Metatalktail Hour: Intruders Detected December 10, 2022 7:58 AM   Subscribe

Happy weekend, everyone! For today's Metatalktails, I'd like to ask about intruders in your home. Not the criminal kind, but those items that have ended up in your household inventory — but you have no idea where they came from.

The odd salad bowl, plant pot, chef's knife, food mill, chair cushion ... the intruder takes many forms, but the important thing is you never bought it, it wasn't gifted to you, it didn't come with the house, and you don't know how or why it's there. But now that it is, you keep using it. What is it?

Edited to add: Or just talk about whatever is on your mind, yadayada, you know the drill! (Posted in a rush, oops!)
posted by taz (staff) to MetaFilter-Related at 7:58 AM (60 comments total)

I have many of these items, but the one that made me think of this topic is a beige towel. I found it yesterday at the bottom of a pile of stuff that has needed putting away for ... um, quite some time. This is a big, fluffy, objectively nice towel, probably fairly expensive, but I've only ever used it to dry the dog (when she was still with us). The problem is that it's a weird beige and doesn't go, at all, with my raspberry colored towels, and though it could go with my white towels, I just don't like beige. I would never, ever buy a beige towel. Nobody brought this quite big beige towel into my home that I remember. (We have a one-bedroom apartment, thus not many house guests, and especially not many guests that would bring a towel that would fit a small suitcase all by itself.) There are only two of us, so it's not hard to keep track of acquisitions. Where did it come from? I don't know! Neither do I know the provenance of that one shitty, flimsy chef's knife that won't keep an edge, and that I should really throw away but never do, and why is it here anyway? Or the Victorinox steak knife that I always prefer to use, and so does my husband, but there's only one and where did it come from? (I should buy some more of those, cuz we sure seem to like that knife). Or the big salad bowl with the flower pattern and a chip on the rim. What stories do they tell each other of their travels and adventures en route to their unsuspecting forever home, what reasons do they have for choosing us?
posted by taz (staff) at 8:14 AM on December 10, 2022 [4 favorites]

I know this is in contravention of the stated theme, but its a cool story.

when I was 9 my family went to see Star Wars (1977) we lived in a dense townhouse development in Woodbridge, NJ. very middle middle class, nothing fancy. well we get home from the movie and we're at the front door when my dad sensed that something was wrong. just as the door swung open the 3 guys who'd broken out of Rahway State Maximum Security Prison and into our house were coming down the stairs with what turned out (luckily) to just be my dad's bb gun. so my mom grabs my sisters & I and we run to the neighbors and my dad jumps down the stairs and runs away and the guys flee in their getaway car. it was quite a night and really overshadowed one of the most memorable events in 20th century cinematic history.
posted by supermedusa at 9:39 AM on December 10, 2022 [13 favorites]

Not a single thing, taz, and the fact that you have several convinces me I’m doing something wrong. I’m definitely missing out.
posted by probably not that Karen Blair at 9:59 AM on December 10, 2022 [7 favorites]

There's a Star of David painted on the inside of one of my kitchen cabinets, left behind by one of the previous occupants of my house. I am not myself religious, but I do frequently use kosher salt in cooking, so maybe it helps.
posted by SPrintF at 10:19 AM on December 10, 2022 [5 favorites]

Having been married and then divorced, I ended up with a few things that had previously been my wife's; so I know how I ended up with them, but I don't really know why. I can only assume she similarly ended up with some of previously-my stuff. Maybe reasons were proffered during those pain-filled days that I've blocked or forgotten.

The one thing I can think of that I have no idea how it came to be in my possession is a cheap trophy that I noticed on the mantle the day after I'd hosted a get-together a few years ago. I don't think any of the attendees ever admitted to leaving it.
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:41 AM on December 10, 2022 [3 favorites]

I have a group of friends for whom it has been traditional to occasionally leave bizarre, ahem, found objects (?) at each others houses. hidden away so you find it some time later, surprise! one of these items was a pony-tail butt plug in a cardboard box decoupaged with very nasty porn. so fun!
posted by supermedusa at 10:47 AM on December 10, 2022 [3 favorites]

I'd been told the previous resident of my house was some kind of repairman, but we never knew what kind (probably not houses, and certainly not this one) until over the past several years when we suddenly started getting the occasional package meant for him. We'd contact amazon and amazon would just shrug and say to keep it, so I have amassed a small collection of tiny springs, insulated tubes, something called a solenoid replacement valve.

