Jan 08

A Day in the Cold

Okay, off the bat, let’s be clear about what this post isn’t: I’m not complaining about the fact that the main part of the farmhouse I’m currently living in is about 8 degrees right now and that it may drop to 5 before the propane guy finally gets here. Not really a huge hardship, especially compared to those without power and heat over Xmas in Toronto.

I will clarify my complaint in a moment, but first, some background.

We turn the thermostat down to 15 degrees every night when we go to bed, and then crank it back up to 19.5 every morning. Today, after an hour of running, the temperature was 14.5. Odd.

Then my wife complained that the gas stove was barely sputtering along: the largest element turned on max looked like a back element turned on “simmer”. This is when the penny dropped for me and I went downstairs. Sure enough, the furnace was complaining about low gas flow. Turned it off and popped online to see what could cause this.

Once I realized that it was either a frozen regulator or that we were out of gas, I called the propane company. They told me to check the gauge on the tank (never knew there was one), and sure enough, the pressure was “0”. So I called them back and asked for a refill ahead of schedule. Since we were completely out of gas and it was our heating fuel, they told us they’d fit us in.

Apparently today was a busy day for them and it wasn’t until 10:30 that they called me back to say that a driver had been assigned. In expectation, I went outside for about 25 minutes in –20 weather (not including windchill) and shovelled out a path from the lane to the propane tank. It was so cold I had to do it without my glasses—my breath would fog them up and then freeze solid.

Five o’clock rolled around and no one had shown up so I called them back. They called the driver and then called me back to let me know that he’d had a breakdown in the morning and so he was just starting his shift now.

So here’s my complaint: Why didn’t the driver call the breakdown in? Why was there no requirement that he do so? The propane company could have moved us to another driver’s roster or at the very least called us to let us know there would be a delay. I spent the whole day with one ear cocked for a truck coming in the lane.

Now we’re told that he’ll be here by midnight. Of course, in the dark, will he be able to find the tank or the handy path I dug to it? I phoned the propane company again (keep in mind that each of these calls means about 10 minutes on hold) and asked them to give the driver my phone number so I could stop checking the window every 5 minutes. Hopefully he follows these instructions.

Anyway, that’s my complaint. Purely customer service. It’s our fault we ran out of gas. The farmhouse usually isn’t occupied this much and this winter is particularly cold. We have scheduled fill-ups, and usually that’s enough. But running out of propane is on us. That’s fair. Still, Superior Propane should have at least kept us in the loop. We could theoretically have left the house to get groceries, hang out with neighbours, etc., but that we were stuck waiting for the propane delivery.

Picture 1

No serious hardship for us either. The farmhouse has electric heaters in the area I’ve made into my office and in our bedroom, so it’s actually a lot like our house in Japan that way. The room we’re occupying is about 17 degrees, and then if we want to cook or use the toilet, the air temperature is closer to 7. We’ve taken it easy on the hot water all day, so there was enough for Hammy’s bath and for me to do the dishes. We’re all okay, although we’ve been cooped up in the same two rooms together all day.

Still, at the current rate of heat loss (about 1 degree every two hours), we’ll hit 0 degrees at noon tomorrow, so I do hope that guy shows up tonight. I imagine pipes will start freezing at some point if he doesn’t. Or not. I know nothing about these things.

Well, that was my day.

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