Entry 10/24/2014 05:44:16 PM – Mentat 771
…Or “Hello Gas Company? I would like a heaping side of drama with your free service.”
Thursday night, when the weather was gloomy and the temperatures in the mid 50s F (10s C) with the weekend looking more and more like the sort of thing we see frost in the morning, I had decided to tackle getting the space heater in the apartment re-lit. I had turned it off and the end of last winter because unlike the old gas-on-gas which was a pain in the ass to find the pilot, this one was clearly and easily spotted on the other side of the door. Of course, that door is also on the right side of the heater and can only be reached when I move the stove away to be able to reach it and reach around to the control valve. I know it’s an old space heater as I can barely read the tag on the backside of it and if the water heater in the basement is an indication of the age of things in the house; the space heater is as old if not older than I am.
All right not older than me. It has a pilot primer (press down the knob/valve in order to light the pilot), it’s an early stage of this safety feature as you press and hold it down for 30 seconds, then you light the pilot and the voila, it’s lit. I can tell it’s up there in age…
It took a little of a struggle, a pen light held in my mouth all cat burglar-style, ensure I can reach both inside the door to the pilot and reach around to the valve controls, try to light it and all that… In about 20 minutes of grunting, swearing and taking breaks, it was lit and a quick test of turning up the thermostat proved to me it was working properly.
Later on in the evening when I was hankering down to sleep, I wandered over to the sink in the pantry area and could have sworn I was smelling the faint odor of natural gas. Getting a bit paranoid I sniffed around the space heater which was where I thought I had smelled it and sure enough there a little there. Turning up the thermostat on the space heater to ensure the pilot didn’t blow out when I shut the heat off earlier, I heard it kick on and stay lit after several attempts of turning it on and off.
Shrugging it off to my inherent paranoia and coupled with the possibility it was a bit of lingering gas from the struggle I went through, I opened one of the windows in the kitchen to air the house out and get some sleep.
The next morning, after shutting the window and confirming I couldn’t smell any gas from the space heater, I had to rush over to my mother’s house because I missed the call that the visiting nurse was over early, and thought she was still there at 9:20 as my uncle was supposed to be coming over to pick her up for her biopsy appointment at 9:30. Fortunately for me, the visiting nurse was long since gone and my mother let her in by throwing the keys out the window to open the door on the street. Helping my mother downstairs and into uncle’s truck, she was off to the hospital for her biopsy, leaving me there for a couple of hours while I watched her Monster Child…
The day went as expected. I took care of her needs while she sat down, ran a couple of errands (bank and Walgreen’s to pick up her prescription). Realizing I didn’t have my wind breaker, I headed back to the house to pick it up and realized that I smelled the faint odor of gas again as I walked in the door to my apartment.
I did the errands, came back to my mother’s house, told her about it and then called the gas company (here in Rhode Island, Gas & Electricity are the same company). I spoke with James in customer service and asked him about the free service when gas is being turned on at an apartment. I remembered when I moved into my apartment in the Valley, during the visit the Service man check the various equipment: Water Heater, Stove, Space Heater/Heating service if it’s gas and ensure there’s no leaks. I asked him whether it’s a free service for someone hat already has their service up and running.
He told me it was free and asked why. I explained to him that since turning on the space heater and lighting the pilot there was a faint odor of gas and I thought that perhaps there might be a problem.
He started the speech not turning any of the lights or electrical appliances and getting out of the house immediately not to re-enter until the service man was there.
I told him I’m aware of this, but assured him that it wasn’t that bad, as my computer had been running the entire time and re-affirmed the odor in the house was faint, not overpowering. I explained I’ve been in a house where a gas feed had broken and knew the difference between a potential calamity and a small issue. This was the small issue.
He told me that someone from the gas company would be there in half hour.
I told him that there’s no way for who they’re sending to ring doorbells to gain entry (there are none on the doors to the house) and gave him a number to call as I was across the street taking care of my mother and could be out there when they arrive. I stressed again it wasn’t an emergency, as it’s only a faint odor.
And what follows is the result of that call…
I’m sitting there at my mother’s seeing that the clock reading was close to the time the gas company is supposed to show up. I also heard the sounds of sirens as they’re screaming up the street and seeming to stop near to where I am at my mother’s. Looking out the window I see this big-assed paramedic’s truck blocking up Piedmont St. I then look around outside and saw several firemen in full gear including oxygen tanks walking around outside of my house.
“Jesus, the whole of the fire department is here and at my house. Something’s up. I’ll check what’s going on and walk Jack when I get back.”