Turns out they're parts for drinking fountains. He fixes drinking fountains, and office bubblers, and bottle fillers, and he must do it all over the city. The valve was expensive, so I think he must have updated his address after that.
posted by mochapickle at 10:51 AM on December 10, 2022 [7 favorites]

Every once in a while I'll find a single pine cone deep in the soil of a potted plant.

Finally, this year, I saw a squirrel carrying a pine cone onto my deck. Mystery solved.
posted by amtho at 12:15 PM on December 10, 2022 [10 favorites]

Bats. Only two this year. They are patient and calm even accommodating, like hovering slowly till you get the lights down and door open.
posted by clavdivs at 2:20 PM on December 10, 2022 [8 favorites]

I evicted a blue tongue lizard from my sewing room earlier this week. Then there was a micro-bat that was battered in a storm a day after that that had to be sent to wildlife rehab for a checkup. And then yesterday there was a baby bird that, unfortunately, was injured in a hawk attack and needed to be put down. I'm flattered that the local wildlife loves me but a little done with intruders this week. At least the annual swarm of bees seem to have skipped my house this year, for which I'm very grateful.
posted by ninazer0 at 2:26 PM on December 10, 2022 [4 favorites]

* At an older apartment - I think one I shared briefly with a boyfriend - the previous tenant moved out very late in the day and in a rush, and left a bunch of crap behind. But one of those things was a shower curtain; the pattern was a pattern of old-timey woodcut-drawing style portraits of topless women. We kept it, and every time a new-to-the-apartment friend came for a visit, when they finally asked to use the bathroom my boyfriend and I would start a silent countdown when they started heading there, and invariably within five seconds we would hear the friend call out from the bathroom - "Love your shower curtain!"

* At another, later apartment (with a roommate this time), I brought in the mail one day - and mixed in with the letters and bills and such was....a pornographic magazine called "Tittyfucker". There was no address label, there was no protective was just there mixed in with our stuff. My roommate and I flipped through in fascination - there was actually very little tittyfucking going on, it was just a series of pictures of a woman having a 3-way with two guys with very late-70s hairstyles, and everyone was wearing tube socks. We had no idea whatsoever how it ended up with our mail.

* A theater company I worked with got a similarly-odd piece of mail - a brochure from the Church of Scientology, with an L. Ron Hubbard essay about Art as its centerpiece. There was no cover letter, and no one knew how they got the company address. ...It ended up on a bookshelf in a backstage bathroom, which had become a sort of catch-all bookshelf for "I don't know what the hell this thing is or what to do with it" publications so people could read while on the potty.

* In this apartment: I'm not entirely clear how a dark brown washcloth ended up here. Neither my roommate nor I recognize it. I have a feeling it somehow got mixed in with one of our laundromat loads (we're thoroughly spoiled and send our laundry out to some guys a block away). Whereever it came from, it's being put to some use sitting on a corner of the tub, catching splashes from a shower nozzle that is just slightly too big for the shower itself.

....And y'all have been hearing about the rats here too, but we're on the home stretch of evicting those little fuckers. (I haven't heard anything in 3 days, my roommate still hears stuff but he had it bad so we're reserving judgement for a little while longer.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:16 PM on December 10, 2022 [1 favorite]

Can't think of any physical ones, but we have a virtual intruder. On my wife's computer she has a mysterious Word doc named "Rectum-Vagina.doc". It contains no text, just a couple of clip art pictures: a detective-looking guy bending over with a magnifying glass, and a donkey kicking its hind legs. We have absolutely no idea what this is supposed to mean, nor why it should be called "Rectum-Vagina.doc". (It dates from college times so there may have been some drinking involved...)
posted by equalpants at 4:11 PM on December 10, 2022 [3 favorites]

I have a fork that matches no other forks that I *think* my kid brought home from...somewhere. If it was yours, apologies.

I definitely have extra specialty screws and sooo many allen wrenches from various projects, but technically I know where they came from, just not which particular project or when.

