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Acetone, Appliances, and ADHD, Or: The Perils of Executive Dysfunction

FYI: Another dissertation chapter that started as a story in my Notes app. Unbelievable as it may sound, I swear every bit of this is true.


This story starts with an overly expensive cable bill and ends with me vacuuming the clothes dryer lint trap at 3:30am.


Go ahead, try to guess how we get there.


You’re probably thinking there’s no damn way, and why on Earth would anyone vacuum a lint trap, let alone at 3:30 on a Friday morning, and how can that possibly have anything to do with a cable bill?! If you can imagine some form of reasoning behind any of that, or find it amusing but unremarkable, you might be neurodivergent or live with someone who has ADHD. I can’t promise that you’ll understand it any better by the end of this story, but I can promise that to my ADHD brain, it was a perfectly sensible, if ridiculous, string of events.


First things first: at pretty much every point of this story, you can assume I should be working on my dissertation. Furthermore, I really *want* to be working on my dissertation. At every stage, I have a legitimate intention and belief that today, I will actually work on my dissertation without getting sidetracked.


My mother, like clockwork on a two year rotation, will decide that we’re paying too much for tv and internet and we should switch to a different method (dish, cable, streaming) that will reduce our bills and reduce the complication of multiple remote controls. In addition, she wants the ability to watch every game her sports fanatic heart desires while my Dad is able to watch The Curse of Oak Island and his other history, home renovation, and Classic Dad shows. I just want to be able to stream LEGO Masters and the various Star Wars and Star Trek tv shows. My sister wants to be able to mooch off our Netflix and Hulu accounts whenever the fancy strikes her.


You can see how this is no simple task.


Being a loving, dutiful daughter and my family’s default tech support, like it or not, I always wind up with the job of comparing options and figuring out the best deal.


I took this very seriously. Probably a little too seriously.


I printed out channel lists for every major option, including various price levels, potential add ons, and bundle options. I had everyone go through the lists to mark their absolutely essential channels and their “I would really like this but if it’s gonna cost another $30 a month I can live without” channels, which I then combined and used to go through each option individually to see what was available under which plan. I then compared all of that with our current TV set up.


To be fair, this go round my mom initially brought up this issue back around Christmastime, and I started the above process then. I got waylaid midway through comparing the channel options for streaming versus cable by work and dissertation deadlines and set it aside, so when I walked downstairs on this February afternoon, basket of laundry in hand to start running before I trekked up to my office space to work, and Mom asked my if I had dealt with it yet, I decided the best course of action was to take a half hour or so to sit and finish figuring it out. I needed to backtrack some, but that shouldn’t add too much time, I figured. I still had most of the afternoon and evening to get laundry and work done.


About twenty minutes in, Mom threw in the added complication of whether changing our internet service would make a difference, so I had to research those options and prepare additional pricing comparisons. Altogether, this took hours. At the end of it, I had Mom come sit at the kitchen table with me where I’d been working, and I walked her through the two best options. We called Spectrum to negotiate or cancel our current TV set up, and by the power of patience and research, ended up with a deal where we didn’t actually have to change companies or plans at the end of this….which means my hours of intense research were ultimately unnecessary. Figures.


I won’t bore you with all the nitty gritty details, but the end result was that we needed to play the Television Shuffle Game to get the right TVs hooked up in the right rooms with the right devices to make everything work—and since I’m the tech wizard, it’s my job to get all the cables and remotes and logins set up.


It’s important to note that by the time I get off the phone, it’s late enough that my parents were ready to go to bed. I usually stay up later working, and I needed to do a couple loads of laundry if I wanted to have clean clothes the next day, so I’m committed to being up for a couple more hours at least. I had genuinely been planning to work on my dissertation that evening and hadn’t expected the task to take nearly so long, so I’m also committed to staying up to do at least something towards the dissertation. This should be a clear 1:1 match.