“We’ll be here,” my mother says to me as I’m putting a windbreaker and hat on and rushing down the stairs.”
I get outside and halfway to the door to my apartment, I say loudly, “Is there something I can help you with, Gentlemen?”
Someone dressed as the Fire Marshall says, “the gas company called us of a report of a gas leak at this house, did you report it?”
“I did! Though I assure you it’s not as bad as needing the whole of your firehouse here on my front door step. If one or two of you gentlemen will please follow me, I’ll lead you up and explain the situation to you while you check what’s wrong.”
Four come up — the Captain (he had the bars to prove it) and three of his men with various gas detection equipment in hand. One of them was complaining about the obstructions with the cleaning supplies on the first floor landing… Yeah, good luck getting those moved, I mumbled.
This is the only apartment with closets, the others had been boarded up years ago and the only reason why I have them is because the last tenant ripped those boards out gashing the frames and the floor in the process. My first floor neighbor not having the luxury of strength or help doesn’t and has had whatever can’t fit in a closet out in the hallway for longer than I’ve been living in the apartment.
I stressed to them this wasn’t that big an emergency as it was a light odor and only happened after six and a half hours while I was over my mother’s house caring for her.
A minute after that there were 8 men in the house.
Soon after that there was all 12 loitering in my 15′ x 15′ kitchen firing various questions at me scatter shot. There’s two trucks and the paramedic van all blocking most of Atwells Ave and mouth of Piedmont St to Atwells and only the Fire Marshall outside standing by car at Piedmont and Adams Sts. And of course, the rubberneckers wondering what’s going on…
“Can you verify that there are two active gas meters?” One of the last to come into my house asked. Yes, just me and my downstairs neighbor live in this house, the rest is unoccupied. The other apartments haven’t been occupied in more than 10 years.
“When did you notice the smell?” At first last night when I lit the space heater, but after that, only when I came back to the house to pick up a windbreaker to walk the dog a short time ago. The apartment has been unoccupied the last six and a half hours.
“The pilots on this stove aren’t lit,” the Captain said like he suddenly discovered the problem. No, they never worked. This stove was kludged in a way that the stove top and oven only light when turned on and a match is set to them. You know like a camper (propane) stove…
“We’re going to check the downstairs (with the first floor neighbor).” Gentlemen, I guarantee you, she smokes like a chimney and if the leak was from downstairs she’d know about it. We all would, in fact.”
There was a lot of repeat questions, and a lot more repeat answers. Apparently I was Speaking in Tongues or my experience in living in apartments for more than 30 years meant nothing.
No I’ve been here 8 months and while I thought I smelled it toward the end of last winter, I didn’t run the heat much since the end of February and shut off the space heater in the middle of March.
No, the stove has never given me problems in the 8 months I’ve been living here.
Yes, the stove is lit by match and later on with a barbecue lighter (showing them as it rests on the fireplace mantel in the kitchen). If you look carefully you’ll see this oven is kludged having a secondary gas level for the oven under the stove top. Pulled up the stove top to point it out to the Captain.
Yes, I’ve worked with ovens from the very modern with induction technology to the old kerosene ovens of the early 20s and can pretty much know the difference between a proper working stove and one that’s kludged together to make it work. If you think this one’s bad, you should have seen the beat up piece of shit at my apartment on Tuxedo Ave.
No, I never smelled gas from the spring through summer up until lighting the space heater for the coming winter last night. In fact, having been here 8 months I don’t recall there ever being a gas smell when the windows had been closed or the air conditioner was running during those times. It only seemed to have happened within the last 24 hours and even then it’s just mildly annoying.
There were a couple of other questions, all of which I stated it only started when I re-lit the pilot on the space heater last night.
When they were done asking me questions, I asked, “So gentlemen did any of those meters you brought with you find anything?”
“No. We did smell something when we came into the house, but the meters show nothing.”
I was about to open the window in the kitchen when the Captain said, “keep that window closed.”
Keeping the window shut, I turned on the captain and said with a smile, “Oh I should listen like when I asked you for one or two men to check this all out instead of all of the firehouse in my kitchen?” I looked around everyone in a mildly accusing manner loitering in my kitchen. Pointing to bedroom and office, I continued, “Besides, two windows are already open and have been since I left to care for my mother this morning. One there and the other there.”
At this point they had check everywhere they could when the Captain said, “Where’s the Gas Company?” Actually I think he said, “where the hell is the Gas Company?”
Almost on cue he comes up the stairs and hearing that said, “my GPS sent me to Cranston instead of here.” I saw him at my open doorway coming in.
