Problem’s source not necessarily all that far away

“Do you hear that?” I asked my boss at St. Mary’s Church in 2006.

We both detected a faint, high-pitched noise—barely audible but highly annoying. 

One by one, I turned off my computer, my printer and my monitor—but the noise remained.

We opened my office window, thinking the sound might be coming from outisde.

Nope.

Wondering about the heating ducts, I knelt down to put my ear to the vent. 

No luck.

Where was it coming from?

Finding the source had become my mission.

We walked outside my office and asked our secretary, “Do you hear a noise?”

Stopping what she was doing, she perked up her ears—and heard it. 

In each work space we visited, the noise was detectable.  It seemed to be taunting us.

Alone, I headed to the basement, checking the boiler and the computer network, and generally scanning the area.

I couldn’t pinpoint the sound.

Back upstairs in the preschool area, I approached the teachers. They quieted the students, and everyone listened intently.

Sure enough, they all heard the noise. 

Several of us walked around the facility—without solving the mystery.

Another colleague and I checked the elevator and the restrooms.

Forty-five minutes later, we were still searching.

Growing frustrated, a co-worker and I took a break at a coffee shop across the street.

We ordered, then sat down to chat.

Suddenly, I heard the noise again.

“How is this possible?” I wondered to myself.

We hadn’t heard the sound while walking over. 

As my friend talked, thoughts of the noise—now in two buildings—consumed me.

The sound seemed to be following me.

And then it dawned on me.

I jumped up and grabbed my cell phone from a pocket. 

The noise!

A malfunctioning battery was causing the faint, high-pitched buzzing.

Like a kid seizing a toy from a cereal box, I stood in the coffee shop holding the phone in the air as if I’d won a prize.

We laughed and laughed about the time and energy we’d spent on the mystery.

The experience taught me a lesson: Before you go searching to find the source of a problem, look inward.

6 thoughts on “Problem’s source not necessarily all that far away”

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