I'm honestly kind of a crouton-petter in that I notice inanimate objects and pay a lot of attention to where they go so they will be "happy" just as I did with my toys as a kid. If a new one showed up, I would spot it immediately. And I obsess over buying things a bit so I definitely remember where all my cookware or other things came from.

If we were still dealing with overflowing kid toys or had a lot of people in/out of the house, I might have a bigger problem.

Now, I did previously have a cat that liked to surprise me by bringing live-ass birds into the house, but again, no mystery there. I miss that little asshole, but not his presents.
posted by emjaybee at 5:53 PM on December 10, 2022 [3 favorites]

Taz, any chance that wayward towel came from a hotel or gym?
posted by oceano at 7:08 PM on December 10, 2022

I am letting stuff go before it sets up and I can no longer move around my premesis. I have pieces from my exe's grandmother, his mother and the American marriage which ended, my mother's few things, as I passed the good stuff along to my kids. And then there are the pictures. I am going through the giant box and definitely throwing out pictures of people I don't recognize. For my friends, I am photoing them and sending them as messages. There were about 50 pounds of pictures early this morning. These are just the physical images. I have even more digital pics. I am still using what must be a 60 year old, plastic Melitta cone from my exe's mom. It's not like I'm cooking with a 2000 year old pot ar anything. I am still not sure how I ended up with a drywall hammer.
posted by Oyéah at 7:15 PM on December 10, 2022 [2 favorites]

I have a very good memory for things. Not faces and definitely not names, but I know my stuff. But there's this set of cheese-spreader things in my holiday box. Here is what I know about them:
1. The handles are Santas in different poses. They are jolly.
2. I did not buy them. Under no circumstances would I have done that.
3. I once took them to a friend's house for an event; they were supposed to stay there.
4. Yet somehow, here they are.

My best guess - which is not very good - is that when we were splitting up a few boxes of family holiday supplies, we discovered this set and I took temporary custody of it, planning to hand it off or donate it or something. (I don't remember family ever using them either, though.) At any rate, I guess I own jolly Santa cheese-spreaders now?
posted by mersen at 7:27 PM on December 10, 2022 [4 favorites]

A lawn fertilizer spreader is what immediately came to mind when I read "cheese spreader", and I was perplexed for a couple seconds wondering why you'd need a set of them before having a good laugh at my stupid brain.
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:07 PM on December 10, 2022 [1 favorite]

I have three baby socks that probably hitched a ride in the laundry.
posted by zengargoyle at 8:10 PM on December 10, 2022 [1 favorite]

When we all moved in back in the late '90s there were four of us and three cats. What with moving out (mostly family) and passing on (mostly cats) there's now one of us and no cats. I have a fair idea who most things originate from or still to my mind belong to, but not always from whence they came. I've gradually become a semi-reluctant keeper of the family home

Written and deleted a bunch more because, to quote Tolstoy, "Family shit's complicated"
posted by I'm always feeling, Blue at 9:19 PM on December 10, 2022 [8 favorites]

One day when the kids and I came home from an outing my husband informed us, "There might be a mink in the house." It was a nice spring day and he had been sitting on the deck reading with the sliding door open when he saw a mink come onto the deck and go right through the door into the house. He followed it into the living room and then went into the next room to get a camera. When he came back he realized that had probably been a mistake because the mink was nowhere in sight and he had no idea whether it had gone back out or was in another room or hiding under something. He looked around for a while and didn't see it but of course there were hundreds of places it could have been hiding. We left the doors open until it began to get too cold in the evening and we never saw it again, so I guess it left.
posted by Redstart at 9:58 PM on December 10, 2022 [6 favorites]

I mailed myself many books one time when I moved countries. (Ah, how I miss you, printed matter mailbags.) An anonymous additional box of books felt lonely and joined my pile - no address, no means of returning it so that it would find its true owner.

15 years and five moves later, that box is still in my basement, still full of books. I opened it and repacked it when I first got it, but I don't think I've touched it since other than to move it around. Somehow keeping it has been easier than deciding what to do about it.
posted by How much is that froggie in the window at 10:50 PM on December 10, 2022 [5 favorites]

oceano, it didn't come from a hotel or gym ... that I would definitely remember. Well, at any rate, now that the towel has been rewashed and moved to the *top* of a new stack, recent tell-tale imprints indicate that not everyone in the household disdains it. So, okay! Official Pet Towel, it is.

