Monday, June 30, 2008

Friday the 13th - Chapter 1: Can't You Smell That Smell?

I usually like to write about current events. What I did last night. That funny thing someone said this weekend. However, given that I’m about a month behind on my posting due to massive (but mostly good) upheavals in my life, I’ll instead cherry pick some of my favorite events from the past month. I’ll start with the day of Friday the 13th.

I’ve delived the tale into three chapter. Don’t worry, I won’t leave you hanging like last time. I’ve already written them all and am spacing out the posting only so that I can enjoy a few more conversations with my few remaining commenters.

Chapter 1: Can’t Ya Smell That Smell?

The Grenstead has been a bit of a construction sight of late. Madly rushing about trying to fix all those little imperfections that we’ve been meaning to do for years but can no longer ignore since we were getting our house ready to sell. Why? Why don’t we just update and fix things as we go and enjoy the fruits of our labor? But, no one does…and neither did we.

John, the handyman, had been coming for about a week, focusing mainly on painting the kitchen, when we had to start packing our things for an overnight trip to Olathe, Kansas for my cousin Sarah’s wedding. Well, actually, Moonshot was packing our stuff, I was out on the patio sanding the doors to the kitchen cabinets and generally trying to cram in as much work as I could before we left everything in John’s hands.

Um,” Moonshot called up from the basement, “ I smell that smell again…around the dryer this time. Should we call the gas company?”

I could only groan. Leaving the house with a strange scent hovering around all of our gas appliances made me more than a bit nervous. The day before had found the smell lingering in our living room. We had gone so far as to call our wonderful neighbor Tom over to have a sniff. It smelled nothing like the sulfur smell they pack into the gas lines, so we weren’t really all that worried…just mildly concerned. It smelled a bit like hot electrical wires, a smell I don’t like to ignore, but there was nothing in the vicinity of the scent that was electrical. Tom asked the logical question about the painting being done, but soon found what we had already discovered, that the kitchen had no such smell, only the living room on the far end of the house from the paint. Much sniffing and huffing followed before Tom said he wouldn’t worry about it. It didn’t smell dangerous.

After he left, Moonshot and I kept following our noses about until we were pretty convinced it was coming from our gas fireplace. We killed the pilot light and the odor faded. Given the amount of chaos in the home at that time, we figured we’d take a more extensive look at the gas logs later. Problem solved for now.

But now Moonshot was reporting the smell from the clothes dryer as well.

“Yeah,” I responded. “We might as well call and see what they think.” I mean, it was probably nothing, I knew, but I don’t like to mess with possible gas problems. Best to be safe. Moonshot went looking for a phone (which are usually hidden by our daughter in increasingly bizarre locations), and I left for one last Home Depot run to pick up new cabinet hinges and such. You can see how concerned I was about this smell…leaving my wife and daughter alone in the house. I was really more curious than anything. Apparently, Laclede Gas did not share my laissez-faire approach. Mooshot called as I was leaving Home Depot to report that a fully armored team of firefighters had just stormed into the Grenstead. They had not waited for the door to be opened, had not waited for my wife to stop folding clothes and welcome them in. They rushed in and sent my daughter scurrying. Not that I blame them. I’m actually rather glad they were taking it seriously, but it was far more of a response than we were expecting. Turns out any odor report to the gas company is an immediate dispatch from the fire station. Hmmm, didn’t know that. The fire fighters sniffed around, reported that it wasn’t gas and that we just needed to clean our dryer vent. But wait, that doesn’t explain the fireplace. And my wife tried to make that argument to their retreating backs as they left, but they were finished with us. There was no gas leak and their job was done.

I returned to the house after the commotion and just as the more calm inspector from Laclede was pulling up. “You guys don’t mess around,” I commented.

“Lot’s of lawyers out there,” he replied.

I described the scent to him and he knew what it was before he even stepped inside.

I’ll give you a minute to finalize your guesses before I tell.

You ready?


“Been painting?” he asked.

“Uh, yeah,” I said, “but it doesn’t smell like paint….and it doesn’t smell near the paint, just around the appliances.”

“Yup, we’ve been getting these calls a lot more since Kilz came out with their Odor Free Oil Based Paint. You are using Kilz Oil Based, right?”

I could only nod.

“Used to be folks wouldn’t smell this cuz the whole house reaked like paint. Now, they can’t smell the paint, but it’s still there in the air, floating around. And when it gets near flame, it still smells like a petrochemical burning and people freak out.”

He tested the house anyway, just to be sure, but that was it.

I went right over to Tom’s and let him know…assuming he would be as thrilled with the mystery as I was.

And he was.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Not Dead…Just Resting

It occurs to me that daily posts about my ongoing road trip followed by a few days of silence might seem rather ominous. So, I’m here to say that the persistent and continually reoccurring rumors concerning the Gren’s demise are unfounded. I’m doing just fine, thank you very much.

You might be wondering, therefore, what happened to my systematic blogging across the country? Well, good news, Oklahoma didn’t need me (as discussed) and Kansas didn’t trust me. And once I got over the insult…I was actually very glad of this mistrust.

See, the stores from which I was gathering paperwork and hardware are cash intensive places; bulletproof glass with double-door mantraps. In Arizona and New Mexico, they checked my ID and then buzzed me back so that I could wade through the boxes and equipment on my own, picking and choosing what to bring, what to leave. In Tucson they even offered to feed me lunch. It was a very comfortable relationship I had at the beginning. Then, I reached Kansas. I called ahead to let the District Manager know that I was on my way. She complained that I was arriving on a Friday (their busiest day) and wanted to know why I had scheduled it so poorly. I calmly explained that I’d been going all week and that someone had to be Friday, sorry it was her. She continued, “My staff just won’t have the time to move everything into the mantraps for you.”

“Oh, that won’t be necessary,” I assured her. “Your corporate office has ok’d me to gather the stuff myself.”

“Sorry, that’s against policy.”

“What? I mean…I talked with your CEO on the phone while digging through a back office in Albuquerque. I assure you they’re ok with this.”

“We’ll see,” was her uncommitted answer.

When I arrived at the first Kansas store, I was met with a stern looking teller glaring at me through the glass who let me know that everything I would need was loaded in the man-trap. I grumbled immaturely, loaded my truck and drove away to the next store with a sour expression on my face. It was only at this point that I noticed that instead of my usual one hour per store, I had got in and out of that location in under 15 minutes. And this trend continued through all 6 of the Sunflower State locations. I’d just shaved 4.5 hours off my schedule. I started calculating and realized that I was actually going to make it home on Friday night. In less than 24 hours time I had gone from two days behind schedule to a full day ahead of schedule. Huzzah!!

I surprised my wife at home and was able to give my Little Lutine a long overdue hug before putting her down for the night. I had planned to post a little something about arriving home…but instead collapsed into my own bed. I had then planned on alerting you guys to the finale of the trip on Saturday and Sunday but…well…I was running about with family, basking in the glorious return of normalcy. I didn’t step foot near a computer. Sorry.

And so now I am here, fabulously behind schedule for various work projects due to my weeklong absence…but refusing to take steps to get caught back up until I let everyone know one important fact: the Gren Lives.