So I explained everything once again to the Utility man. The Captain said a couple of things to him as well, but I didn’t really listen to him at this point. Why should I? He wasn’t like he was listening to me.
As it turns out five minutes into the examination the service man’s equipment did find a leak. It was coming from the (right) pilot on the stove. Also a small leak from the regulator underneath the stove top.
While the Service Man double was checking the feeds into the apartment I remember him saying something about thinking he’d be in trouble with the Fire Department. I explained to him if anyone’s going to be in trouble, it should be the person that took the call (at National Grid). I told him repeatedly that this wasn’t an emergency and that all I was asking for was someone to use the equipment they have access to, to double check there was nothing wrong with the space heater. I reinforced that having lived at this place for 8 months, if I had smelled it sooner, I would have assuredly called someone to check it out (then and there). The fact that it only happened now indicated something was different than the end of February/beginning of March and it involved the space heater.
Looking out the window, I saw all the trucks and the Fire Marshall were long gone. “Oh and besides, they’re all gone, I think you’re safe.” I told him.
Yeah, they left 10 minutes after the utility company showed up without so much as a “bye” or “is everything good?”.
After checking the feeds and everything else, the final conclusion based on my discussion with the service man was with the space heater being turned back on, it increased the pressure for the gas feed and in doing so it was enough to cause the pilots to partially leak from the stove… It had to do with need and pressure to service that need. According to what I saw on the service man’s detection meter over his shoulder was that it was just hitting 1.
While the service man said it wasn’t enough to be a hazard, it was enough to smell up the place and only would be dangerous if the apartment was empty for longer than a day at a time. As a temporary fix he told me I need to shut off the gas main to the stove when I’m not using it. Basically one more lever to throw when I want to cook something.
He even got a smile out of it for the over-compensation of it all, given that he saw my computer (and network) was up and running through the entire thing..
After the gas man was finished here, I then went downstairs to my neighbor’s apartment to apologize for the intrusion from the fire department. That’s when I ran into her my neighbor’s daughter coming over to check her mother. I told her the whole sordid story about simply calling the utility company to check the gas stove.
She’s telling me that one of the neighbors called her to tell her the fire department was on the street at her mother’s place and when she got here to Piedmont there was no way for her drive into the driveway of her house across the street.
We all got a bit of a laugh out of it approaching the whole incident like Yankees would in “…it’s better to be safe than sorry.” She talked with her mother and told her of she needed anything to just go across the street to her place.
I walked my mother’s Monster Child (Jack) and when I came back, then came the real fun explaining it to my landlord Anthony as he came home toward the tail end of it.
Don’t get me wrong, he’s an understanding albeit old-world Italian man who looks like he’s one step away from being homeless, but my family knows he’s got a lot of money and owns a lot more property on Federal Hill than he appears to.
After bringing my mother’s dog up to her, Anthony and I came up to the apartment and instead of trying to pantomime, use a bit of sign language and talking really slow (because he’s hard of hearing) to explain what happened, I decided writing the whole thing out in big, block-printed letters because it would be faster for the two of us. So about 45 minutes later, everything was explained as best as it could be. Well that and he explained what the gas service man already reinforced for the time being.
Of course during my explaining it to my landlord, there was the minor scare as the landlord was trying to prove the leak by using an open flame against the regulator and the pilot lights and then most of the pipes underneath the stove top. While I knew the leaks weren’t much and certainly weren’t enough to cause rogue flames from erupting, that didn’t stop me from having a moment or three of my life flashing before my eyes thinking about gas leaks and open flames… and explosions… or my death (and my landlord’s) caused by a man, hard of hearing, older than my mother.
So for right now, I’ve shut the main off to the stove, left the space heater on and will only turn on the main when I was going to cook something. Basically it’s very much like using a camp stove on a hitch trailer or an RV. I’ll have to do this, until such time I can get a repair man in or get the stove replaced. Whichever comes first.
Later on, I found myself laughing at the drama of it all during my afternoon walk (and making me look like a goofy madman to anyone walking by) as such a little problem turned into this insane — just on the safe side — over-done mess. It makes me wish there was some small utility store to come in and check it without charging outrageously for something done in less than 5 minutes. Or the Utility Company not being a bunch of over-compensating drama queens because of the general stupidity of people. Well that and the overall litigious nature of the American Public.
And that’s about it. I’m going to wander. Until the next time.
25 Things about me:
Once you’ve been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged (or as many as you want.) You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it’s because I want to know more about you.
