This is a story as insubstantial as dryer lint and exciting as watching paint dry.

That’s because it is literally a story about dryer lint and drying paint — but the ending answers a question everyone has had.

For reasons we needn’t recount, my wife was spray-painting an object in the basement laundry room and noticed that the paint rose in a crimson mist. It needed prompt removal lest the room look like a New Orleans brothel parlor.

Once she started cleaning, she got to cleaning everything. You know how that goes. “Oh, the oven burner control knobs have a smear of grease.” Six hours later, you’re cleaning the exhaust vent with a wire brush and caustic lye.

Some people save themselves a lot of bother by never moving past the first step — knob, wiped, done, move along — and they live in happy ignorance of the amount of exhaled fats on the hood for the stove exhaust. It would never occur to them to care about such a thing, any more than they would make a weekend checklist that said “vacuum behind the fridge” or “oil hinges on attic door.”

Now that I think about it, when was the last time I oiled the attic hinges?

Anyway. She cleaned the laundry room, which gleamed. But she also found some lint in the cupboard where the duct met the wall. I say this knowing the scorn it will bring from those of you who have never had loose lint.

Wife: “When was the last time we had the dryer lint duct cleaned?”

Me: “You mean in this house?”

Wife: “We’ve lived here 20 years. You’re telling me we’ve never cleaned the dryer vent?”

Me: “Well … ”

She’s right, of course. If you don’t clean your dryer vent, lint builds up into a dense, eight-foot snake of compacted lint that can catch fire, particularly if you like to stick your butane-soaked hand down the outside vent and flick a Bic. The obstruction can make your dryer work harder and burn out the motor.

It’s one of those regular-maintenance things you should do, like flossing your teeth, except you’re not frantically digging in the vent with a bent coat hanger before the vent-cleaning guy arrives. Note: Do not floss with a coat hanger. If you can floss with a coat hanger, consider implants.

In my defense, I vaguely recall making an appointment to get it cleaned 10 years ago, but I ended up having to cancel, and somehow figured that qualified as cleaning it out.

Actually, this happens a lot. I see water pouring out of the gutters after a rainstorm, and think, “That’s odd, I googled gutter cleaners last year.” Meanwhile water is seeping through the basement wall — but no worry, I think I googled “waterproof paint” a while back, which leads to the following exchange:

Wife: “The carpet is wet.”

Me: “Let me check my browser search history.”

But I wasn’t going to let that happen this time. I decided to be proactive and googled “dryer vent cleaners.” I came up with some options, compared prices and hired a guy. He set right to work and cleaned it out.

“How bad was it?” I asked. “Were we in danger of a fire?”

He shrugged: “It wasn’t that bad at all.”

Then he said the words that upended my world, and may likewise shake you to the core of your being: “I found a sock.”

How did a sock make it out of the dryer? We all joke about wormholes and interdimensional portals, but we’re not being serious, right?

There’s no aperture for a sock to escape, and what are the odds that a sock would find a way out? Did the other socks watch the great escape, and expect the sock to send word once it was outside the perimeter? Why would a sock want to escape in the first place? Was life in the drawer, mated to its twin, really that bad? At least a sock in the drawer knew it would go out in the world someday. End up stuck in the vent, unable to move, and you’ll quickly realize that you hadn’t thought this through all the way.

But there you have it: That is where socks go. We’ve answered the eternal question. I was going to ask the tech why my printer runs out of ink when I want to use it, but one great mystery had been cleared up and that was enough for one day. Besides, I could probably google that one.

No, wait. I did google that before. Right before we ran out of ink. What more can a man do?