A bit of back story first: Until we had some plumbers out recently to replace the pipes, we had issues with our bathroom drains. The sink had stopped flowing for a few months already, and the bathtub slowly came to a standstill as well more recently. I'd tried the usual plunging and drain cleaner, but they had both become less and less effective over the years until it all finally stopped. We'd been planning to call out a plumber for the sink once we were both fully vaccinated, but bailing the tub after each shower got old very quickly and it forced our hand. Also, the drain had been dripping into the basement for some time.
Our work-around for the sink was to use the kitchen sink for hand-washing and teeth-brushing. atara
continued doing that until we got the bathroom fixed, but I ended up migrating to the basement bathroom. The basement bathroom is a tiny half-bath tucked in under the stairs, with just enough room for a toilet and sink. I cleaned it up and started heading down there to brush and clean up at the end of the day, or for a quick sponge-bath when I didn't feel like dealing with the plugged bathtub.
Even after we got the upstairs plumbing fixed, I've continued using the downstairs bathroom because I like having a private little space, and I want to keep it clean and functioning after letting it fall into years of disuse.
I have a variety of necessities down there: soap, wash cloth, towel, deodorant, toothbrush and paste, electric trimmers, chap-stick, etc. It's the last item that was the subject of this little mystery.
This past winter and (so far) spring have been extraordinarily dry, so one of the last things I do before heading up to bed is to apply chapstick, and then moisturise my dry hands. I'd noticed a few times that the stick was not sticking as far out of the tube as I remembered, but I just assumed that I'd been going through it faster than I thought.
I started making a point of ensuring it was advanced a couple of millimetres before I capped it. The next night I would remove the cap and find it retracted back into the tube. The first couple of times this happened, I attributed it to poor memory, assuming that I had meant
to leave it extruded and forgot. After awhile, though, I concluded that my my memory was not that
bad. Somehow the lip balm was cranking itself back into the tube during the day. It's one of those tubes that has the twister on the end to extrude/retract the balm, and I was standing it on the shelf with the rotating end face down. It occurred to me that with the weight of the stick pressing down on the twisting end, it was slowly turning itself and retracting over the course of the day. That would also explain why this didn't happen every day - it would vary with temperature and humidity.
To stop this, I started storing it cap-end down so that it would not retract under its own weight. That solved the problem completely. For two days.
Three days after I made this change, I removed the cap to find it retracted into the tube again. I knew that it was not my memory at fault, and I had now ruled out that it was the weight of the tube. My brain started heading into strange territory then. I ruled that it was either a) atara
was subtly trolling me, b) a ghost, or c) we had a stranger living in one of our underused closets who was sneaking out when we left the house to help themself to our food, and mess with my lip balm.
I became very careful with the lip balm after that. When I put it on the shelf, I made sure to leave it in a very specific spot and facing to try and catch the perpetrator in the act. Each night, I would find it in exactly the same same place and orientation where I had left it, but randomly extruded or retracted. There was no apparent pattern to it.
About a week ago, I had just finished using it when I noticed something as I was putting on the cap. I was holding the tube at the middle, and as I pushed the cap into place, the extruder spun. I pulled off the cap and, sure enough, it was retracted. It turns out that the cap is such a tight fit that the air pressure was pushing the balm back down into the tube. The deciding factor on whether I found it extruded or retracted the next day was on how I was holding it when I put on the cap the night before. If I held it in such a way as to stop the retractor from spinning, I'd find it properly extruded the next night.
Mystery solved for real this time. It was definitely a bit of a brain-bender, though.
I've been varying my route when I got for (almost) daily walks in our neighbourhood lately, and one of the things I've been doing while I walk is to take pictures of interesting street art that I pass. This one has all the markings that suggest it's a gang hangout. Given the part of town, I'd not be surprised.