It’s all right, in fact, it’s a gas

The natural gas utility doesn’t give me the time of day — until they need money. They are like big utility versions of teenagers that way.

One minute I’m minding my own business, clam happy in denial of my natural gas needs. The next I am on the receiving end of a phone call saying the natural gas company has arrived at our rental homes an hour away to move the meters and, oh by the way, all the valves are illegal and will have to be changed.

Illegal

Excuse me? Illegal valves? What does that even mean? What did they do? Drive too fast? Mug the hot water heater? Operate under the influence of … gas? Apparently, they are illegal by 2011 standards (which makes sense since they were likely installed by Moses himself).

They would need to be completely replaced — on my dime mind you — before the gas could be turned back on.

This is where I shall note for the record that Mr. Wonderful and I are not pro-gas leak. We are definitely anti-blowing things up. Safety first, that’s us. We do not take issue with the project, we take issue with the fact that the project was undertaken with absolutely no notice to us.

Technically that’s not true. I guess we “noticed” when they disconnected all the gas to the entire house and said “see you next week!” There we were with our two gas stoves, two gas hot water tanks, two gas furnaces and absolutely no hope of getting the gas back on Tuesday after the long holiday weekend.

I should also note that by “Tuesday” they, of course, meant “Thursday.” Apparently you always add at least two days.

Details

Now, I will not bore you with all the details of the next seven days. No one else’s trials and tribulations are ever as interesting to everyone else as they are to them. Suffice to say the highlights include being given no less than three separate explanations of how and when we were maybe, possibly, sort of, supposed to be notified prior to this project so we could have planned ahead (and had our own valve technicians standing by).

Of their insistence that they didn’t have to notify us but that they “probably” did. Didn’t we get a letter? A door tag? Perhaps a paper airplane flung in our general direction? We were told the gas for one apartment would be turned on the very next day, but the other meter — sitting directly next to it — could not be scheduled for a reconnect for another week.

Finally the Thursday-they-called-Tuesday came and they returned to check the new valves and decided that they didn’t like the furnace. We had that repaired. They came back to check that and decided they didn’t like the stove.

It got so I was afraid to let them anywhere near even our non-gas appliances. What if they felt they were getting “attitude” from the microwave or the fridge?

Unbelievable

It took eight days, countless telephone calls, three visits by the natural gas utility and two contacts from the Public Utilities Commission to culminate in this: we contacted the gas company to (finally) schedule a reconnect only to be told: “I’m sorry but we don’t service that address.” I could not make this stuff up.

On that note I would like to thank the natural gas company. People ask me, frequently, how it is that I find subjects to write about? Others tell me they would find it difficult to come up with new material week in and week out.

Me? I have no problem. If anyone asks where I mine new material I can just smile and say, “Oh that? It’s a gas!”

About the Author

Warm, witty and just a wee bit warped, Kymberly Foster Seabolt is a native of Kent, Ohio, who survived childhood exposure to disco and grew up to marry and move to the country. Her column weaves her special brand of humor with poignant, entertaining, and honest portrayals of parenting, marriage, and real life. She currently lives in northeastern Ohio with her husband, two children, two dogs, two cats, and numerous dust bunnies who wish to remain nameless. More Stories by Kymberly Foster Seabolt

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