And by the way, while most of these items just quietly insinuate themselves into our household ecosystem, some show up with a wee bit more pomp. But I guess I overestimated how much this is a universal experience. It's particularly weird to me because I'd say we have a lot fewer opportunities for other people's stuff to mingle with ours than most people do (no kids, don't live near family, few guests, don't use laundromat / laundry service, don't actually buy very much at all), so now I'm feeling a bit like a bizarre magnet for mundane things. Like I have two tea towels that showed up on our terrace on separate occasions, but I'm sure they were blown there from some nearby balcony on a windy day. But the little stainless steel cream pitcher (if that's what it is)? No clue. Likewise the old-fashioned stainless steel funnel with a handle. We have very little kitchen storage, yet FOUR funnels. Two I remember buying: one smaller and one larger cheap plastic ones. One came with our Aeropress and is quite handy for funneling coffee, sugar, etc. And then the stainless steel one, the passively adopted funnel. I joke to my husband that we may be poor in money and luxury goods, but at least we're rich in funnels.

And there's more stuff. If I were ambitious I would photograph them all, for the world's most boring collection of items. I could see them as giant wall sized prints in a fashionably minimalist gallery. Perhaps in this way, their meaning would come into focus.
posted by taz (staff) at 12:57 AM on December 11, 2022 [6 favorites]

A little while back we received a few packages addressed to someone else but with our address, and when we talked to the shipping company they said they would not take them back and to just keep them. We tried googling for the person's name but it was too common. So we ended up with clothes that don't fit us (donated), some random household stuff (partly donated, partly thrown away) and a pretty nice vacuum (used for a while, then donated before a move). The only real mysteries were how someone else's name and our address got mixed up, and also why the shipping companies don't care in the slightest about misaddressed packages. I do hope the rightful recipient figured things out with the places they had ordered from.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:22 AM on December 11, 2022 [1 favorite]

The only real mysteries were how someone else's name and our address got mixed up, and also why the shipping companies don't care in the slightest about misaddressed packages. I do hope the rightful recipient figured things out with the places they had ordered from.

It could have been random packing-company human error too. Which reminds me of another "mystery object" that we got at work, because that's how we got it:

We were ordering some computer components and tools off Amazon and packing them up to send to the guy who was in the early stages of getting our Munich office up and running. One of the things that we were eagerly waiting for was an external hard drive, and so when the tracking on Amazon said it finally arrived, the mailroom brought it right up to me. Yay, we could finally package up everything and send it to Munich!

....Only when I opened up the box, inside was - a bottle of Paul Mitchell shampoo.

After amusing myself by showing it to a couple colleagues ("hey - so, wanna see how that external hard drive looks?"), I called Amazon to get to the bottom of things. It was probably just a total flukey thing where someone put the wrong thing in the wrong box, they said, and they got us out a second hard drive right away. They said we could just keep the shampoo. We have a shower on site for staff anyway, so I ordered a matching bottle of Paul Mitchell conditioner and threw both in there.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:40 AM on December 11, 2022 [1 favorite]

I'm a pretty enthusiastic hostess and, during Covid especially, I had people over on my back deck semi-regularly because it's large and it has a pond view and there was plenty of space for 8-10 people to sit distanced and drink beer. My deck hangs were usually BYOB, understood, and almost everyone did, but I kept extra beer, wine, booze, seltzers, waters, tea, etc on hand. By the back door, (which is in the direct path to the downstairs bathroom) I keep an old bar tray on the kitchen counter with an ice bucket I almost never use. Recently, I opened the ice bucket because I was dusting (shamefully for the first time in well over a year) and found it full of cash, and a couple of thank you notes written on napkins, and I realized people had been reimbursing me for booze during Covid hangs. I'd never asked. They'd never mentioned. The notes were anonymous. But it was, like, such a genuinely kind and nice surprise.

Anyway, I used part of it to buy champagne for my annual thanksgiving potluck(with most of the same people), and the rest I donated to a local food bank.
posted by thivaia at 7:29 AM on December 11, 2022 [20 favorites]

In early November, I mailed myself a box of dirty laundry and other stuff from Italy to make room for all the cheese I was planning to put in my luggage. The postal clerk said I’d get my box in ten days.