Problem is, I’ve also been hyperfocused on the TV task for several hours, and transitioning to any new activity is going to be a challenge in such a state. When we ADHDer’s get caught focused intently, often excessively, on one task or activity for a significant period of time–often losing track of time and losing awareness of the world around you–it’s called hyperfocus. When we’re hyperfocused, it is incredibly hard to switch tasks (if we even realize there are other tasks waiting) and we can lose track of time to the point of forgetting to eat, sleep, attend important meetings, or even go to the bathroom.


My brain in hyperfocus is essentially a bulldog with a rawhide—it is singularly focused to the exclusion of anything else, it is locked on with a bite force strong enough to crush bones, and it will not be content until it gets to finish its treat…and woe unto you who tries to take it away even if you provide a seemingly adequate replacement.


What this means is that the task of setting up the TVs has occupied my attention to the point where it feels unfinished and uncomfortable to not have done as much as possible. I could still move a couple TVs and change out cables before going to bed. Logically however, I know I need to work on the dissertation and that moving the TVs is not a priority, so I commit to the responsible action to throw my load of laundry in the wash then sit down at my desk to start writing.


Here’s a detail that will become relevant to this story later: I don’t bother to sort out my laundry unless it is absolutely necessary. The only way I can accomplish chores with ADHD is for them to be as simple as possible—minimal steps and minimal effort–because my brain struggles to remember and perform tasks that aren’t exciting, interesting, or urgent. (I’ll explain more about why this is the case later in this chapter when I discuss interest-based nervous systems.) My load this time is the right size to where I could just dump the whole basket in the washer with a couple detergent pods and hit start.


I go up the stairs, sit down at my desk, and get started writing.


Any minute now I’ll get started.


Any.


Minute.


Now.





Please, brain?


No can do. After about 15 minutes of internally scolding my brain to get started writing, or reading, or anything but just staring into space, I give in and accept that I need do something about the TVs before I can focus on writing. Since my parents are asleep in one of the rooms with a TV, all that I really can do at this moment is take the TV in my office down to the living room where it will now live.


Shouldn’t take but a couple minutes, right?


(By this point of the story, I suspect that you’ve figured out that anytime I ask a rhetorical question, the answer is no. You are correct. Give yourself a pat on the back, you deductive genius, you.)


So I move the TV. Then I start moving furniture. You see, for the past few years I’ve been using a 55” smart TV as my computer monitor, and a smaller, older 35” TV as a second monitor. (It was way more screen for way less buck than buying actual computer monitors, and my terrible eyesight needs all the help it can get.) My smart TV was headed down to the living room now, the living room TV would move up to my parents’ bedroom, and I would gain the TV that was currently in my parents’ bedroom as my new monitor. I wasn’t moving the latter TVs yet, but the difference in size meant I would need to rearrange my office space to get my chair the right distance from the screen. Since I still had the second TV as a monitor, though, moving furniture could wait.



It could not wait.


Once again, I could not focus on doing schoolwork when there was the itch of an unfinished (and more exciting) task lurking in my brain. After another failed attempt to sit and work, I gave up and began rearranging furniture. As usual, in theory, this was a relatively simple task, as I had worked out on paper where things would make the most sense to be. And as usual, in practice, it was way more complicated.


Side note: At some point during the below proceedings, I moved my laundry to the dryer after the washer was done.


I ended up moving about seven large pieces of furniture (which I really should have waited for a second person to help me with) into half a dozen new layouts. Once again, my brain was stuck on a single task—I couldn’t make myself leave well enough alone to focus on something else and instead I absolutely had to figure out this furniture placement before I could stop for the night or start something else.


By the time I was moderately happy with my furniture enough to stop moving stuff, I was sore, exhausted, and ready to be unconscious in my bed for several hours. There was only a few minutes til the dryer would go off, so I might as well wait so I can dump it all in the basket and take it upstairs as I go. If I didn’t grab it now, it could take a day or more for me to remember to do so.


Dryer turns off. I pull the basket over, open the door, and start grabbing clothing by the handful. This is a simple task that requires absolutely no thought and only enough effort and energy as it takes to move bundles of clothing from a machine to a container a foot away, right?


