‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro’ the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. Specifically, not the flesh-and-blood mouse that had died somewhere under the built-in counters in our laundry room and was starting to smell. It had been just a nagging whiff in the morning, but the smell had grown stronger by the time we arrived home from my parents’ house on Christmas Eve. A look through all the easily accessible nooks and crannies revealed nothing, and my nose was unable to pinpoint the location of the smell. We closed the laundry room door to keep the odor from spreading and went to bed.
The next day was Christmas out at my parents’ house again, so I put the problem out of my mind… until we got home late that night, by which time the smell had grown into a stench. Another, more thorough pass confirmed that I would have to pull the laundry room apart the next day, preferably before a high school friend and his wife arrived for brunch. Again, we shut the door on the smell and went to bed.
Bright and early on Boxing Day, my son Tristan and I removed the countertop that covers some shelves, laundry-sorting cubbies, and the washing machine (we were not happy when our previous washer died and we learned that all the replacement washers of a similar capacity had become 3 inches taller—the current one is significantly smaller just because of the countertop). Unfortunately, peering down into the space behind everything revealed nothing beyond odorless dust bunnies. Nor was there any evidence of a dead mouse underneath the washer itself. Our friends were due to arrive any minute, so we closed the door on the problem one more time and went off to make brunch.
Afterward, Tristan and I contemplated the problem anew. We were pretty sure there was a dead mouse under one of the shelves, but they were sealed from the front, and there was only about 3 inches of space behind them—far too little to see into the dark underside of the shelves from behind. I had a little mirror on an extendable handle for such situations, but it wasn’t nearly long enough, and getting light under there was going to be tricky. Without knowing more, we’d have to rip apart all the built-in shelves, which would be difficult and likely result in non-trivial damage to the walls, shelves, or both.
Then the solution squeaked into my brain. A week earlier, I had wanted to see what was going on with my running form while I was on a treadmill and could adjust based on what I was seeing. In a class long ago, the instructor had made that possible with a monitor the runner could see, wired to a camcorder behind the treadmill. I remembered that Apple had enabled Macs running macOS 12 Monterey or later to act as an AirPlay receiver for audio or video broadcast from an iPhone or iPad. When Josh Centers wrote about the feature for TidBITS last year, I felt our examples were somewhat lame, but I couldn’t think of better ones (see “How to AirPlay to Your Mac,” 15 August 2022). But this was the perfect use! I set up my iPhone 14 Pro on a tripod behind the treadmill, put my M1 MacBook Air on the treadmill’s shelf, and used the Screen Mirroring button in Control Center on my iPhone to send its video to the MacBook Air. It worked like a charm.
Luckily, a while back, I had purchased an inexpensive ATUMTEK selfie stick/tripod for a video project I was working on. It has a clever design that extends to 31 inches (0.8 m) and holds the iPhone securely. I opened the Camera app, switched to Video, swiped up on the image to reveal the controls, tapped the flash button, and locked the setting to Flash On to provide light.
Then I started screen mirroring to the MacBook Air and had Tristan watch while I craned over the disassembled counter and maneuvered the iPhone so its camera could see underneath the shelves. It worked perfectly, and I felt like a treasure hunter manipulating a remote-sensing device in an ancient catacomb.
The first two spots I checked were empty, but underneath the final set of shelves, I hit gold. Or, rather, what I was pretty sure was the tomb of the unknown mouse.
After a wee bit of jubilation—we had been striking out pretty completely up to this point—we set our minds to figuring out how to remove the mouse nest and carcass. After some unsuccessful disassembly of the shelves in question due to a hidden wall attachment point, I discovered that I could raise the shelf a tiny bit with a pry bar, though not enough to slide anything under to push the nest back to where we could reach it. Throwing subtlety to the winds, I brought in my shop vac, the motor of which detaches to become a leaf blower. A couple of short blasts into the raised front of the shelf had the desired effect (and then some—bleah!), after which we reassembled the shop vac to suck up everything we’d dislodged.
All’s well that ends well, but this odoriferous problem only worked out that way thanks to the application of significant amounts of Apple technology. The next time you need to see around corners and into dark spaces, consider the combination of an iPhone and Mac connected through AirPlay.