I truly have the worst luck with mail because that box has not appeared yet.
posted by bilabial at 7:29 AM on December 11, 2022 [4 favorites]

We have a single spoon that seems to be stamped out of cheap sheet metal. We call it the prison spoon, as that is what we imagine prison cutlery to be like. We never use it, yet we keep it. No idea where it came from.
posted by Splunge at 8:31 AM on December 11, 2022 [6 favorites]

I have no idea where half the stuff in my house came from. I have a roommate so sometimes he acquires things and I don't see them until much later. I had a neighbor who would just bring over things he thought would fit the house (he does have an eye for interior design). Lots of people have left things over the years. I have a table and a bunch of tools and random other items leftover from previous tenants. And I too have a mysterious towel that showed up a while back that I have no clue where it came from. At this point if I see something I didn't know I had it's just another thing I don't need to buy. I don't think about its origins.
posted by downtohisturtles at 10:27 AM on December 11, 2022 [3 favorites]

This used to happen a lot more when I lived with roommates and hosted more parties and drank more at said parties, but one particularly memorable item was a silicone pastry brush that I just hated. It should have been a great kitchen tool, but it was an awful one--ineffective, hard to clean, and gross-textured even when clean. My roommate at the time and I were both avid bakers, and so I just assumed it was his, and he just assumed it was mine. When we were packing up to move out, it was the last thing remaining in one of the kitchen drawers. We were both thrilled to throw it away.
posted by dizziest at 11:21 AM on December 11, 2022 [3 favorites]

Two pairs of strange bloomers hanging to dry in the back porch.

When I was a kid, we returned home one day after a rare family lunch date with another family, and there was two pairs of very large women's bloomers pegged to a line in our mudroom. Someone had entered our mudroom, washed two pairs of underwear in the half-bath hand basin, hung them to dry, and emptied our basket of spare toilet rolls. We left them hanging there for a couple of days in case the person came back.
posted by Thella at 12:43 PM on December 11, 2022 [6 favorites]

Setting up my home office early in the pandemic required a lot of rearranging of rooms and furniture. In the bedroom closet, I found a pristine 7" Clash picture disc like this. It the sort of thing I might have bought at some point, but it's also the sort of thing I'd likely remember getting. And yet, I have no memory of every buying or owning it. It must have been moved several times, and at some point it was put into the closet. But by whom? It's provenance remains a mystery, but it's now hanging in my home office.
posted by maurice at 1:11 PM on December 11, 2022 [3 favorites]

We have this strange... spatula? Spreader? Cutter? That came from somewhere or someone, we're not sure of either? It's about 6in long, with a plastic or bakelite handle.
I've never seen any other things like it.
posted by fiercekitten at 1:45 PM on December 11, 2022 [2 favorites]

fiercekitten: that is a cake serving comb. Found it's twin on ebay.
posted by ninazer0 at 2:13 PM on December 11, 2022 [5 favorites]

The most inexplicable thing that I have is a 1980s-vintage Sony stereo receiver and cassette deck. I have no idea how I acquired them... I certainly didn't buy them, and I don't remember anyone giving them to me.

Speaking of former housemates, two former housemates moved out and left their umbrellas behind. I carried the better umbrella for six months until I left it on the subway by accident. So I started carrying the worse umbrella and... left it on the subway by accident two days later.

I am kind of pleased with myself because, during the summer, I was walking to work and found an Aeron chair abandoned on the sidewalk. It was missing one arm and there was a hole in the seat. So I adopted it, tracked down the Aeron chair replacement service, bought the replacement parts, and installed them. Low cost Aeron chair!
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 2:58 PM on December 11, 2022 [4 favorites]

It seems like that would make a terrible umbrella, though.
posted by Greg_Ace at 3:14 PM on December 11, 2022 [5 favorites]

There's a cat in my street, named Oscar, who visits. He's an extremely smart cat and if we leave the door open he's straight in the front door. The first time he did it I just saw his tail, and had to think about it---wait, I don't have a cat.

