Friday, March 22, 2019

Never Run Out of Propane

The Backstory

I have an excellent sense of smell. When out to dinner, I know that a dish is burning in a restaurant kitchen before the staff is responding. A few weeks ago, I began insisting that we had a leak in the propane pipes leading to our oven. We use the propane tank that’s plumbed from our side yard only for cooking, both indoors and on our patio grill. My husband didn’t smell it, but he’s learned to trust my nose. He called the plumber, who declared the pipes to be fine; we should call the appliance repair folks. So they came out and declared the oven to be fine; we should keep our hood vent going long after cooking (seriously?!). A couple hundred dollars in service charges left me with reassurance that we didn’t need service and the low level but persistent, unpleasant odor that’s given to propane—something variously described as the smell of rotten eggs, a skunk's spray or a dead animal.


The Dinner

I came home from work on Thursday evening to find that my husband had been using the outside grill for the second night in a row. It may not be all that warm yet in the Greater Boston area, but technically it’s spring…and the weather was clear. He was ready to barbecue. What I found on the table, however, was a small serving plate of grilled eggplant and some salad for each of us.

“This is dinner?” I asked with amusement.

“Yes. The start. I’m working on it.”

Quizzical look.

“I cooked one side of a piece of salmon. When I turned it over, we ran out of propane.” Fortunately, fish readily continues cooking off-heat once it’s warm; he left it on the grill, cover closed, and eventually we enjoyed a delicious main course.

“Oh!” I exclaimed, as clarity hit. “The propane is formulated for the odor to concentrate at the bottom of the tank. The smell was a warning that we were running out. I completely forgot.”


The Call

Of course, I'd also forgotten the name of the company that had taken over our propane supplier since our last refill—after all, until now I’d never needed them. I found that on line, called the first 800 number that came up, and dealt with a lovely person late on a Thursday evening who took care of everything. She did so despite that I had inadvertently called the mid-Atlantic office, so she got on another line with the New England region to set everything up for me.

She told me that I’d hear from the local office about coming out to inspect the tank that night and to deliver propane by the next day.


The Wildlife

The did as they promised. Just before 1:00 today, my husband texted me: “Tank is here, but also a dying raccoon by the empty tank, so now waiting for police.”

And 1-1/2 hours later: “Hi, raccoon is gone and now we must contact our propane friends to schedule
a hookup crew for tomorrow. The new full tank is onsite at our house.”

I guess we couldn’t expect the propane crew to stand by waiting for animal control to do its thing.

And I guess we’re going out for dinner.


The Moral of the Story

Know what your nose is telling you. And never run out of propane.