Joys of Natural Gas

A big truck pulled up in front of the house about an hour ago, and a man rang the door bell to tell me that they werCreative commons photo via http://www.flickr.com/photos/cliff_robin/e here to fix the gas leak.

Gas leak? Gas leak??? This was news to me. It seems that Florida City Gas hires some firm to go around and inspect gas meters for leaks, and they found one at our house. No, judging from the yellow cable ties on our pipes, they found two. I can’t hear or smell anything, so it can’t be that serious, but still.

And no one told us. The workmen said they should have rung the bell, and if no one was home they should have left a note. There was no note. They should have told me, but not to worry, it is — they are — very small.

The work team was quick. In half an hour or less they were done. And then the fun began. The work crew can turn off gas supplies, which they needed to do in order to effect their repair. But they are not able or empowered to turn the gas back on. That, says the blue card, requires a call to an 800 number. Fortunately, since my office is undergoing a treatment that the Vice Dean described in a recent memo as akin to “elephants wielding gigantic tree trunks” ranging through the floor, I am at home today, and able to call now rather than at dinner time, when one might just want to cook something.

So I call the 800 number. The automated voice system wants me to punch many numbers, and I do, navigating to the third level in the menu. Then a robo voice tells me I’ll have to be on hold for a bit as they have a lot of calls. I get a moment of muzak, then a click, then silence. More clicks. Silence. Then the dreaded Bell System voice says, “If you’d like to make a call, please hang up…” Yes, I’ve been disconnected.

So I repeat the whole process and get … a human being! He makes me repeat all the info that the automated system already knew. Then he tells me he’ll have to put me on hold to transfer me to another department. Before he does, I explain I’ve been cut off once already — but it seems they know about the problem, they’ve been having lots of trouble with the system, and he promises to call me back if I’m cut off. I also mention that I’m a little perturbed by no one telling me about the leak. He is solicitous, but all he can say is that he’ll make a note of it.

In due course I’m transferred to Jeanne, who has a slow southern voice and very brisk efficiency. Once again I have to explain where the house is (they send me gas, don’t they know where I am?). She wants to know the name of my subdivision too, the first time anyone has asked me this in more than 18 years. Riviera?

As regards my concern that no one told me about the leak, Jeanne is utterly unimpressed. “I think the most important thing is that they told us, so we could come out and fix it.” I agree, but ask if she doesn’t think that maybe I, the resident, should be told too? “No,” says Jeanne. And that is that.

They promise to have the gas back on well before dinner time.

(Creative Commons photo – c.a.muller.)

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4 Responses to Joys of Natural Gas

  1. Brett Bellmore says:

    Realistically, if it was the meter leaking, outside the house, it would be virtually impossible, short of a real gusher, (In which case immediate action, including evacuation, would have followed the discovery.) to get a gas/air mix that was actually *dangerous*. It’s not like an inside leak, in a confined space, where you might get an explosion. And if the leak was on *their* side of the meter, it wasn’t even costing you anything.

    But they should have at least explained this.

  2. dilbert dogbert says:

    I do think that a lawyer can learn how to light a pilot light. The directions are printed inside or near your furnace and water heater. The guys who come out to do yours most likely don’t read and understand instructions as well as a lawyer.
    A word of caution: Don’t let your wife know that you are not helpless in the face of minor homeowner problems or you will find your “honey do list” expanding exponentially.

  3. dilbert dogbert says:

    Shucks! The theme was the Joys Of Natural Gas. Try propane and the cost of it.
    Anyway, forgot to include my experience with the gas guys.
    I was installing new sprinkler pipes in the front yard and was digging trenches when my shovel hit what I thought was a tree root. No problem, just give it a hard whack with the shovel and continue digging. No! An explosion of air erupts in my face. Then I smell the gas odor. After the firemen came out and plugged the line and then the gas guys, I found out they had replaced the metal gas line with plastic and had pulled the new line in using the old line. They did not inspect to see how deep the old line was.
    I am lucky that I am still here in one piece and the house and the neighborhood was not burned down.
    Check your homeowners policy and take a walk away from the house when the expert gas guys relight your pilot lights. An ounce of caution. Your home computer backups are in a safe place, right?

  4. Brett Bellmore says:

    Yeah, it’s not hard to light a pilot light, although I’ll admit the first time I re-lit my water heater I looked funny until my eyebrows grew back. It’s one of those simple things that can go really wrong if you do things in the wrong order…

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