Right!…for the first three handfuls of crumpled-but-dry t-shirts, jeans, underwear, and gym shorts. Handful #4 is where it all starts to go terribly wrong.


As I pull handful #4 out of the dryer, I encounter resistance. Weird, I think, but I’ve had bra straps catch on the spinner bits in the washer, maybe it’s caught on something. I’m too tired to think hard about this, so I don’t yet realize that the completely smooth dryer barrel has nothing that anything can possibly catch on. I deposit the rest of the handful in the laundry basket and return to the unexpectedly stubborn T-shirt.


I tug again. Nothing.


I lean down and forcefully yank. Nothing.


I whip out my phone’s flashlight and shine it into the dryer to figure out what the hell is going on that’s keeping me from my cozy bed and sweet dreams.


That’s when I see it. The T-shirt is stuck to…a big semi-opaque blob?


All of a sudden, I’m hit with the realization that earlier I had picked up a lone hot glue stick from my bedroom and stuck it in my jeans to carry to the other side of the house. I got waylaid by getting dragged into the TV cost comparison adventure, so I never made it up the stairs to take it out. In the interest of getting my only pair of jeans clean, I switched them out for some gym shorts and added them to the basket of dirty laundry that had been waiting for several hours now to get started. Because I was hyperfocused on the TV task, but also trying to shift myself into dissertation mode, when the thought crossed my mind that I should check my pockets before I throw things in the wash, I dismissed it. I never put things in my front pockets, the back ones felt empty, and the spare penny that might be, but probably wasn’t, in a front pocket would survive the wash just fine. I didn’t have the mental capacity at that moment to care enough to take the extra 20 seconds to check just in case, and I was sure it would be fine.


(It would not be fine.)


As I’m staring down the blob, that entire train of thought careens through my brain in an instant and I realize: my T-shirt is hot glued to the wall of the dryer.




Well, shit.




I carefully but firmly pull the T-shirt up and away from the blob, and it peels off with no damage to be seen. I get the rest of the clothes out, and examine the inside of the dryer.


Turns out, most of the glue stick melted into the one large puddle in which my T-shirt got stuck. However, this was an adhesive substance in a liquid state spinning very rapidly in a smooth, large cylinder. There were droplets of dried glue spread around the entire circumference of the dryer barrel where they had been flung by the centripetal force.


Could I see this at first? No. It’s 1:30am, the overhead light is blocked by the top of the dryer, and lo and behold, hot glue sticks are designed to be clear when they dry. This made it pretty hard to spot the stuff in small amounts without shining my cell phone light directly on them. But I did, and I saw them, and I instinctively knew that if my mother had any reason to do laundry the following day and found the carnage before I could clean it up, steam might explode out of her ears like an angry Looney Tunes character whole plot has been foiled by classic Bugs Bunny Shenanigans™. As a loving, dutiful daughter, I generally try to avoid raising my mother’s blood pressure and stress level that high.


Usually, hot glue is pretty easy to peel off smooth surfaces once it’s dry as long as it’s in small amounts. I’d have to work harder to get the Big Blob off, but I should be able to just scratch the little drips off with my finger nails.


Nope. This shit’s sticking.


I go grab a razor blade in a safety holder (useful for scraping caulk off the edges of glass windows, for instance) to attack these little suckers. It works, but I have to angle the razor just right to chip the glue droplet off without scratching the dryer surface. I should note that the glue is dispersed all along the back half of the dryer, which is deeper than you might guess at first glance. For me to be able to reach the glue and have the leverage and maneuverability to use the razor, I need to get my shoulder as far in as I can. If I sat cross-legged facing the dryer, my shoulder joint would be an extra foot and a half away than if I’m sitting sideways with my side up against the opening of the dryer.


So here I am, sitting sideways in front of the dryer, twisted slightly at the waist so I can extend my right arm in and use my left arm to point the cell phone light at what I’m doing. That got uncomfortable quite rapidly, so I gave up with the light and just laid it in the dryer to add some dispersed illumination. After about 20 minutes of careful scraping, I get enough of the edges of the Big Blob separated from the dryer wall surface to where I can lever and pull the whole thing out in a couple of big chunks, with some smaller detritus left here and there. Time to get the little bits.


