The mysterious noise in the garage

There’s a funny sound coming out of our garage these days. Even people walking by outside, with the door closed, can hear it.

“What the hell is that noise?” they ask. Children cower in fear; pets hide when they hear it.

It sounds like machinery, like some kind of manufacturing is going on in the Miller household. Perhaps we are tuning skis day and night in preparation for the upcoming season. Maybe we’ve started some sort of business that involves a lathe or a grinder of some sort.

My wife is concerned about it. She believes the thing generating all the noise will catch fire at some point. Every time we open the inside garage door to the house, the whole main floor fills with the terrible grinding sound. Inevitably, Jen will declare that the sound is getting louder.

“Are you sure it’s OK? What if it catches fire?”

How should I know if it’s OK? I didn’t build the thing. And yeah, if it catches fire, we’ll have a problem.

But I don’t think it will. The box said it takes up about the same amount of energy as a standard light bulb, so it’s not a tremendous greenhouse-gas producer. And really, after weeks of listening to this thing, we really can’t stop now.

Plus, she bought it – not me.

The source of the noise is this little rock-polisher we got for our 7-year-old son Andy. The idea is pretty simple: You put rocks in a drum full of water with some sand-looking stuff, the drum tumbles around for a while and then the rocks come out all pretty-like. Except when I was putting the thing together and – wonder of wonders – actually reading the directions, instruction No. 3 jumped out at me: “Allow rocks to tumble for 6-8 days.”

Well, OK, I thought. Andy and I put all the crap in the drum with the rocks and plugged it in. It was at that point that we realized this was not necessarily an indoor thing. A closer examination of the instruction sheet revealed this tidbit: “Place tumbler where noise will not be bothersome.”

Like, say, Omaha.

So we took it out to the garage and plugged it in, settling in for the next week and hoping the rocks came out looking like wonderful gems. Then I read further into the instructions: Step 4 involved putting in a new packet of sand for the smoothing polish, then another 12-14 days of tumbling.

“Let’s take it back,” Jen said. “We’ll tell him it broke or something.”

But we’d come so far, it didn’t seem right. Besides, the final polish only takes one more lousy week, after which the rocks will surely be of museum quality.

With one kid out of the house, three kids in high school and 50 looming on the horizon, the sound of the stupid rock tumbler is a weird sort of music to my ears. I know there will be a time in the not-too-distant future when such things are a distant memory. We’ll no longer be tripping over the 4,000 pairs of shoes in our hallway or stepping on Legos (those suckers really hurt on bare feet!). We won’t find slicks of peanut butter on the counter or our good dinner plates out in the grass next to the trampoline.

So yeah, I can live with the rock tumbler for another week. I think I’m as anxious as Andy to finally open it up after all this time and see what this turbo-charged geological process has done to those humble rocks.

All I can say is it better be good.

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