(To do this, go to “notes” under tabs on your profile page, paste these instructions in the body of the note, type your 25 random things, tag 25 people (in the right hand corner of the app) then click publish.)
Ha! I usually get these in e-mails and work my relatives nerves with the outlandish things that I say to the questions. Given that it’s completely random, this should be… Interesting. Although I don’t have 25 friends here I’ve already seen LM’s so she’s in the clear from responding back. Woo! 😀
1. If I don’t get my coffee in the morning (which is evening for everyone else), sentient life cowers in fear until I’ve brewed it, and taken a swig or two. Bother me before then, you take life into your own hands. Ask my family about this — they’re stubborn and still learning what this means.
2. My hellbeast is the only woman in my life that I allow to bitch at me when she wants something. Anyone else, pay attention to #1 when approaching me.
3. While I might not take to technology as quickly as I used to in the past, I’m pretty aware of the ins and outs of something as it’s been released to the public.
4. I have been walking to the beat of my own drum and outside the normal circles of society for so long that Wednesday Addams routines comes looking for me to make sense of things.
5. While I might bitch about drama and knowing too many drama queens, I really do enjoy it when other people’s drama is better than mine. That way I can take the best lines from them and use them as my own.
6. I enjoy being nightbreed, in spite of the fact that it makes dating really difficult. See #4 as to why.
7. If I love a game (usually computer type games), I will play them when until the CD’s worn down to clear plastic. Yes, I’m still playing X-Com: Enemy Unknown (1993) and Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight (1997). And they still play on my PC, albeit really fast.
8. I like cheating on the games that I love playing. Life often cheats, why should I play by the rules when I’m recreating if life doesn’t play by the rules either?
9. Decaff coffee has as much purpose in my life as Rush Limbaugh, and belongs in the same place: the trash. So if you ask me if I’d like a cup, make sure it’s high octane enough to make your hair stand on end until the day after tomorrow. Strange though given that my iced coffee is usually white and weak.
10. I feel like I’ve been around the block, back, down the street and half way to the next town. This is because I’ve been out of the closet 30 years (come 9/13/2009) and I frequently deal with folk that are younger than the amount of time I’ve been out of the closet. Hence my saying, "I’ve been out of the closet longer than you’ve been *ALIVE*.
11. Being 45 has had as much impact on me as 30, 35, and 40. So I don’t understand the brouhaha gay men go through thinking that anything over 30 is dead and/or decrepit. Chances are, I can probably outlast and out-stamina someone half my age, and haven’t even broken a sweat in the process either.
12. I have been a geek just a tad bit longer than I’ve been gay… And I’ve been gay all of my life. So don’t blanch or blink an eye if you see such blockbuster movies in my collection as "Star Wars" or "Gamera" or "Godzilla". After all, anyone worth their weight in drama should study from monsters that routinely rampage Tokyo and come back to do it more.
13. I’m still surprised I’m in New England after 3 years, given I talk about Atlanta all the time. They weren’t kidding when they said, "All New Englanders come back, it’s like a siren song." Now if only I could make that siren shut up long enough for me to pick a different place to live.
14. I do my best to mask my Rhode Island accent. Beer or Bourbon bring it out of me every time. Sometimes hanging with people at work, does it as well — but I catch myself more when I’m sober. When I’ve had a drink, my attitude to the slip ups is entirely relaxed. It’s my version of what straight men do when they drink: get naked. I just get naked with my accent.
15. When things are quiet, I often think about Damion or Tommy. Those two impacted me in ways I’m still trying to figure out.
16. I will dance when I’ve had enough to drink — this includes dancing in my chair while I’m writing or chatting. In order to do it in public, it takes more than I care to admit that I’ve had.
17. I will sing only when there’s no sentient life with a mile of me that can confirm that I am singing.
18. I really love my job and my hours. I just wish that the 20-somethings I worked with weren’t so infantile. One is boasting that he’s proud to be a "douchebag". I’m going to introduce him to the concept of being "proud of being an asshole" if he continues.
19. I love being completely nightbreed (night owl for lay folk). I sleep better from noon to 7 PM, and can actually get uninterrupted sleep during this time, in spite of the next door neighbors trying to be butch and running power equipment in the summer. Of course, my next door neighbor needs to understand Wi-Fi security. Perhaps one of these days he’ll get tired of the SSID on his router being "HELLO, PASSWORD ME PLEASE!" when he tries to use it in the morning.
20. While I make comments about needing a drink, I rarely if ever actually give in to that impulse. If I do drink, it’s dark beers, or Jim Beam. And even then it’s not usually much.