This process gets old and boring real quick. I switch out the cellphone as my flashlight for an actual flashlight and use my phone for its typical purposes—that is, portable search engine— in my left hand while my right is scraping.


Want to know what the melting point of hot glue sticks is? How about how hot a typical household dryer gets? Yeah, I looked that up. Couldn’t make the math work out, but clearly the dryer got hot enough and the melting temp of the glue stick was low enough that it melted regardless of what the internet was telling me ought to happen. I’ve done enough crafting over the years to know if there’s a way to screw things up, there’s a mommy blog or five with advice for how to fix it, so I also looked up how to remove dried hot glue off. There was nothing so specific as accidentally melting hot glue sticks in a dryer, unfortunately, but the basic tactics for more common scenarios should be transferable.


The answer was alcohol. Not the drinking kind, though if I were someone who drank I’d have been half a bottle deep in 90 proof at this point, but the rubbing kind. I stop the scraping for a bit to stretch my legs and search the house for isopropyl alcohol. Can’t find any in the typical spots, so I go back to the blogs for another option.


No alcohol? Get you some acetone—the smelly stuff primarily used in homes as nail polish remover. I’ve got that in spades and with a little bit of elbow grease, it worked like a charm to get the glue droplets off. There were a lot of them, so it was still a time consuming process, but it was a heck of a lot better than the scraping had been.


If you’ve never done your nails at home, or watched someone else do theirs, you may not be familiar with the process. Nail polish remover is a liquid solvent that comes in plastic bottles with a wide base that slims into what’s essentially a tube with a round opening and a screw-on cap at the top. To use the liquid, you apply a small amount to a paper towel, which is then rubbed on the nail to melt away the polish on top of it. Pouring liquids in small amounts is a delicate and potentially messy process, so the trick is to hold a section of paper towel over the opening of the bottle with a couple fingertips, grasping the body of the bottle with your other hand, and very quickly tipping the bottle upside down and back upright. A small circle of liquid has now soaked the paper towel, and you rub that onto the nail. It dries fast, so you have to do this process frequently, but it’s a simple enough process.


Unless you’re me.


99% of the time I can do this with no issue. I’m terrible at applying nail polish neatly (and I often absentmindedly chew half of it off soon after) so I’m well practiced at removing polish. But at the point where I was a few minutes into rubbing the glue drips off with acetone and having to re-wet the towel frequently, while also being dead tired and sore from moving furniture and twisting awkwardly into a dryer for half an hour at least, my brain-to-body messaging system was struggling even more than usual. It was like watching a small kid lose their balance on a bicycle: you can see the crash coming, but you’re frozen in place and helpless to do anything. There was a split second right as things went wrong where I had that feeling. I knew I had screwed up, but there was nothing I could do to stop what was about to happen. I remove the paper towel from the bottle opening mid-tip and subsequently dump half the bottle straight into my lap. I quickly pull a bunch of paper towels from the roll and wipe it up. I now smell even more of acetone, but as my clothes had mostly been spared, to the detriment of my shins and ankles, I didn’t need to ditch my shorts. At this point, I’ll take any minuscule victory I can get.


It was at this time that I remembered the travel packets I have for removing nail polish. Instead of having to worry about the size of your liquid container in the airport TSA line, you can pack a few little packets with nail polish remover pads. These are felt pads pre-soaked in acetone, so you just rip the packet open and clean your nails. Because they’re thick and marinated in the acetone, they don’t dry out nearly as fast as the normal paper towel method does. Most importantly, it requires zero pouring that could go horribly wrong.


I decide to use the pads now instead of the bottle. It is a fantastic decision.


I use up all three of the pads I have, but I get all of the glue drips—and the Big Blob—out from the dryer by the end of it. I keep having to take breaks to recover from the overpowering chemical smell, but the finish line is finally in sight! I had started to pull my laundry out of the dryer around 1am, and it’s got to be close to 3:00am at this point.


