Virtue & Mischief: Fixing the leak


Krista and I are currently so busy, stressed, and tired of having to address one challenge or another that we have a tendency to wish away our problems, no matter how petty or severe. The rattling sound coming from the car engine? Probably just a friendly band of gremlins searching for warmth and playing the castanets in there for fun. They’ll pack up and leave eventually. Those buttons popping at the waistline of my pants? No biggie. Grandma can have those sewn up in a flash and I can just suck in my gut a little more. Now, where did those doughnuts go? Our wishaway impulse is quite healthy.

One recent Friday evening Krista came home fairly late from her grocery shopping excursion, opened the back door, handed me one bag filled with bread, another bag filled with cereal, and asked, “What the heck is that odor?”

“What are you talking about,” I replied.

“Don’t you smell that? Have you been cooking something?”

“No,” I responded, “And I don’t smell anything. Are you sure? I mean, you have a pretty overactive olfactory gland.”

“Seriously, you don’t smell that. It’s pretty strong!”

We unloaded the groceries and put them away, and Krista resumed her quest to discover the origin of the household smell – a smell I had yet to detect. To boost her credibility with me, Krista called Abby downstairs to elicit her opinion.

“Abby, take a whiff,” she commanded. “Do you smell anything down here?”

“Oh, yeah, definitely. It’s something. Is it maybe gas?”

Krista and I exchanged worried glances. Our wishaway impulse (now a single, fused entity, owing to our 20 years of marital union) kicked into high gear.

“No, Abby, I don’t think so,” I offered. “Couldn’t be. I’d smell that.”

“Yeah, I think it’s maybe a dead mouse or bird in a crawlspace below us or something,” Krista chimed in.

To my mind this was a spectacular explanation. It offered a nonlethal option with the added bonus that it would go away on its own in a few days as the carcass decomposed and dried up!

“Yeah! That’s gotta be it,” I agreed. “Definitely! In a couple of days I’ll go up in the attic and inspect. No need to get all grossed out while it’s decomposing and still stinky!”

Abby’s wishaway impulse isn’t as developed as ours, but fortunately (in this instance, anyway) her adolescent whateveritis is pretty solid.

“Okay,” she nodded as she opened the cupboard to get a couple of cookies. “Whatever.”

The next day I drove to Bellefontaine to pick up Abby and a friend from a musical competition. When we arrived at the back door after having been away for a few hours, we both smelled it.

“Wow,” I admitted. “There is definitely something going on. What IS that? It’s gotta be a dead animal, right?” I asked, trying to give my wishaway impulse a nudge.

“If you say so, dad,” Abby replied. “But I’m glad you can at least smell it finally. I was beginning to wonder if you had some kind of blockage in your nose or something.” She opened the door, added “whatever” for good measure, and started scrounging again for food.

Krista and I continued for the next 24 hours exercising our considerable wishaway muscles, convincing ourselves that the odor was just some poor, deceased critter and speculating whether it was of the two or four legged, winged or non-winged variety. The following afternoon granny stopped by to return a pair of my pants (see button-popping reference, above), and for a brief social visit.

“Goodness!” she exclaimed when I opened the back door for her. “What on earth is that smell?!”

“Well, I’m glad you’re here to weigh in,” I said. “We figured you’ve smelled every kind of dead animal there is – no offense. That’s a rotting animal smell – right?” I said, verbalizing my wishaway thoughts to the family’s elder stateswoman.

“Oh, my, no,” she said matter-of-factly. “That’s gas. You’d better call the fire department and get that checked out right away.”

Pfffffffffffffffftttttttt went my wishaway balloon. But a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do, massive holes in the front lawn be damned. So I called the fire department and two young representatives appeared minutes later, one holding a portable gas leak detector in his hand. The clicking/buzzing sound told me all I needed to know. They went downstairs to inspect our gas water heater, furnace, and indoor meter, then returned.

“Yeah, you’ve definitely got a leak,” one of them announced. “But we’re going to go around the exterior of the house and check things out. We’re pretty sure that’s where the source is.”

Minutes later they hovered at a spot outside our dining room window. Several additional firemen arrived to confirm their colleagues’ diagnosis, I suppose, or to be on hand to minimize whatever damage might occur if the house exploded. I went outside to solicit an update.

“Well, sir, right here’s the source,” one informed me, pointing to the ground a foot or two from the house, next to our dining room. “A Vectren guy will be here in a few minutes to shut off your gas. He’ll make all the arrangements for some other guys to come out, tomorrow probably, to make the repairs. Good thing you called. This could have been pretty bad if you’d sat on it any longer.”

“Oh, yeah,” I agreed without telling him how long I’d already “sat on it.” Eighteen hours later our leak was fixed, two small holes in our yard were nicely filled in, our indoor gas meter had been converted into an outdoor meter, and my wishaway impulse took a much-needed hit, and our leak was fixed.

But when are those darned gremlins going to vacate my car engine?!?

By Tim Swensen

Virtue & Mischief

Timothy Swensen is the author of the column series Virtue and Mischief. He can be reached at [email protected]. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.

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