Place a bucket in the middle of the floor. No matter what, people are automatically going to look to the ceiling.

It’s simple. The bucket represents a leak. There might not even be any water present. Maybe it’s not even raining outside. It doesn’t matter. That bucket is the receiving end of a drip, and that drip is coming from the ceiling.

While getting some cheap gas station coffee this morning, I saw one of these buckets. Orange, weathered and half filled with water, it stood in the center of the floor. Around the bucket, the floor was unusually clean, as if the bucket was equipped with a force field designed to force muddy shoes away.

I looked up.

There was no water. The clerk laughed. “Pretty classy, huh?”

I looked down at him. Then up again. Still no water.

“It’s coming from the fixture,” he said, reading my confusion.

Perfectly balanced below the drip, filled with quickly stagnating water, the bucket reminded me of the larger buckets that sometimes block the aisle at Sam’s Club. Same purpose, though the aim must be truer. The endpoint of a leak at 10 feet is a lot easier to find than one originating five stories up.

Every time, I look up.

I have to. Where there’s a bucket, there’s a leak.

This was lovingly handwritten on October 6th, 2009