As I was taking breaks between rounds of sticking my head and upper body into the dryer to scrub out the bits at the back, I noticed the dirt build up around the edges of the seal on the dryer door and along the sides. As I’m already sitting here in cleaning mode, the thought process unfolds, I might as well wipe that off with some Clorox wipes.

Of course, this is dirt that has been baked in over time, so it’s not just a simple swipe but another elbow grease kind of task.


At this point, I’m all in. I have shifted my hyperfocus state from the TV situation, to the furniture placement problem, to now the dryer cleaning endeavor. I’m tired, but by God if I was going to put in this much effort already, I’m going to clean this dryer so thoroughly it would sparkle.


Here’s the thing. When scraping and rubbing the glue bits off of the dryer walls, they didn’t just evaporate. They fell, and the bottom of the dryer—or at least, the bit that was currently at the bottom from my slowly rotating it to get all the glue bits—now held a bunch of tiny little bits of dried glue. I do my best to wipe them into a pile and lift them out, but it’s an unwieldy process: some bits were left behind, and a number of the little pieces fell in the lint trap. Despite my fine motor control basically being shot at this point, I manage to carefully remove the screen on the trap without spilling the majority of the bits. However, I’ve now noticed how filthy this lint trap is. I scrub the screen out in the sink and wipe the edges clean of buildup. There’s a ton of lint and dirt still in there along with a bunch of little plastic balls that look like they spilled out of a Beanie Baby™. No idea where those came from but I want to get them out. Here’s where my (lack of) fine motor control becomes an issue—I manage to swipe or drop about half the balls further into the lint trap in trying to get them out. There’s also lint buildup further down and baked-on bits that are not wanting to scrub off.


The sensible thing to do would be to just not worry about it, or at least to wait until a reasonable hour of day to do so. Just like moving the TVs and rearranging the furniture, this was not remotely at the top of the priority list for how to use my time.


The thing is, ADHD isn’t sensible. It isn’t rational—at least not on the same model of sensibility and rationality of neurotypical brains. You may have noticed that throughout this story I refer to my brain as if it’s a separate entity from me, outside of my control. That’s because it basically is. An ADHD brain runs on a different software system than a neurotypical one, but we’re trained in school, work, and society to operate using the commands of the neurotypical system. It’s like trying to run Apple iOS on a Nokia brick phone–they’re just incompatible. Mainstream capitalist trends tell us that the latest sleek, sexy, tricked out iPhone is the must-have system, but there’s a lot of great things about the Nokia to appreciate too. To recognize them, however, we have to use a different lens or care about a different set of values than what most people are familiar with.


This entire train of events I’ve been recounting makes zero sense under neurotypical, aka Apple, rules. Under neurodivergent, aka Nokia, rules, however, there’s a clear connection between each action and an understandable motivation for why that action was performed.


Let’s pause the story for a minute here for a crash course in neuroscience–specifically the bits about focus, motivation, and about executive functioning. Neurotypical brains work from what’s called an importance-based nervous system. This means that the direction of their focus and the decision of what actions they take, when, and in what order, are determined by how important the task is and why. Neurotypical motivations fall into 3 categories (which can overlap). The first is primary importance: when a task is important or a priority for you personally. This might involve a significant deadline or something that you care deeply about: for example, Mother’s Day is next week, you love your mom and want to show her how much she means to you, and you know that the gift you plan to buy for her will take 3-5 business days to arrive, so you put placing your order at the top of your to-do list for the day. If you’re neurotypical, this is more than enough to ensure you will actually place the order today–you might even do it before you start anything else to make sure you won’t forget about it.


The next category of neurotypical motivation is secondary importance, where you prioritize and focus on tasks that are important to others such as your boss, parent, partner, or dissertation advisor. Dad asks you to take out the trash before he gets home from work? Not a problem, says the neurotypical brain, we’ll get it done because we know it’s important to him.


