Tiny Beads

“We have water!”

The Lovely Lady, not given to idle talk, spoke the words almost disgustedly as I sat at my desk on a recent afternoon.  I, on the other hand, am given to more than my share of foolishness.  I had a quick answer.

“Of course we do.  We paid our water bill, didn’t we?”

Grinning stupidly, I stood and walked around the corner to where she stood pointing at the floor.

Water.  On the floor.  Any number of feet away from a plumbing supply line in the building.  The puddle was growing, so we moved.  In opposite directions.  She headed to find an old towel.  I stalked to the air conditioner’s closet and reached inside.  I knew exactly what I was seeking.

I slid my finger inside the inch and a half big hole on its top and touched cold water right up at the lip of the smallish black box.  Yep, the puddle was overflowing from here.

Oblivious to the water which I knew would splatter everywhere (it couldn’t be worse than the rapidly expanding lake on the floor), I lifted the box a few inches in the air and dropped it back on the shelf upon which it rested.  Immediately, the motor inside roared to life, and the water level receded almost instantly.

When the Lovely Lady arrived back at the scene twenty seconds later, towel in hand, the crisis was over.  The puddle still needed to be sopped up, but it was no longer expanding, so it was just a matter of moments before the mess was cleaned up.

How could such a thing happen?  And, what is this black box inside we keep inside the hall closet?

Suffice it to say that my stubborness is fully to blame.  The black box is a pump, placed there because years ago, I wanted the air conditioner in that location, and it is some distance away from a normal drain.  The condensate from the unit has to be pumped into the attic and then outside through a small piece of copper tubing.

The pump’s motor forces water out, but it also has a float which tells the motor when to run.  When the water level in the tank reaches a certain level, the float activates a micro-switch which starts the motor, draining the reservoir.


So why all the fuss?  And, why is there water running out the top of the pump and onto the floor?

I’ve known the answer to that question for a long time.  The answer can be held between my finger and thumb with ease.  The culprit is a little piece of polystyrene (commonly called styrofoam) less than an eighth of an inch in diameter.

Less than one-eighth inch!

The building is two thousand feet in area.  With eight-foot ceilings, the cubic feet to be cooled are a mere sixteen thousand.  For all those sixteen thousand cubic feet, we have a five-ton compressor unit that cools the air.

And, for that huge cooling unit, we have a tiny box which removes the moisture which collects as condensate.

And, for that tiny black box, a single eighth inch ball of polystyrene can (and frequently does) bring the whole works to a screeching halt.  All that has to happen is for a solitary piece of styrofoam to come between the contacts of the micro-switch which tells the motor on the pump it is time to run, and we’re done.

“We have water!”

I hate those words.

Why not get rid of the polystyrene ball?

I would, but the little one-eighth inch balls are what insulates my attic.  Thousands of them.  I have to have insulation.

They fall down into the hall closet around the duct work, also a necessary part of the system.  The pressure in the closet moves them around and they sift into the pump.

One ball.  All that big building, all that air moving, all that big unit blowing up a gale.

All shut down with one tiny polystyrene ball.


The size of this O.

You will, no doubt, fill in the blanks to make an appropriate application for your circumstances.  I have my own issues and their tiny culprits.

I wonder if it is time to turn my attention to a detail or two.

Then again, there is no water today.

Perhaps tomorrow.

“Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.”
(James 3:5b ~ NIV)

“A little neglect may breed mischief …
for want of a nail, the shoe was lost;
for want of a shoe the horse was lost;
and for want of a horse the rider was lost.”
(Benjamin Franklin ~ Poor Richard’s Almanac, preface [1758])

© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2014. All Rights Reserved.

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