I have a standing meeting I go to every Tuesday evening. On Tuesdays he waits near the spot I park my car when I come home. I'm pretty sure this cat knows what day of the week it is.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 7:21 PM on December 11, 2022 [2 favorites]

Ran across one of these intruders today while baking. Little e says, “Uhhhhhhhh, Mom, you wanna tell me why you have this?!” Picture the scandalized tone of a tween who’s just found a box of condoms in the bedside table. I turn to look at her and she is holding up an elephant cookie cutter, in a box labeled "CAMPAIGN COOKIE CUTTER - VOTE GOP." Truthfully, I told her, I have absolutely no idea.
posted by eirias at 7:26 PM on December 11, 2022 [4 favorites]

the intruder takes many forms . . . don't know how or why it's there
Shortly after I moved on from my first academic job, the Professor of Biochemistry retired and down-sized to a more suitably empty-nest flat. One day the old buffer went into town for some shopping and returned home to a twilight zone situation "where's the hall table gone? . . . the carpet is all wrong!" only to realise that, on autopilot, he'd returned to his old, 20-year, home and the new owners hadn't changed the locks
posted by BobTheScientist at 11:23 PM on December 11, 2022 [4 favorites]

1) We have around 3 or 4 wooden coat-hangers with handwriting indicating they belong(ed) to ‘Binnie’. We know no Binnies, and it’s a very uncommon name around here. (At first I thought there was only one hanger, but they seem to be multiplying…)

2) Years ago a Lego Hagrid mysteriously appeared in our side yard. Exciting! None of our neighbours or little visitors claimed him, so he became ours.
posted by The Patron Saint of Spices at 1:13 AM on December 12, 2022 [1 favorite]

My wife and I discover seeming intruders all the time. When we set up home together about four years ago, we had to amalgamate two very full four-bedroom houses into one. We had at least two of everything and many more of lots of things, so there was a lot of culling going on but also a lot of stashing things in various corners and backs of wardrobes until we got around to deciding whether to keep it or not. Even though we've moved again since then, we still keep finding things that we would swear we had thrown out years ago, but seem to have found their way back. My home office currently is the repository of all the things we find and can't quite make the decision to get rid of, but can't quite commit to keeping it enough to find an actual home for it. I hate mess, so these intruders won't be hanging around for too much longer or my threat to just tape the boxes up and take them to the tip will be enacted.
posted by dg at 1:39 AM on December 12, 2022 [2 favorites]

We have at least two of my sister's forks from the set she took to university. I hate them, but partner likes them, so we keep them. When we stayed at my sister's house (300 miles away) to dogsit in October, we found that she has one of our mother's forks in her cutlery drawer. Our mother, as far as we know, has only her own forks, but I guess we can work on that and complete the great circle of forks some day.
posted by terretu at 4:16 AM on December 12, 2022 [3 favorites]

Prison spoons are useful for plant re-potting. I know where stuff came from, but I am puzzled by things that disappear. Somewhere there's a plastic box with extra blades for the tiny jigsaw. I just bought new blades, so they'll turn up soon. I refer to it as the Barbie jigsaw because it's so cute. I learned to use power tools with it, fixed some stuff. It will cut plywood, but not in a straight line.
posted by theora55 at 9:00 AM on December 12, 2022 [2 favorites]

The story of the mink has reminded me of another animal intruder story...

So, I used to live in an apartment on the Lower East Side, and my bedroom got hellaciously hot now and then, even in winter. It was an east-facing window, with a built-in loft bed set over one of those old-school radiators that you can't really control; it's either on or off, no middle ground. Lots of New Yorkers have windows cracked during the winter - that's why. Storage was a premium in this place, so I also had lots of Stuff just sort of piled up in and around various corners. So my loft was in the top half of the room, and directly below it, my dresser was shoved up against the window, just in front of the radiator, with piles of blankets and sheets and such stacked on either side. There was neither a counterweight nor a screen on my window, so I got one of those cheap expanding window screens and propped that in the window instead at night.

Well, one night - on a night when I was entertaining a dude, shall we say - at about 2 am one of us woke up for a bathroom break, and upon returning to the room, noticed that the screen had been knocked out of the window. Whoever it was woke the other one up - and then we heard a weird sort of chittering noise coming from the pile of blankets on one side. We quickly figured out what happened: A squirrel looking for a warm place to sleep had somehow pushed the screen down, climbed through the window and curled up in my blankets.