The third category of motivation is rewards and consequences. As the name suggests, a neurotypical brain is motivated when it recognizes there’s a reward for completing a task or a negative consequence for not completing it. Let’s say there’s a job you think would be a great opportunity for you but the deadline to submit the application is in just a few days. The potential reward of getting the job, and the consequence of missing out, is enough to motivate neurotypical-you to knock out that application in record time.


The difficulty for those of us with ADHD is that, while we recognize and understand each of these three categories, they rarely work to motivate us. I know that Mother’s Day is soon and I care about getting a gift for my mom on time so I consider it a top priority, but that alone may not be enough to make me act. This is for a couple of reasons, and the main one is that ADHD brains run on an interest-based nervous system rather than an importance-based one. There are five categories of motivation for interest-based nervous systems: novelty or creativity, interest, challenge or competition, urgency, and passion, often referred to by the acronym NICUP. In short, a task has to be interesting or exciting for us (this can be the fun! kind of excitement, like building a new LEGO set, or the adrenaline-inducing panic!!! kind of excitement, like an imminent deadline) in some way for our brains to decide to focus on and perform the task. The more interesting the task, the more focus we’re likely to be able to give to it. This doesn’t necessarily mean we'll be able to maintain that focus long enough to complete the task, though: if there are other things that come up that are more attention-grabbing, our brains will switch our focus to the new task or activity.


This is where the stereotypical “Squirrel!” jokes about ADHDers come from–we can get easily distracted because something interesting catches our attention, and our brains can make connections much more quickly than neurotypical brains when they’re engaged. What looks like hyperactivity and distractibility is our brains moving from one thought or task to the next very quickly. Without being able to rank tasks by importance like neurotypical brains, everything that crosses our minds is marked URGENT in giant bold letters and our brains are scrambling to respond to all of them at once. Let me share another common way of describing this by using the concept of filters. This metaphor can be found in many popular resources to help explain the experience of ADHD, but the point of origin is arguably in the following excerpted Reddit post, by user TheBananaKing, that has essentially become a canonical text in the neurodivergent community:


“ADHD is about having broken filters on your perception.

Normal people have a sort of mental secretary that takes the 99% of irrelevant crap that crosses their mind, and simply deletes it before they become consciously aware of it. As such, their mental workspace is like a huge clean whiteboard, ready to hold and organize useful information.


ADHD people... have no such luxury. Every single thing that comes in the front door gets written directly on the whiteboard in bold, underlined red letters, no matter what it is, and no matter what has to be erased in order for it to fit…

It's like living in a soft rain of post-it notes.

This happens every single waking moment, and we have to manually examine each thought, check for relevance, and try desperately to remember what the thing was we were thinking before it came along, if not. Most often we forget, and if we aren't caught up in the intricacies of [what distracted us], we cast wildly about for context, trying to guess what the fuck we were up to from the clues available.”

Essentially, those of us who are ADHD lack the filters for priority, importance, and so on that neurotypical brains come equipped with. So when faced with our mental whiteboards of, well, everything, the thoughts and tasks that our brain ends up choosing are the ones that are most attention-grabbing at that moment or else most recently added to the board. This is why nearly all of my assignments from kindergarten to graduate school were written at the very last minute (motivation: urgency), why I have at least 50 (and I mean that quite literally) different art projects started or intended scattered around my space (motivation: creativity and novelty), and why I dismantled a lawn mower deck yesterday to find the cause of multiple broken drive belts even though I could have waited a couple days and let me dad deal with it (motivation: interest and challenge). It’s also half the explanation for why I ended up shifting from comparing TV options to rearranging furniture to vacuuming a dryer: each of these tasks were written on my mental whiteboard in neon while the far less exciting task of writing a dissertation chapter I wasn’t currently pumped about was buried underneath.


