Early this morning, the gas company dropped their "ROAD WORK AHEAD" signs in front of our house, right next to the trash cans, and set up shop in the remainder of the street. We had enough room to pull out of the driveway, if we were very slow and careful about it. We had to route our driving around the other side of the block for most of the day, but no big deal, right?
Apparently, when they work on gas lines, they like to shut off the flow of gas through the pipes, to make sure a random spark doesn't blow up the neighborhood. Sensible thinking! But they're supposed to let us know when they're going to do that, including telling us all the stuff in the paragraphs to come. They didn't. We only knew it was the gas company doing the work because their truck was parked in front of a neighbor's house.
So, with no gas coming in, our pilot lights for the furnace and water heater went out. I didn't notice because I'm used to it being cold. I did detect, later in the afternoon, that the air coming from the heating vents was colder than the air already in the room, but I'm used to weird things happening in this house. Mom, however, recognized the problem right away when I told her about it, and discovered that the pilots were out, and there was a smell of gas in the utility room. So she did what any sensible person would do: Panic and scream. Well, no, even more sensible: shut off the main and call the gas company.
She has a service contract that offers free repairs at an absurd monthly fee, so she called them first. They seemed helpful until she mentioned that the gas company had been doing work in the neighborhood. Suddenly, negotiations shut down. It was the gas company's problem because they were doing the work. After a transfer without preamble, a callback, and an explanation, Mom talked to the gas company. Sure, they'd get right on it... their first available appointment for service is in four weeks. Can't we get service any faster than that? Well, they contract out some expensive but highly worthwhile service plans... and so enters our intrepid hero: Buck Passer, Responsibility Dodger. The gas company told us that if we wanted faster service, we'd have to go through the service company. That's what we pay for: service. The service company, on the other hand, refused to expend resources to clear up the gas company's mess. Lather, rinse, repeat... hard to do when there's no hot water, but improvise while we transfer you again.
After a few more cycles of phone tag, the gas company agreed to send someone to do what should have been done before they left the neighborhood: check our service and pilot light. They quoted us one hour. One hour and change later, Mom called back to learn that there was no service appointment, and that they couldn't promise anything better than "within the next 48 hours". Gee, thanks again.
Fortunately, the service guy showed up about an hour later and told us that the call had been entered as "service out for the whole block". This was considered a non-emergency, whereas no service to one house, complete with possible gas leak, would have been an actual emergency. So... smaller scale means bigger problem? I don't get it.
The New Jersey Utility Commission will hear of this day's events tomorrow - and tomorrow's events the following Monday, if the gas company doesn't start doing its job properly by then. We should not be playing phone tag while our house fills with gas in the background!