Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Cooking Without Gas

 In the 84th hour of the gas shutoff, I bit the bullet and took a cold shower. 

What was supposed to be a routine inspection of our gas meter in the basement has become a comedy of cold-water errors, with our meter suddenly shut off for leaks on both our side and the gas company's. You need to have your side fixed since it leaks right here by the meter, said the workman. But we're also going to rip our those lines and install a new meter outside since that's the updated procedure. 

Plumbing work -- at least, this plumbing work -- was not on our horizon for this month. The handle of the main shower upstairs is stiff to the point where young children cannot take a shower by themselves because they can't turn it. All the drains are slow and have to be Drano-ed regularly. There's probably something down the trap of my bathroom sink. We have a single-basin sink in the kitchen, for Pete's sake. 

Also in the kitchen is a line for a gas stove, which we had installed when we first moved in. It was aspirational; we couldn't afford the kind of gas stove we wanted, at the time. After the insulation of the antique stove that came with the house caught fire, we bought the cheapest electric model from the scratch and dent place to remind us that one day we wanted to upgrade. Lo, these ten years later we still have that stove.

We live in a house that Builds Character.

But it wouldn't matter if we had a gas stove now, because we haven't had gas since Thursday. Our hot water is supplied by a gas heater, and gas fuels our dryer. The hot water we can live without, mostly, but things are getting dire without laundry. Yesterday we started running cold-water loads and tumbling them dry in cold air. It's time-consuming, but it works.

Everyone in the family has been through the icy shower at least once, except the little boys. For them, we brought up the electric kettles -- one of ours and one belonging to the college student, now enjoying the comforts of home -- and mixed kettle after boiling kettle with the frigid tap water. The 7yo shivered rapidly through his tepid wash, but the 4yo crouched like a froggy and only came out, yelling, after all the water had drained. He's committed.

I too finally broke down and submitted to the icy waters. My hair I could live with -- the recent humidity has been kind to me -- but one feels sticky in this muggy weather. I stood well out of the icy stream and scrubbed with a washcloth to get the feeling of soap off, something cold water doesn't facilitate. Then I held my head sideways to get as much hair and as little scalp under the downpour. Even without lingering, my feet were numb afterwards. 

The course of true love and of plumbing never did run smooth. The young plumbers who came the day of the shutoff did good and thorough work and and walked us through through their plan -- capping unused lines up to the old gas heater hookups in the fireplace (future owners may curse us, but we're never going to find and run gas heaters); ending our line up near the ceiling instead of repairing the leaking pipe by the meter that would be torn out anyway. They spent two days working, and filmed their tests. The gas company assured us that someone would be out to check late Friday night or Saturday morning.

Sunday afternoon, while Darwin was away at a Boy Scout campout, a gas company employee solemnly attested to me that the system held no pressure whatsoever. When Darwin returned, we went down to the basement to walk through everything, again, and try to figure out what went wrong. 

"I think he tested the wrong line," said Darwin. "I think he tested the pipes by the meter, the ones we didn't repair, which run to the shut-off line at the street."

I had not even considered the possibility that the gas company's own employee would not have understood, when I showed him where our line ended, and told him that everything hooked up to the meter was shut off, which the gas company themselves shut off, would still have tested the wrong line, but it made since of some of the fellow's inexplicable remarks, like asking what we planned to do now with our gas boiler. And I committed the cardinal sin of not standing over his shoulder and watching him test, alas, because I was the only adult in a house full of children, my own and others.

By Monday morning, after my cold shower, the gas company sent out a more competent employee, who understood plumbing, knew what previous work had been done, and retested. And there was still a leak -- a very slow leak, using a different metric than the plumbers had been using, but still enough to keep him from putting in the work order to install the new meter. Once the plumbers come back and find and fix that leak, we can schedule with the gas company to retest again, and if we pass, they'll schedule the meter installation outside, and then we'll have the plumbers hook up our pipes to the gas company's pipes, and then the gas company will come and turn back on our gas. 

Until then we're handwashing dishes in cold water (rinse them well right away, and then apply elbow grease), wearing wrinkled clothes (so, not much different than normal), and taking brisk, brief showers. 

Often I wonder why it is I'm not doing more with my time. Why don't I write anymore? Why can't I add this one project to my life? And yet, dealing with the minor family emergencies that constantly arise with many children of various ages in an old house takes not only all my practical energies right now, but all my mental and spiritual energies. A youngster struggling with the truth. A teen who spent a week in a troubling funk and then snapped out of it. Always, teen falling out and potty-training. Shoes that don't fit. Friends who get too busy to call at the end of the school year. ACT and Stanford Achievement Test and Woodcock-Johnson tests. FAFSA looming on the horizon in a year when our taxes show we made too much to qualify for the Great Stimulus, which means that we're too rich to get financial aid despite having seven children, and too rich to deduct college tuition, and too rich to afford anything except the mortgage and endless repairs of this beautiful, high-maintenance house. In which we still do not have a gas stove, or a double-basin sink, or a working dryer, or hot water.

And all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.

1 comment:

Meredith said...

I will pray for you! A hot shower is going to feel so wonderful!