The other part of the Nokia software contributing to this chain of events is what is called executive dysfunction. Executive function is the part of the nervous system that controls what actions a person takes, and can be divided into 8 categories of skills: self-control, emotional control, task initiation, working memory, planning and time management, organization, flexibility, and self-monitoring. These are involved in things like being able to plan and organize well, exercising impulse control, keeping track of time, emotional regulation, and the ability to switch tasks and pay attention to non-preferred tasks. Executive dysfunction is when the operation of one or more of these skills goes awry. The experience of hyperfocus I explained a bit earlier is the product of executive dysfunction: task switching, time management and self-monitoring are among the faulty skills involved. Importantly, the state of hyperfocus as experienced by ADHDers isn’t under our control: it’s not something we can flip a switch to turn on and off at will.


Hyperfocus and executive dysfunction more generally are like using Nokia software for my brain. Sometimes that’s a good thing, like when I get hyperfocused on an idea for my dissertation and find myself churning out 3000 words of a chapter in one sitting. Other times I find myself desperately mashing buttons and screaming at my Nokia brain to run Apple logic and it just doesn’t happen, such as when I’m faced with a dirty lint trap after scraping off melted hot glue from inside a dryer. Each link in the chain of events I’ve been describing was an instance of hyperfocus; more accurately, it was one long case of hyperfocus, but I shifted my focus to different targets when I got as far as I could with the previous one. From moving the TVs came rearranging the furniture, both because I couldn’t do anything more to set up the other TVs until the morning and because the layout of my office was disrupted by moving my monitor TV away. If I hadn’t encountered the hot glue blob, that would have been the end of it once I fell asleep. However, when I encountered a new challenge and the urgency to solve it before my parents next did laundry, that hyperfocus mode kicked back in instantly.


As you’ve likely determined, I did not leave well enough alone about the dirty lint trap at 3am. No. I went and got the hand vac and a selection of nozzles. First order of business was getting the crumbs of glue bits out of the dryer cylinder—quick and easy and way more effective than attempting to do it by hand. Number two was the dryer vent, and I discovered that the nozzle of the hand vac was a little bit too wide to get deep and not long enough to get far even if it could fit.


This is the point where my brain finally said, “Okay, we can quit now because there’s nothing left we can do.” Almost twelve hours after I sat down to compare TV streaming options, the hyperfocus was broken–at last! I clean up all the scattered paper towels and flashlights and hand vac nozzles and put everything away. I return the lint trap screen to its proper place and I close the doors to the laundry area. It is now 4:00 am. I make a mental note to tell my Dad to clean out the lint trap with the shop vac, and finally, blessedly, carry my basket of clean laundry up the stairs to my bedroom, climb into bed, and go the f*** to sleep.


(And no, Virginia, I did not manage to work on my dissertation at all that night.)



P.S. You might have remembered, at some point in reading this story, that alcohol and acetone are highly flammable. You may have also noticed that I was rubbing said flammable substances into a dryer that gets incredibly hot—which contributed greatly to this situation arising in the first place—and thought, “There’s a non-zero chance that dryer will catch fire the next time it’s used. And when we’re talking about appliances and fires, the risk factor for inflagration should be zero. Why is she doing this?!”


Don’t worry, I thought of that when I was first deciding to try the alcohol removal method. I thought of it again several times as I paused to let the powerful acetone smell air out and as I accidentally soaked my legs in nail polish remover. My iffy Nokia logic system decided that if I let it evaporate, and if I then wiped out the dryer with the cleaning wipes (which may or may not also involve flammable chemicals, but at least it’s not as apparently dangerous), and then left the dryer door partly open all night to further let it air out, it would probably be fine. That might not have been the best or safest logic, but thankfully, it was correct. I didn’t actually remember to tell my parents before they next did laundry, but since our house is still intact and no one ended up with any singed eyebrows or underwear, it wasn’t a problem that I failed to warn them.


(I remembered to tell my Dad a couple days later. My mom didn’t find out for several weeks because I forgot about the whole ordeal for awhile: she was disapproving of course, and also brought up the whole flammability risk thing, but since nothing bad happened, I escaped unscathed.)


Note: Originally mostly written whichever Friday morning in February 2023 I was scrubbing a dryer with acetone...then finished May 18th, 2023, because ADHD.

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