Saturday, March 08, 2008

Out of Gas

Monday, 6 AM

“You need to check the bar-b-que. I went out back this morning and smelled gas. I think the tank is leaking. Bye, I’m off to work.”

That’s the last thing I needed to hear at 6 AM, a complicated set of instructions. I rolled over and drifted back to sleep. I was driving a tank and it was almost out of gas. Pulling into our local gas station I looked down for the control that opened the gas cap door.

I couldn’t find it among the complicated maze of buttons, levers, handles and dials. I pushed a likely button and the trunk lid popped up. The next button I tried opened the sun roof. It was raining and I couldn’t find the button to close the roof. I pulled a handle and the turret swung around.

I was wet, out of gas, frustrated and Kink was attacking my toes with his sharp little claws and teeth. He thought my thrashing around was a game and was eager to join in. Suddenly, I was eager to get his claws out of my ankle.

“Kink, old buddy, chase this!” and I threw one of his cat toys that I keep in a stash on the nightstand. Kink dutifully chased after the stuffed mouse losing interest in my feet.

Daylight in the Swamp, I thought, and made my way to the shower.

Later, over a bowl of Special K, I glanced up and caught sight of the bar-b-que pit on the patio. Dimly, a voice rose in my semi-consciousness:

“You need to check the bar-b-que. I went out back this morning and smelled gas. I think the tank is leaking. Bye, I’m off to work.”

Sighing I went out to the patio and sniffed. Smelled like Texas. Hibiscus with a hint of longhorn. No gas. I checked the propane tank and the valve was shut. To be on the safe side I squirted a little soapy water on the fittings. No bubbles. No leaks. False alarm. But, better safe than sorry.

Tuesday, 6 AM

“You need to check the spare propane tank in the garage. I smell gas and I think it’s leaking. I put the tank in the driveway. Bye, I’m off to Midland. See you tomorrow night.”

Stop the madness, I thought! What’s next, a volcano in the back yard? I drifted back to sleep. I was driving a tank up a steep slope, hot lava running on either side of me. In the distance I heard, “Mr. Frodo! Mr. Frodo!” I tried to go faster but I was out of gas. My tank sputtered to a halt. Suddenly I was lifted on a river of lava and tumbled down the side of the volcano. Just before hitting the bottom I heard a familiar sound, “Purrrrrrrr-RUP?” Kink was on the bed chasing a three-legged lizard on the bed. I assumed the lizard had four legs prior to meeting Kink. Time for a shower.

Later while chomping on an English muffin words surfaced from my semi-consciousness.

“You need to check the spare propane tank in the garage. I smell gas and I think it’s leaking. I put the tank in the driveway. Bye, I’m off to work.”

I got up, went into the garage and opened the door. There on the driveway was the propane tank. I sniffed. It smelled like a Texas garage, oil with a hint of longhorn.

Returning to the driveway with my soap mixture I tested the valves for leaks. No bubbles. No leaks. False alarm. But, better safe than sorry. I hauled the propane bottle back to the garage and closed the door.

Wednesday, 7 PM

Usually I get a “Honey, I’m home!” but tonight I got “I smell gas in the garage. Did you check the tank?”

Yes, I checked the tank.

“Well, I still smell gas. And it smells like gas in the kitchen. I think we have a leak.”

Later, during dinner, “Do you hear that rumble in the wall? Why is the wall rumbling?”

I put my ear to the wall and sure enough heard a noise more like gas bubbling through water. Hmmmm, maybe I should turn off the gas at the meter. I got my flashlight and wrench and went to the side of the house, found the meter valve and turned it off.

The bubbling noise stopped.

We called the Gas Service Company Emergency Hotline and within 20 minutes the serviceman pulled into the driveway. It didn’t take him long to determine that, yes, we did have a gas leak and it was a pretty big one. Luckily we caught it early, but he was going to have to remove the meter and cap the gas line until we could contact a plumber to troubleshoot the source of the leak and either isolate it or fix it.

Great. No cooking, no hot water, no heat. A Canadian front had just blown through and the temperature was dropping to the 30’s.

“You’ll have enough hot water to last you until the morning,” the serviceman advised cheerily.
By now it was nearly midnight, but I called our plumber and got his answering service. The operator took our details and promised we’d get a call in the morning around 7 AM.

Thursday, 7 AM

Today was doubly, triply, complicated. First, we had to rearrange our work schedules, move or cancel meetings and organize ourselves to get the gas leak problem solved. Second, we had planned to drive to Austin for a special dinner which meant we had to get the leak problem sorted out by 4 PM at the latest. Fortunately, things went mostly well.

The good news was that the plumber came out and identified the source of the leak. The bad news was that the leak was isolated to the gas pipe feeding our gas cooktop. The pipe was under the concrete slab in the kitchen. Not an easy fix. Possibly not fixable at all.

It was 4 PM. We were out of time and had to go.

Friday, 6 AM

We departed Austin for the two and a half hour drive to Houston, planning the next stage of what had become the Great Gas Project. There were two critical stages: getting an inspection by the City Engineer and restoring gas service to the house so we could have heat and hot water.

Surprisingly, the City Engineer inspection was easy and we passed, but getting scheduled to restore service bordered on surreal.

“Thanks for calling Gas Service Company. How can I help you?”

“Hi, uh, we had a leak the other day and your guy came out and capped our pipe. We got the leak fixed and we need to restore service.”

“Hold for one moment.”

Twenty minutes of ABBA’s Greatest Hits.



“We can schedule you for April 26th. Is that OK?”

“April 26th? We won’t have any heat or hot water until the end of April?”

“If that’s not a good date then our next available opening is May 19th.”
“You’re kidding.”

“Sir, our April availability just closed. We can restore service on June 4th. Would you like me to schedule that date?”

“No, I’d like to speak to your supervisor.”

“One moment, sir, I’m going to put you on hold while I locate a supervisor.”

After listening to ABBA’s Greatest Hits three times I hung up.

I called the Gas Service Company Emergency Hotline.

“Gas Service Company Emergency Hotline. How may I assist you?”

“We have no gas, it’s 39 degrees, we have no heat or hot water and my wife is a trained Army sniper who’s running out of patience.”

“Right, sir, I have your account here and if we can just confirm a few details we can get your service reconnected. We need to have the following documentation in order. Are you ready?”

“Ready. Fire away. Oh, not you, honey, I’m talking to the guy at the Gas Service Company.”

“OK, here we go. Plumber certification?” Check.

“City inspection?” Check.

“Broomstick of the Wicked Witch of the West?” Got it.

“Killed a gorgon?” Two hours ago, pictures on Facebook.

“Authorization letter from Dick Cheney?” What, we don’t need Cheney’s authorization. According to your website all we need is the gorgon.

“Sorry, sir, but Cheney authorization was required as of this morning. No Cheney, no service.” Hang on, I replied, I’m calling him now.

“OK, sir, thanks, we just received Cheney’s authorization from an undisclosed location. We’re good to go. Our serviceman will be at your house shortly.”

The doorbell rang.

Hey, Gas Service Company Guy, I’ve got to go, there’s somebody at the door. Later.

I went to the front door and met the Gas Service Company serviceman.

Friday, 8 PM

OK, sir, you’re all hooked up and you’ll have hot water in about two hours. Thanks for doing business with the Gas Service Company and, remember, Service is our middle name.

Yeah, I’ll remember that, I said, and as I closed the front door the lights went out.

1 comment:

Snooker said...

Great story.

I like the idea of the cat toys on the nightstand in case of emergency!