Just the Other Day: The Humidifier

He didn’t do anything wrong and he certainly didn’t deserve it. Our black cat, Edgar Allan, was sitting in the living room bay window, watching the birds outside at the feeder. The Black-Capped Chickadees and Nuthatches flutter about; sporadically flying from the trees to the feeder. They snatch a sunflower seed or two, then fly back to the tall pine trees where they’ll feast on their find.  Edgar watched with intense interest; his head twitched about as he focused on different birds.


“Are you keeping an eye on those birds, Edgar?” I went to give him a gentle rub on the head. As the palm of my hand touched the tip of his ear – ZAP!  Static shock.


Edgar jumped off the sill, shot across the living room and went tearing down the hallway. He must have disturbed our dog June, because she came running from the hall toward the living room. Edgar was still in frantic mode as he passed June, ran laps around the house, bouncing off walls and furniture, finally taking shelter in his crinkle-tunnel. His head appeared through the hole in the middle of the tube to spectate the scene of the incident from a safe distance. Between my spells of laughter, I tried to ask, “Are you okay, buddy?”


Edgar glared at me as if I’d shocked him on purpose. June shook her head, “Edgar, you’re so melodramatic. It was just a little spark.”


A bit later, when June approached me, I could tell what was on her mind. “Do you need to go potty, Bugs?” She’s very good at letting us know when she needs to go outside. June hasn’t had an accident in the house since she was a puppy, over nine years ago. “You’re a good girl, June Bug.” I praised her as I went to give her an affectionate rub on the head.


When June sees a hand coming toward her, she optimistically checks for an incoming treat. Right when her cold wet nose touched my hand, BANG! A big discharge of static electricity sparked between us. June wagged her tail and trotted for the front door, “That was a good one, Dad!”


A little after four, Melissa got home from work. She walked in the front door with her coat bundled tight, her purse over her shoulder, a lunch bag in one hand and an insulated coffee mug in the other.  We greeted each other, “Hi, how was your day?” I asked as I went to give her a little kiss on the cheek, POW!  A static spark popped between us. I laughed, claiming my kisses are electrifying; she didn’t see it that way. “I guess it’s time to get the humidifier out.” She agreed and walked to the kitchen.


In the basement I found the humidifier in its original, colorful, green and blue box. Carefully unpacking it, I set the appliance on the floor then put the original Styrofoam and plastic packaging back in the box. Neatly closing the flaps, I put the box back where I got it and carried the humidifier upstairs.


I like this humidifier. It’s a tower with removeable saddle tanks that release water as needed into a small reservoir at the base. It’s quiet and does very well adding moisture to the air, reducing the risk of static shock in our home.


I set the humidifier in the hallway, removed the tanks and took them to the kitchen sink to fill. I record when and where I buy things that should last for years; on the back side of each tank, I wrote, O’Hara Hardware 2-14-14. It was hard to believe this humidifier is in its sixth season of use.


I remember the day I bought it. I told Mike O’Hara I wanted a West Bend brand humidifier. He asked why that particular brand, so I gave him the only reason I could think of. “My parents always had West Bend humidifiers.”


Mom gave me her old West Bend humidifier. Inside the cabinet, a big plastic wheel with a black filter around the edge, sat on two pullies, one was motor driven to turn it like a Ferris wheel. The bottom of the wheel moved through the rectangular tub in the base, bringing water up for the fan to vaporize and humidify the house. Three square grates on top could be turned to deflect the air as desired.


I had to carry pitchers of water to the West Bend, inevitably sloshing some of the water on the floor and spilling more when trying to pour it into the slanted door that opened on the front. The pullies squeaked, the fan was loud and the thing just smelled bad. I suppose these are the reasons Mom bought a new one. But it still worked and a squirt of “water freshener” at each refill helped mask the musky odor. I used that West Bend for several years until the motor died.


I thought about days long ago when I was a kid. I would shuffle my feet along the carpeted floor. When I felt fully charged, I would sneak up on a sibling and touch their ear, or the back side of their neck. ZAPP0! I would laugh my fool head off, although I’ll admit, I didn’t think it was that funny when someone did it to me.


No matter who shocked whom first; whether it was incidental or intentional, a static shock battle ensued and soon several kids were shuffling feet over the floor. Sometimes I could rub my hands up and down the front of my sweater, gathering enough juice to pop someone. It was fun and extra cool when two kids, both fully charged, touched finger tips and got a double shock – you could actually see the spark!


Another fun static game involved balloons. I’d rub an inflated balloon against my head. When I pulled it away, my hair stood straight up, trying to cling to the balloon. The charged balloon would then magically stick to the ceiling or a wall. Soon brothers and sisters were competing for the balloon so they could try it, too.


Some of my older sisters (and brothers) were more particular about the appearance of their hair than the younger kids were. It was always fun to walk up to an older sister who had just brushed her long, straight hair, possibly preparing for a date. If you silently held the balloon a few inches from their head, it would draw their hair toward the balloon like a magnet, messing up their style. It was best to be a fast runner with a planned escape route when pulling this prank.


Every static event led to an imminent dispute; someone got zapped too hard, someone’s hair got wrecked, or someone popped someone else’s balloon. When the ruckus drew Dad’s attention, the game was over. “Knock it off before someone gets hurt.” Dad would walk over to the West Bend humidifier, open the door and look into an empty reservoir. “Who was supposed to fill the humidifier? This thing doesn’t work unless it has water in it.” Ah, the memories.


I told Mike O’Hara I was replacing the humidifier Mom gave me when she bought her new West Bend several years ago. Mike told me he sold Mom her new unit and it wasn’t a West Bend. He went on to explain the benefits of the Essick Air Humidifier. I was convinced, this was the unit for me.


I said I would need two; one for the main floor and one to put upstairs. Mike assured me that one would handle the entire house, but I was skeptical. How could one little humidifier, one fourth the size of my old West Bend, humidify the whole house? I bought two…and later gave one away as it only took one to do the job.


At the kitchen sink, I filled the tanks and carried them to the hallway without spilling a drop. I slid the tanks into the cradles, snapping them into place. Glug, glug, glug, went the water as it filled the reservoir below. Edgar came running into the hallway to investigate the mysterious noise.


When I pushed a button, the fan kicked on and the unit was running smooth and quiet as new. I told the curious cat, “This humidifier will help to save your ears from getting popped.” Edgar looked at me like I was an idiot for thinking he would understand.


June joined us in the hallway. I patted the humidifier, “June, this baby is going to keep your nose from getting popped this winter.” June looked a little sad. I think she likes getting those little shocks. I went on to say, “I can’t believe this humidifier is in its sixth season already.”


“Is that a lot, Dad?” June asked.


“Well, if the humidifier makes it to spring – and I have every reason to believe it will – it will have had as many successful seasons as Downton Abbey!” June and I shared a good laugh about that. Edgar Allan rolled his eyes and looked at us as if my joke was way beneath a cat’s sophisticated sense of humor. I reached down and touched Edgar on the tip of his ear. ZAP!


Edgar took off running down the hall toward the living room, bouncing off furniture and walls until he jumped up into the bay window to watch the birds outside. June and I laughed our fool heads off. “It will take a couple hours for this thing to work,” I told my trusty canine, “and besides, he deserved it – with his hoity toity attitude.”  I turned off the light and left the humidifier running quietly in the hallway.