pond-variety frog, except that when no one else was around but one guy, he would put on a top hat, grab a cane, and sing Vaudeville tunes.

The guy tries to convince others of the singing frog, but when there are other people around, the frog won’t sing.

Standing in the back yard with the irrigation lady, I felt like that one guy, trying to explain about the singing frog. But she’s the very soul of customer service, so she said, “Let’s do this. Let’s re-create the exact conditions of when you hear this. Turn off your dishwasher and tell your husband no toilet flushing for ten minutes. Then let’s run the irrigation system and watch – or rather, listen.”

So we did. And it worked. She actually heard the noise, actually grabbed the piece of pipe that was wailing and made it worse, and then we turned off the water and she fixed the problem. (She is also the best for irrigation systems, or I wouldn’t be using her.)

The moral, I guess, is that you have to believe in yourself – and what you know to be happening – enough to be willing to appear foolish the first few times, until it happens again with an audience.

Has this ever happened to you – that you can’t re-create a problem, or a wonder, in front of others?

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