A funny thing happened at my house a couple of weeks ago.

The kitchen ceiling collapsed. Well, part of it, the part over the kitchen counter.

I was the first one up and drinking my coffee when I heard something that reminded me of my shipboard days when my ship, the USS Spartanburg County, took a 43 degree roll to starboard, then a 40 degree roll to port, in the North Atlantic on our way to Norway one winter.

It was a sickening sound of hard landings and things sliding that ought not be sliding.

I blamed the dog. A few months back, Gracie, our German shepherd, knocked down a spare door leaning against a wall on the back porch, shattering a window. It sounded similar.

As I went through the kitchen, something in the corner of my eye was amiss but I ignored it as I rushed to the back porch to see what Gracie did this time. I found her asleep; squirrels she goes crazy over, but crashing sounds, not so much.

I saw the real source of the commotion as I went back into the kitchen. A four-foot by four-foot section of ceiling had come down, and a trickle of water was tailing off. Soggy insulation and pieces and powder from dry wall covered the counter. Everyone else in the house, not just the dog, slept through it.

I cleaned it up and later that day inspected the roof, suspecting squirrel damage, but found none that would explain this.

We went through a dry spell, so it was more than a week before rain came so I could see whether we had a plumbing problem or a roof leak. With the rain, the water started leaking, so we knew to call a roofer and not a plumber.

On Friday, the first dry day that a roofer could come out, the source of our problem was elusive. The workmen asked if there was access to the crawlspace over the kitchen, and I showed them the access door hidden behind the washer and dryer on the second floor of our house (I know; First World problems).

After a bit, a workman came out and said he had good news and bad news. The good news was, it wasn't the roof leaking. The bad news was, it was a plumbing problem. He led me into the crawl space and, sure enough, the ceiling damage was directly beneath the washing machine plumbing, and clearly there was a water issue there.

Only thing this theory didn't explain was, why did our ceiling leak only during heavy rain, when we were not doing the laundry?

The workmen chewed on that a bit and went back to the original theory, that there was a roof leak.

Leave it to a roof to leak without a trace of its source, directly over plumbing that could be falsely blamed, at the workmen's rate of $40 an hour.

I find it happens a lot, that one problem is often more easily but wrongly explained by something else. Don't you?

Thanks for letting me take up some of your Sunday morning.

Randy Foster is executive editor of The Free Press in Kinston and the Sun Journal in New Bern. He can be reached at randy.foster@ either Kinston.com or newbernsj.com.