The reader may recall that broom-mania was sweeping the house when last I chronicled.
During this marvelous time of marvels, a humble broom could be coaxed into standing unaided on its bristles! It seems (or so we thought) that the earth was tilted for a few scant days at an angle that would allow a broom to stand up straight without assistance. We all (or most of us, anyway) took advantage of this gravitational gift, trying our respective hands at broom balancing: Tracy tried it, I tried it, Fr. Bob tried it. Tracy and I were successful, but Fr. Bob’s attempt literally fell flat.
Fr. Bob and I were both perplexed by the falling broom, as I had managed to leave the exact same broom standing successfully in the middle of the refectory but a few moments before he picked it up, set it down again, and watched it fall flat. I had been delighted by the ease with which the broom had stood at attention in the refectory, and I was sure that Fr. Bob would enjoy the same surprising success. But no: a balanced broom was not to be his.
Could the earth’s tilt really have changed enough in three or four minutes to destroy the magic of the free-standing broom?
I took to the internet for an answer and discovered that Mother Earth’s tilt had absolutely nothing to do with the standing broom trick. This whole “earth is tilted – one time only; act fast! – in a way that will allow a broom to stand unaided” thing is apparently a hoax that’s been making the rounds for years now. The fact of the matter is that a broom will always stand unaided, assuming that the person who places the broom on the floor is able to create a tripod out of its bristles. It would seem that Tracy and I simply enjoyed a bit more luck than Fr. Bob in the “let’s set this thing down in a way which creates a tripod out of the bristles” department.
And so the mystique of a cosmic mystery was mercilessly shattered.
While I’m on the topic of mysteries that turned out to be somewhat disappointingly less mysterious than anticipated: perhaps the reader remembers that I had plans to do a little experiment over the quiet Labor Day Weekend. Namely, I planned to drop a small object down each of the mystery chutes in the east and west corridors of the 1918 portion of the house, noting where each object landed in the basement and thus gaining a better idea (theoretically) of the purpose served by these mystery chutes. For three reasons, this noble experiment never came to fruition.
First, I was unable to find two objects suitable for dropping down the chutes. (I confess that I didn’t try very hard to find objects suitable for dropping – see point two, below.)
Second, I was a little nervous about opening the hatch of each chute. What if a mouse or spider or errant bird or bat had decided to shoot out of the chute?
Third, I ended up going out of town for a few days over the Labor Day weekend and wouldn’t have had time to conduct the experiment, even if I’d been a) braver, and b) better equipped with objects suitable for dropping.
And so the mystique of this not-so-cosmic mystery remained intact.
Until a few months later, when a guest taking a tour of the house with historic commentary asked, while pressing on the hatch to the chute in the east corridor and peering into the darkness: “Where’s this go?” My “I don’t know” overlapped neatly with his “The floor of a closet!”
The mystery chutes – both of them – drop about 18 inches to the floor of a closet.
In some ways, the chutes are more mysterious now than they were before.
Who would build a chute that leads to the floor of a closet? Were these chutes indeed the laundry chutes that I had long assumed them to be? Did the closets serve as laundry collection sites? Or perhaps they were trash chutes of some sort? Perhaps the hatches were once set in the outside walls of the house? After all, they are positioned in the hallways quite near that point at which the east and west corridors of the house were capped with the north corridor in 1923, enclosing the once-open-to-the-north courtyard and completing the lovely large square of our house.
The search begins for photos of the house that will shed some light on the original purpose of these mystery chutes.
In the meantime, the mystery remains semi-solved.
Joyfully, another mystery has arisen to take its place: how did the statue of St. Anthony in our basement obtain a suitcase? Where is he planning to travel? And when will the state safety inspector give him the green light to board our new elevator and begin his journey? May the answers to these questions soon be on our horizon, along with a lovely Brother Sun who dances merrily through the ever lengthening days of not-quite-spring, but-not-quite-winter!