Tuesday, August 15, 2006

I've Got Gas and My Wife Loves It!

Ok, now that the ordeal is over, I can finally talk about it. This post is my therapy.

Last Friday, Lisa & her Mom smelled gas in their dining room. I wasn’t home. I had taken the boys on a lunchtime adventure as Leah was away for the weekend at a conference in Louisville, Kentucky. Their reaction was perfectly reasonable – call the Gas Company.

Fuck National fuel and everyone who works for them. Bugger them all with Andre the Giant’s fist until they bleed out their eye sockets.

The gas company’s first point of procedure: if a gas smell is detected, shut off and lock the gas meters – all of them.

The gas company’s second point of procedure: if your shift is ending soon, don’t be bothered to find the leak, if there is any. Just leave because you won’t be paid overtime.

The gas company’s third point of procedure: turning the gas back on to a house with infants and children does not classify as an emergency. As a matter of fact, make sure the client really means it by requiring multiple phone calls to actually get a technician to come during regular business hours.

Fuck National fuel so hard.

So, last Friday afternoon, towards the end of her shift, the National Gas servicewoman steps into my house and says, “I couldn’t isolate the leaks, and dispatch is telling me to leave. You need to have a HVAC company come out and test for leaks. When they’re fixed, we’ll come back and turn the gas back on.”

Me: So the gas is shut off to both apartments?

Her: Yes.

Me: Oh, no, no, no, no. You can’t do that. There are four children under 4 years old living in this house.

Her: Sorry.

And exit servicewoman.


Ok, the thing to note here, besides my impressive amount of verbal self control, is that she told me to call a Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning company to test for gas leaks. Plumbers fix gas leaks, you fucking bimbo.

By the grace of God Almighty above, our plumber Gino, who from henceforth shall be called Mr. Wonderful, was available to do a side job and come over to test our gas lines. He had trouble locating a compressor Friday night. But Saturday morning he was at my door. We spent the next 10 hours testing the gas lines in the basement. Testing the lines consists of pumping them up with air pressure, spraying soapy water on every single joint, and looking for bubbles forming. That’s where your leak is.

I called the Fucking Gas Company just before lunch and asked them to send out a technician to test the lines and turn the gas back on. I had to call the emergency line as they don’t have anyone in their office on the weekends.

Around 2:30, Fucking Gas Company Technician #2 actually showed up! Amazing. He ambles down into the basement where Gino, who, if we were going to have another child would have his namesake, was working on the lines to my apartment. We had already fixed Mike & Lisa’s.

Here’s where it gets interesting.

FGC Tech #2: I can’t touch the lower apartment meter. I only have a work order for the upper.

Me: I called to have the entire house turned back on. That's both meters.

FGC Tech #2: I don’t think there’s anything I can do. I only have a work order for the upper, and I can’t test the upper cause you’re not done yet.

Gino: Look, we’ve left the test setup on the lower apartment line so you can see that it’s passing the pressure test. And we’re almost done with the upper.

FGC Tech #2: I have to do a test myself, and I can’t even do that because you have yours on.

Gino: Well we can take care of that.

And Gino disconnects his test gauge in a matter of seconds.

FGC Tech #2: Let me call dispatch and see if I can do anything.

He leaves the basement. I am seething. I can’t even see straight. A few minutes later the tech comes back down.

FGC Tech #2: Ok, dispatch is sending me another work order for the lower, so I’ll test it for you.

Gino: What is the test pressure?

FGC Tech #2: We test for five minutes at 3 psi

Gino: (looking at me) No problem. We’ve been testing at 8 psi all morning.

The tech hooks his test assembly up and pumps up the system. It fails. He does it again. It fails. I am ready to scream in frustration. Gino asks him to do it a third time so we can check the lines for leaks. Gino walks over to the test assembly and sprays it with soapy water. It leaks like a sieve.

The Fucking Gas Company’s test assembly leaked. Had Gino not checked it, the douchebag service tech would have failed us and walked out. Instead, he put gas in the line and checked it with an electric sniffer. It passed. No leaks. Mike & Lisa’s gas was turned back on – Saturday afternoon around 2:30.

