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That Time the Ring Fell Down the Air Vent

I was filing an email when I heard the unmistakable clink of a ring going down an air vent. It reminded me of the opening of Lolita when Humbert Humbert says her name is like “the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps.” The ring hit the metal side of the air vent three times and then went silent. Followed by child’s wail.


The ChickieNob wears a mood ring that she plays with incessantly.  We bought it for her this fall while we were at the beach because she had mentioned earlier that week that she wanted a mood ring.  And then we were standing in front of a case of mood rings.  So… we bought the mood ring.

We tell her not to take it on and off, but she absentmindedly twists it while she reads.  She was standing near the bookcase, reading while twisting the ring, and it popped off her finger, bounced, unluckily turned sideways, and bounced through the vent grating to its doom.

I took the grating off the vent — it simply pops up off of the carpet — and peered into the gaping maw of the air vent.  There was a lot of dust, a rusty nail, and some dried up spiders.  But no ring.  I shined a light into the passageway but could only see a few inches beyond the mouth of the vent.

At this point, Josh came home and he dragged an unbent wire hanger through the vent, hoping to snag it on the unseen ring and bring it closer to the mouth of the vent.  No luck.  The kids went down in the basement and commented that they could hear the scraping of the hanger in a vent in the ceiling.  What if instead of trying to drag the ring up, we tried to push it down so it would drop through the ceiling?

This required power tools to remove the basement vent grating.  Once we did that, we realized that the vent above, while connected to the vent below, was not a straight shot.  So we placed the grating back on the ceiling and made a plan A, B, and C.

Plan A: Continue trying the hanger method for another 10 minutes.

Plan B: Give up for the time being and go out after dinner to get a temporary ring.  Wear temporary ring until we return to the beach to get another mood ring.  Return home with temporary ring and try “grabbing” the real ring with two-sided tape stuck to the end of the hanger.

Plan C: Something with magnets.  (We didn’t get too far in brainstorming this plan.)

We did Plan A for a bit, and then quit for dinner.  As we were eating, I looked over at the Dyson and wondered if there was any way I could use it in the air vent to suck out the ring.  The neck is long and made of metal, which doesn’t lend itself well for jamming it into the hole.

Still, I tried this after dinner while Josh washed the dishes so we could go out to obtain said temporary ring.  Of course the wand of the vacuum couldn’t be manipulated into the hole, and I almost gave up.  But then I wondered if I could detach the tubing from the neck, keeping the other end still connected to the motor, and snake that tubing down the vent.  Yes, yes, like a possessed woman, I dissected the Dyson and dropped the tubing down the air vent.

It took several tries to get the tubing deep enough into the vent, but after about three minutes, we heard the unmistakable clink of a ring being sucked into a vacuum.  We quickly shut off the motor, and there, nestled in a mound of dust, was the aforementioned mood ring.  Safe and sound.

The ChickieNob cleaned it and stuck it back on her hand, promising she would never take it on and off again.  And she didn’t, for exactly 8 minutes, until I caught her twisting it on and off her little fingers.  We used our newfound not-getting-a-temporary-ring time to get ice cream instead.  All is well that ends well.

Thank you, Dyson, for making such a powerful, easy-to-take-apart vacuum cleaner.  It has caught bugs for me over the years, cleaned my carpets, and, of course, saved rings.  What more could one want from a household product?


1 a { 04.17.16 at 12:38 pm }

I have to say…I hate my Dyson. Its cord is too short. Its bristles are too meager, and I have to go over and over bits of fuzz on my carpet. I do like dismantling it to clean it, though. I have a 20+ year old upright Electrolux with an adequate cord and decent bristles…and an attachment with bristles so I can easily vacuum the couch as well as the stairs. When we eventually move, I think we’ll sell the Dyson and keep the Electrolux…even though it’s been the garage/basement vacuum for years.

Glad the Chicken obviously got her ring back. Expect to repeat this experience in some form.

2 a { 04.17.16 at 12:40 pm }

Autocorrect! *Chickienob

3 Cristy { 04.17.16 at 2:43 pm }

I’m so impressed you recovered the ring!!! Honestly would have predicted it was a goner. Also impressed with Dyson’s ability to recover this.

Glad you had a happy ending.

4 Valery { 04.17.16 at 3:33 pm }

Not sure if infertility has anything to do with it, but yes, when plan A doesn’t work you keep going to invent other plans for a while. (my Suzy is plan E )
I love the irony of beating an air vent with air in the other direction. 😉

5 Justine { 04.17.16 at 9:03 pm }

VERY impressive!

I was talking about a lost ring today, too, only I don’t know where I lost it … my diamond fell out of my engagement ring years ago, and now that we’re leaving this house, I’m feeling like this is my last chance to find it. It’s much more likely that it’s somewhere else entirely (on the road where I took off my gloves during a run and it might have caught, in a street drain somewhere – this possibility breaks my heart, in a Macy’s vacuum cleaner), but the finality of this is making me upset all over again. Even if ChickieNob DOES play with her ring, I’m glad you were able to retrieve this one!

6 katherinea12 { 04.18.16 at 8:30 am }

I would have guessed the ring to be a goner. Impressive that you managed to get it back! Glad the ChickieNob has her ring again.

7 Apluseffort { 04.20.16 at 4:18 pm }

This is a great story. My Facebook “memories” thingy reminded me this week that I was unnaturally excited about our Dyson purchase 5 years ago. It’s still a great vacuum though.

8 loribeth { 05.01.16 at 4:18 pm }

Three cheers for the vacuum cleaner!! 😉 Dh used to take off his wedding ring & spin it on the coffee table. I lived in fear that it would bounce off and roll over to the furnace vent & down the shaft. :p Fortunately, in our new condo, all the furnace vents are either in the ceiling or on the walls, higher up. 😉

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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