I’m not one to answer a phone call and rarely check my voicemail. Maybe it’s because I started my professional career as a telemarketer. Maybe it’s because I can’t see the person calling and it feels awkward, I’m not sure why I have such an aversion to the practice of phone calls. However, when my new neighbor called me on my way home from work the other day, I figured I’d better pick that one up.

She asked me if I was on my way home, and I said I was. I honestly was headed to the grocery store but made sure to detour toward home as I gave that response. She explained that she had smelled a strong gas odor, and called the gas company as a precaution. The gas guy was currently there and found that the source of the gas was not coming from her townhome but from mine next door. She said he was willing to stay and check my place out if I was nearby. I said I’d be there in 10 minutes.

I pulled to the front of my place and parked next to the gas truck. The man came out of his driver’s seat and took out what looked like an old-school brick cell phone with a very long antenna. It was a device that measured the gas levels and he followed me up my front stairs.

“When you go in,” he said, “make sure you don’t turn on any lights.”

Now I was concerned. It was bad enough that if I flipped a switch the spark could ignite the gas in the air, putting me and everyone around me in danger. He repeated the instruction as I opened the door, and I promised I wouldn’t touch anything.

The smell was overwhelming and I felt bad for my dog, GiGi, who met me as I walked in. How long had she and my cats endured this? Reading his instruments, the man walked around and asked if we could put the dog up and open all the doors and windows. I again did as instructed.

He let me know he had already turned off the gas leading to my fireplace and asked if I had used the stove lately. I said it had been a week since I had, and we walked through the place checking the readings. This is the point where I need to inform new readers that yes, it had been a week since I used the stove. I hate to cook. However, I love to bake but that practice doesn’t happen as often, thus why my stove had been dormant for so long.

Despite knowing I had not touched the stove in a while, his words made me second-guess myself and I decided to check it just in case. There, a dial flipped in the wrong direction.

“I found it,” I said.

Thankfully without judgment, he stayed for another 10 minutes or so as the levels became acceptable enough to turn the fireplace back on, and he let me know I’m not the first mother whose young child had played with the stove. He then explained where I could find child locks for the appliance, and I bought some online from my phone as soon as he left.

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