We retreated to the living room. I got on the phone to see if animal control could come by, while the dude tried to see if he could drive the squirrel out; I believe he armed himself with a broom and a barbecue fork. The squirrel only doubled down inside its nest. And the police told me animal control wasn't a 24/7 thing; I asked what to do, and they suggested leaving the window open and shutting the door, and sleeping in another room. When the sun came up, they assured me, the squirrel would find its own way out. And if it didn't, then I could call back. So the dude and I set up the foldout couch and prepared to bed down; before we went to sleep I left a message on my then-boss's voicemail telling him the story and apologetically saying that I would therefore likely be a little late to work in the morning.

When we woke up, the dude went back to investigate and confirmed the squirrel was indeed gone. We pulled ourselves together and I got on the phone to call my boss again, telling him that "okay, I'm just leaving for work now, I'll be there in an hour" - but I couldn't get a word in edgewise because he was laughing too hard.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:56 AM on December 12, 2022 [4 favorites]

Shortly after I moved on from my first academic job, the Professor of Biochemistry retired and down-sized to a more suitably empty-nest flat. One day the old buffer went into town for some shopping and returned home to a twilight zone situation "where's the hall table gone? . . . the carpet is all wrong!" only to realise that, on autopilot, he'd returned to his old, 20-year, home and the new owners hadn't changed the locks

I never did this myself, but in my late teens/early twenties, when people I was friends with were drinking and partying like stereotypical young people, multiple people I knew went through an episode of stumbling home, passing out on the couch, and waking up to a strange family staring at the intruder in their living room. People didn't lock doors as often then and none of these ever led to the police being called, just awkward early morning encounters.
posted by Dip Flash at 10:21 AM on December 12, 2022 [1 favorite]

hahah I crashed out at a friends house during a party, got up in the middle of the night to pee, and could not remember which bedroom door was the one I was supposed to return to. well, I picked the wrong one, climbed into bed with the roommate of friend, and his girlfriend (who I did not know at all) and proceeding to snuggle up against her and fall right back to sleep. I woke up alone and confused...
posted by supermedusa at 10:54 AM on December 12, 2022 [1 favorite]

So much of my stuff is unknown provenance; I'm also surprised this isn't common. I have no idea where most of the towels came from and I swear I did not ever buy the weird pale lavender micro fiber fitted sheet but it's very handy for sliding heavy things across the floor. Absorbing multiple households as people passed, two adult children who have moved in and out, a former life as an enthusiastic hostess and attender of parties - stuff migrates. I moved some of it across the country! My favorite is a gorgeous multi colored scarf, though. It appeared after a party years ago and nobody ever claimed it. I used to feel nervous about wearing it but then I moved and now I wear it probably twice a week. Score!

I have left things, too, some on purpose, some by mistake. I would like my pie server back from Asheville Middle School, where I left it after some seventh grade pie involved event for the son who is now 30. I left a handpainted umbrella in Sean Scully's Soho loft in the 80s (I was at a sublet party) hoping he would see it and propel me into artworld stardom. So many umbrellas and sunglasses have walked away and I will never know where all the forks and pint glasses - the pint glasses that I never bought - go. And nowadays, the dog and I both find and leave tennis balls on the beach. I'm thinking about starting to sharpie his name and the date so we can see if it's always the same ball or if other dogs add their names.
posted by mygothlaundry at 10:59 AM on December 12, 2022 [2 favorites]

It's not a mystery, but the prior owner of our house (served in 'nam) left an Army issue smoke grenade in the basement. We've been living here since 2004, I don't quite know what to do with it so it sits. Could come in handy in case of a fascist uprising, I guess?
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 4:15 PM on December 12, 2022 [1 favorite]

It's not a mystery, but the prior owner of our house (served in 'nam) left an Army issue smoke grenade in the basement. We've been living here since 2004, I don't quite know what to do with it so it sits. Could come in handy in case of a fascist uprising, I guess?

Younger me would have suggested going out somewhere and setting it off, but older me suggests handing it over to the local bomb squad for safe disposal. Keeping a smoke grenade of unknown vintage indoors seems like a not-great idea from a household safety point of view.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:11 PM on December 12, 2022 [4 favorites]

A tent! Not mine, not my husband's, a massive four person tent.