Things to note from this the second episode with the service tech – the "standard" test is 5 minutes at 3 psi. His fucking test assembly leaked. And the office didn’t give him the correct work order to actually do his job.

Gino & I decided to replace a length of pipe on my lines that was oversized and had a small leak in it. We worked together until about 7:00pm, and at the end, my system was fixed. I called the Fucking Gas Company again to see if they had anyone available. They run 24 hour shifts, so yes, someone would try to get out that night.

Where were my children during all of this? At Grandma & Aunt Gina’s house. Thank God.

I was just putting the boys in their beds at our house when the FGC Technician #3 showed up. He was more friendly, and seemed a little more competent than the last ones. We went down to the basement, and he hooked up his test assembly.

FGC Tech #3: Ok, we’re going to test for ten minutes at 3 psi. If it holds, then we turn the gas back on.

Me: Did you say ten minutes?

FGC Tech #3: Yeah, that’s the standard.

Me: The other guy that was here sniffed the line. Is that an acceptable test?

FGC Tech #3: Yeah, but you’re supposed to test with pressurized air. But here’s the thing: the lines almost never pass on the first try. Is this your house?

Me: Yeah.

FGC Tech #3: Here’s a tip for the future: Don’t call the gas company. If you smell gas, turn it off yourself and call a plumber. We’re just gonna come and shut it off, and it’s gonna cause you problems.

Me: I noticed.

He pressurized the system, but it still leaked. Gino and I had forgotten to properly seat one of the pipe pieces.


Things to note from his visit – the “standard” test is different from FGC Tech #2, A representative of the Gas Company told me never to call the Fucking Gas Company.

I went to bed after a sponge bath with cold water. The next morning, Sunday, I said fuck it. I wasn’t going to spend another day beating my head against a wall and not spend any time with my kids. So we packed into the car and went to the Erie County Fair for the day. It was awesome. Leah got home late that night, and I told her everything that had happened.

Day 3 – Still No Gas

That night I had a flash of brilliance. Perhaps you saw it burst out into the night sky like the Batman movies. Monday morning I went to Hopeless Depot and bought a pipe cap. Rather than having to rerun the entire length of new line, I took it apart and capped it as close to the gas meter as I could, thus completely disconnecting my furnace. I called the FGC Monday afternoon to come out to test the line.

Day 4 – Still No Gas

Tuesday at 10:00am, no one from the gas company had shown up. I called again. The FGC Customer Service Lady on the phone took all my information again.

FGCCSL: Ok, sir, have the repairs been made?

Me: Yes, that's what I told the woman I talked to yesterday.

FGCCSL: Ok, sir, let me see. Well, we’ll try to get to it today, but . . .

Me: What happened to the request I put in yesterday?

FGCCSL: Well, you aren’t classified as an emergency . . .

Me: I don’t care what I’m classified as. There are three children in this house who have been without hot water for four days! You either get someone out here this afternoon or you’ll be hearing from a lawyer. This service is downright disgusting.

And hang up.

Two hours later, guess who pulls up to our house? Fucking Gas Company Technician #4!

He walks down to the basement, set up his test assembly . . .

. . . and his air pump is broken - the second piece of faulty Gas Company equipment to enter my house.

Me: Let me see if I have a pump. How long do you have to test for anyway?

FGC Tech #4: Oh don’t worry about it. We’ll just test the lines with gas. After all, that’s all the pressure they need to hold anyway. If they hold for ten minutes, then you’re good to go.

Me: Fine by me.

FGC Tech #4: In reality, the lines in these old houses never hold the air pressure tests we put on them. They all have small leaks, and the test pressure is way over what the gas pressure is. The whole procedure is stupid, because it’s so over the top.

At this point, all I could do was shake my head.

Thankfully, the system held just fine, and after four days my gas is back on.

Never in my life have I run into such blatant incompetence. It turns my stomach just to think about it. From this point forward in my life, if the opportunity arises to explore alternate fuels and energy sources, count me in. The only thing National Fuel is good for is . . .

. . . well, nothing.

I’m off to take a shower. In hot water.