21. I miss being able to go out and getting Bourbon Chicken and Greens. Yankees don’t understand how to make biscuits or cheese grits, and mentioning Chik Fil’a or Krystals, I might as well start speaking in tongues. And Sweet Tea? If they give me one more glass of Lipton’s from powder, I’m going to introduce Yankees to the term "go outside and find me a switch."
22. I still have certain southern charms that make people around me give me strange looks. Opening the door for a woman or a man and smiling while doing it makes them think I’m trying to hit on them. Saying please, thank you, and sir/ma’am also causes Yankees to look at me strangely until they catch a touch of the southern accent that I used to have, and then they start talking slower at me.
23. To save humanity, I routinely listen to trance and techno. This prevents #17 from happening more often times than naught.
24. There’s routinely chocolate on my desk at home and at work. Being celibate for 6 years it’s become a satisfying substitute.
25. Finally, I can’t wait for warmer weather. While I don’t mind the cold, I prefer being able to ride my bike to and from work. It’s two hours of exercise that allows me to listen to music, ignore the world around me, and pedal like a madman up and down the hills. It’s almost therapy to the noise I often have going on in my head.
Cheers! This saves the lot of you from a Note on my journal entry until tomorrow. 😀
The story behind the letter below is that there is this nutball in Newport, RI, named Scott Williams who digs things out of his backyard and sends the stuff he finds to the Smithsonian Institute, labeling them with scientific names, insisting that they are actual archaeological finds.
This guy really exists and does this in his spare time!
Here’s the actual response from the Smithsonian Institute. Bear this in mind next time you think you are challenged in your duty to respond to a difficult situation in writing.
207 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20078
Dear Mr. Williams:
Thank you for your latest submission to the Institute, labeled "93211-D, layer seven, next to the clothesline post . . .Hominid skull". We have given this specimen a careful and detailed examination, and regret to inform you that we disagree with your theory that it represents conclusive proof of the presence of Early Man in Charleston County two million years ago.
Rather, it appears that what you have found is the head of a Barbie Doll, of the variety that one of our staff, who has small children, believes to be "Malibu Barbie". It is evident that you have given a great deal of thought to the analysis of this specimen, and you may be quite certain that those of us who are familiar with your prior work in the field were loathe to come to contradiction with your findings. However, we do feel there are a ‘ of physical attributes of the specimen which might have tipped you off to its modern origin:
1. The material is molded plastic. Ancient hominid remains are typically fossilized bone.
2. The cranial capacity of the specimen is approximately 9 cubic centimeters, well below the threshold of even the earliest identified proto-homonids.
3. The dentition pattern evident on the skull is more consistent with the common domesticated dog than it is with the ravenous man-eating Pliocene clams you speculate roamed the wetlands during that time.
This latter finding is certainly one of the most intriguing hypotheses you have submitted in your history with this institution, but the evidence seems to weigh rather heavily against it. Without going into too much detail, let us say that:
A. The specimen looks like the head of a Barbie doll that a dog has chewed on.
B. Clams don’t have teeth.
It is with feelings tinged with melancholy that we must deny your request to have the specimen carbon-dated. This is partially due to the heavy load our lab must bear in its normal operation, and partly due to carbon-dating’s notorious inaccuracy in fossils of recent geologic record.
To the best of our knowledge, no Barbie dolls were produced prior to 1956 AD, and carbon-dating is likely to produce wildly inaccurate results. Sadly, we must also deny your request that we approach the National Science Foundation Phylogeny Department with the concept of assigning your specimen the scientific name Australopithecus spiff-arino. Speaking personally, I, for one, fought tenaciously for the acceptance of your proposed taxonomy, but was ultimately voted down because the species name you selected was hyphenated, and didn’t really sound like it might be Latin.
However, we gladly accept your generous donation of this fascinating specimen to the museum. While it is undoubtedly not a Hominid fossil, it is, nonetheless, yet another riveting example of the great body of work you seem to accumulate here so effortlessly. You should know that our Director has reserved a special shelf in his own office for the display of the specimens you have previously submitted to the Institution, and the entire staff speculates daily on what you will happen upon next in your digs at the site you have discovered in your Newport back yard.
We eagerly anticipate your trip to our nation’s capital that you proposed in your last letter, and several of us are pressing the Director to pay for it.
We are particularly interested in hearing you expand on your theories surrounding the trans-positating fillifitation of ferrous ions in a structural matrix that makes the excellent juvenile Tyrannosaurus Rex femur you recently discovered take on the deceptive appearance of a rusty 9-mm Sears Craftsman automotive crescent wrench.
Yours in Science,