I don't think it was left behind by the previous owners, either.
posted by freethefeet at 7:01 PM on December 12, 2022 [1 favorite]

Various cats seem to think they have the right to be here whenever the door is open. They are the cutest intruders! Even when they try to use my furniture as a nail file.
posted by The Last Sockpuppet at 9:15 AM on December 14, 2022 [1 favorite]

A spoon with a floral stamped handle, stainless steel. It's unlike any of my other spoons/forks knives. I've no idea where it came from, but it's now my favorite ice cream spoon.

Over the 19 years we've lived here, we've had two rodent intruders... but I only find out when one of the cats trots by with it in their mouths (indoor cats).
posted by annieb at 6:52 PM on December 14, 2022

The closest thing I have to an intruder is an ivory (or faux ivory I hope) carving my parents found during one of their many cross country moves and decided must have been mine and so gifted it back to me. It is of two smiling people sitting at round table on the front and has 福 carved into the back. I have absolutely no idea what it is supposed to signify or where it might have come from. But now it sits on my bookshelf, being mysterious.

I have, over the years, had several room-mates who moved out and took bits of my cutlery and flatware with them, so I'm like a source of other people's intruders -- cheap ikea intruders.
posted by selenized at 8:50 PM on December 14, 2022 [1 favorite]

My husband messaged me with a mixture of confusion & panic a couple weeks ago. "Why do we have TWO CELLOS?"

I remember one cello.
He remembers one cello.
(I am not sure we remember the same cello.)
Neither of us remembers us having 2 cellos.

Oh - nobody in our house plays cello.
posted by belladonna at 4:04 AM on December 15, 2022 [8 favorites]

As we were moving out of a rent house earlier this year, after 10 years, the landlord came over and poked around in the garage cabinets. As far as I can remember, we were the first long-term tenants, with a family living there briefly while they house-hunted in the area, and then the landlord himself lived there and before that his parents.

So it was fairly reasonable that he assumed the shotgun he found was ours. But it wasn't, we are not gun fans. And it freaked all of us out: how many of us have unknowingly lived with that gun?? It wasn't loaded or anything, and there was no ammo stored anywhere. It was just...there. Waiting.

Other than that, yeah, I have a LOT of random silverware. I know where a few of the strays came from, but when we actually consolidated all silverware as we were moving out, we have an inexplicable amount of random spoons, big spoons in particular.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:34 AM on December 15, 2022

Inspired by this thread, I just went looking in my son's old bedroom and found an inflatable bed. He doesn't know where it came from and I don't want anyone sleeping on my floor, so it's out of here. Thanks!
posted by JimN2TAW at 8:52 AM on December 15, 2022

My husband messaged me with a mixture of confusion & panic a couple weeks ago. "Why do we have TWO CELLOS?"

A few years ago, I came home rather late from a night of clubbing and retired to bed only to be awoken at 4 in the morning by a badly tuned piano being played with more vigour than technique.

At first, I was irritated that my neighbours had picked this time to start up piano practice. Then I realised that the music was coming from below me, from our living room, where - to my knowledge - there were no pianos.

It turns out that over the course of the day, housemate A had bought an old piano and installed it there, housemate B then came home with some friends and decided to start playing the piano and having a singalong. So I woke up, poured myself a drink, and got stuck in to the singing.

That same house I came home and found several hundred small African drums covering every possible surface so it was par for the course.
posted by atrazine at 11:52 AM on December 15, 2022 [6 favorites]

My husband messaged me with a mixture of confusion & panic a couple weeks ago. "Why do we have TWO CELLOS?"

Clearly, Celloliar mytosis

I'll show myself out.
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 1:15 PM on December 15, 2022 [12 favorites]

So, while cleaning a bedroom air conditioner that was long in the tooth, out dropped a bunch of unlabeled pill packets. Well, some internet searching later, and lo, it was viagra. So here I am with unexpired viagra packets in my new house and a non functioning air conditioner unit.
posted by jadepearl at 12:03 AM on December 21, 2022 [2 favorites]

What's emerging here is that you can take unwanted items discreetly to a friend’s house and quietly leave them on a shelf or in a cupboard. Food for thought…
posted by Phanx at 3:29 AM on December 21, 2022 [3 favorites]

unexpired viagra packets… and a non functioning air conditioner unit.

Recipe for hot sex?
posted by Phanx at 3:31 AM on December 21, 2022 [1 favorite]

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