Friday, April 18, 2008

About a month ago, a guy from The Gas Company parked his truck outside our place (illegally, btw), and started doing some work on the sidewalk in front. I came out and said, “Hi. Are you here to install those gas meters?”

My tone was perfectly friendly. His was not. He looked up, eyed me suspiciously and said, “Who are you?”

That should have been my first clue as to how this conversation would go. I looked back at him – what’s with the attitude, pal? But I told him my name and that I live there. “Oh, okay,” he said. He told me the company had had some problems with identity theft.

But he was the one asking for my name. And I wasn’t asking for his social security number. I calmly repeated my question. “So are you here to install those gas meters?”

“I’m reading the gas meter,” he said.

“Okay, but is that related to installing the meters over there at some later time?” I pointed to the pipes sticking out of the ground in our yard.

He just gave me that suspicious look again and told me that there were no meters there. That gas meters are in the sidewalk, not on private property.

This guy wasn’t dumb -- I could tell. He seemed to have a real bug up his ass and wanted to take it out on the world. Then again, maybe it there was a lack of communication here, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt and I explained it further.

I said that I was told that there would be meters in the yard, in the future. I explained that the plumbers who had been working at our place several weeks ago said that they had to wait for the gas company to come and install new gauges where those pipes were. When I saw the guy’s truck, I thought perhaps that he was there for that reason. “But I guess not,” I said, based on his expression. “Have you heard anything about this?”

“So what’s the problem?” he said. Again, answering my question with a question. “You don’t have any hot water?”

“No, we have hot water.”

“So…” he threw up his hands. “What is it you want? What do you want done?”

Despite his abrasive personality, I tried to stay pleasant, explaining the situation in greater detail:

We had a hot water heater inside our apartment. But the tank started leaking, so these plumbers came, removed it and replaced the whole system with a tankless heater. That required tearing up our yard to lay pipe underground, which came sticking up out of the soil in the front of our place. The plumbers said that they couldn’t finish until the gas company came. To the best of my understanding, that meant cutting off one gas line, rerouting it to those pipes and installing new meters. Plus some plumbing work inside our place. We’re waiting right now, with a hole in our ceiling, our walls, and these half-finished pipes.

What I wanted, I said, was whatever work needs to be done, to be done. But it seems like maybe the plumbers dropped the ball on this and I was gonna look into it.

That’s when the guy started going off. He starts lecturing me on what his company does and doesn’t do – namely that they don’t install meters on private property.

If I were to write out his dialogue it would have to be IN ALL CAPS BECAUSE THAT WAS THE TONE OF HIS VOICE. Which I find almost as annoying to read as to listen to, so I’ll spare your eyesight.

I said, “Sir, please don’t yell. I’m standing right here and talking quietly to you.”

I’M NOT YELLING, he yelled (sorry), still in that same noise level, that the whole neighborhood could hear. He talked that way from the beginning, so there was no use trying to get him to change.

And when he repeated his bit about how they don’t install meters, I said, “Yes, I understand. That’s why we’ll have to contact the plumbers and—“

“Let me finish! I let you talk,” he whined, as if I had been arguing my case, not just sharing with him the situation. I lowered my head and took a step back, as if to yield the floor to him. He seemed intent on pointing out that it was his. “You got to talk and tell me what you wanted to say so when it’s my turn to speak you should let me speak, just as I let you speak when it was your—“

“So speak!”

For the third or fourth time he lectured me on what the gas company’s jurisdiction is. When he finally finished, I waited, then said, “You know, I asked if you knew anything about installing these meters. You could’ve just answered ‘no’.”

Later, after talking to the landlady and waiting a few more weeks, some other guys from The Gas Company came – they said they didn’t know that guy, it’s a big company – and with the plumbers did exactly what that schmuck insisted they didn’t do.

They installed the meters.

Honestly, I don’t know what’s fuglier. These monstrosities or that guy’s personality.


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