DHI #6: Fun with gas

by Michael Alderete on 1/6/2003

On Sunday Rochelle woke up with a new brainstorm, a project she thought would be simple, quick, and provide a big payoff: hook up the vintage gas heater we found at an antique store to the gas feed in our dining room. I was dubious, and insisted that Rochelle have adult supervision while doing the work. Since I was going to spend the day working on my BeBox deadline, it couldn’t be me, so she called Hilda, and when Hilda wasn’t in, she called David.

David agreed to join and supervise, and soon arrived. Meanwhile I had hauled the heater to the dining room. After some discussion on what they needed, they left for the hardware store.

Upon returning, Rochelle was hot to go. During discussions about process it became apparent that Rochelle did not want to turn off the gas, because that meant we would have to re-light all the pilot lights (stove, water heater, house heater), and she was scared of that. She was of the opinion that we could just “open the windows wide and work fast.”

In the opposite corner were David and I, who were a lot more afraid of a wide open natural gas pipe — i.e., blowing up the house, or having fire engines arrive screaming and have to evacuate the block, or both — than lighting a few pilots. Apparently I fear gas more than I fear electricity. We killed the gas.

With effort, David and I were able to get the cap off the now non-active gas feed, whereupon we discovered that we didn’t have the right size adapter to hook the pipe to the heater.

So Rochelle and David went shopping.

Returning about four hours later, with much new clothing and a wee bit tipsy, they had procured more adapters in different sizes. Let’s try again!

Nope. But closer! One adapter fit the pipe, and a different one fit the heater, so we now knew the sizes we needed for the adapter. Send Michael to the hardware store, we’re too drunk to get it right ourselves!

So I go to the hardware store, 20 minutes before all hardware stores in SF will be closing, and paw through the meager collection of gas fittings and adapters. Nada.

So Rochelle and David, and now Dan and Hilda, keep drinking and having fun, while I try to work in the other room. It dawns on me that I skipped my bath for the day; with the gas out, I will have to take an ice cold bath the next morning before I go to work. Which will surely stop my poor heart (I would be wide awake, though).

So after the party breaks up, Rochelle and I take David home, and head for Home Depot in Daly City, open 24 hours. Are you keeping track? This is our fourth hardware store.

Well, Home Depot is great if you have a modern house, but if you live in a 100+ year old Victorian, it sucks. Our gas pipe is a non-standard size, and they don’t have it. We head home, with Rochelle wondering how big a beatin’ she’s going to get after I take my cold bath.

We decide to back off the project, re-cap the gas pipe, and re-light all the pilots. Re-capping is easy, re-lighting all the pilots turns out to be tricky. In 12 years in the house, Rochelle has always had PG&E do it. I’ve not re-lit a pilot myself in my five years here.

So we turn on the gas and wander from heater to heater to stove, not succeeding anywhere on the first try. Turn off the gas, look closer at all of them. Turn off the cutoff valve on the heater and water heater. Turn on the gas, try the stove, which has four separate pilots. Light all four. Still can’t get oven or broiler to light. Call Hilda. Figure it out (a little thing called a reset button).

Go downstairs, light the water heater. Rochelle’s ass is safe! Decide to call it a night.

So, anyway, my DHI for Monday was figuring out the pilot for the house heater, and getting it re-lit.

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