Now we're cooking!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Well, Keyspan made it on time today, and they sent perhaps their most charming gasman out to my apartment. When he arrived he solved the mystery of where exactly you turn on and off the gas supply for my stove. I couldn’t figure it out for the life of me. Apparently the gnarled lump of a broken wing valve is the on/off valve. He said it looked like one of the sides of the valve had broken off and he used a pipe wrench to maneuver it. (This being no small feet as pipe wrenches aren’t exactly the most delicate of tools.) Thankfully that wasn’t the only thing preventing me having gas to my stove. Unfortunately, the gasman then asked how we could get into the basement. Neither of the times that I called Keyspan had the phone representative said anything about making sure the gas company would have access to the meters in the basement.

With dread I suggested that we try my front door key on the basement door, which is accessed from the outside of the building, all the while knowing it wouldn’t be the same lock. Sure enough, it was not. So the gasman and I retreated back into the building. He asked if I knew any of the neighbors or if we had a super. I told him that there was not a super, but a management agent, and that I could call them to see how one got into the basement. I was filling with dread knowing that they wouldn’t make it out to the building for hours and that the gasman would leave and that I would be doomed to another week of no hot dinner. Full disclosure: I ate salt and vinegar chips and beer for dinner last night.

In a stroke of luck, the president of the co-op board president was on her way to work just as we came back into the front entryway. Upon inquiring we found that she actually had the key to the basement! I was thrilled. She walked us around to the basement door again and unlocked it, but not without giving the Keyspan man a dubious look and asking why he didn’t have the key, since the meter reader apparently does. We had other minimal neighborly chit chat as we walked and as she unlocked the door, during which I couldn’t help but worry that my fresh out the dryer pants were too tight and that my hair was still a damp mess of tangles. I know I am already here, but I still want to make a good impression.

Once the door was open she headed on her way and I went to join the gasman in the basement. As he looked at the meter he announced that it looked like I would be paying to heat my apartment as well. My heart sunk. I asked him if he was sure about that, as I had specifically asked the real estate broker about this. (My boyfriend discovered the hard way that there are certain New York City apartments that do still have gas heat, and that the tenant is, in fact, financially responsible for heating his apartment.) He shined his flashlight on my meter and showed me how the gas line was split and how there was a skinny line for the cooking and a thicker line for the heat. He even took his flashlight and traced the line of the heating pipes along the ceiling back to my apartment. At this point, I was really upset, and insisted that, that couldn’t be right. The gasman, said, "Okay, let’s look for the boiler, "which we did. When he found it he seemed confused and headed back around to the meters. I always like having someone like a plumber or say, the gas man to show me things about my apartment or my building that I might not have known, so despite my horror at the prospect of paying for heat, this lesson interested me. The gasman looked at the main meter for the heat and puzzled. We went back to the individual meters and he asked if maybe I had a separate water heater in my apartment, which I assured him I did not. Another flash of his flashlight and a duck of the head revealed that, low and behold: the heat pipeline was capped! Hurray! I wouldn’t have enormous bills to wrestle with in my new home.

Back in my apartment he reopened the supply line with his pipe wrench and lit the burners and the upper pilots. Then he lit the oven/broiler’s pilot light with a very clever little device, almost like a car’s antenna with an alligator clip on the end, which held a match. This meant that he didn’t have to do the usual contortionist’s arm reach that is required to light the pilot. I asked if they were available for regular people and he said that there was similar long match holder for consumers, but that the collapsing version he had was a gas company exclusive.

As a final stroke of good service, the gasman showed me where there was a white film forming above the pilot light. He said it was carbon dioxide, though I think it couldn’t actually be carbon dioxide itself, but some kind of a bi-product. He told me I should white the film off from time to time to keep the stove in good working order. Who knew? I’m going to poke around and see if I can find out anything else about that, but it seemed reasonable that a nasty film should, indeed, be cleaned off often. With that, he left and I had a working stove. Tonight, I am cooking dinner.



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