Grit Blogs > Waking up in Kansas

Propane Blues

By K.C. Compton


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KC ComptonIt's all fun and games out here where I live, until the propane runs out. And a general rule of the universe is that propane doesn't run out on balmy days. It waits patiently until the coldest days of the year, then pffffffttttt, it's gone.

I hear you out there saying, "Well, duh. It runs out because you use it on cold days." But I know these propane tanks are awash in bad intentions, lurking and biding their time for the perfect opportunity to demonstrate their importance in our lives. 

My propane tank, for example, found its window of opportunity on Saturday, when the daytime temps hit the mid-teens and we don't even want to talk about the night time. I had no idea the tank was even low. Having had it topped off in early January, I figured I was set until next fall.

Ha! Wrong-o, Chuck-o. I just happened to check it when I took the dogs out for our speed walk (when the thermometer goes below, say, 25, I find my daily walks become daily zips).  Imagine my shock when the gauge hovered at 3 percent full rather than the 30 or so I was anticipating. This was an emergency. My neighbors have told me what happens when the propane tank gets completely empty and ... well, I really have no idea what they said, but I know it's very bad and the worst part of it is that it ticks off the propane guy. One thing you never want to do is tick off the propane guy.

So I lived under my comforter for the weekend, assisted by two space heaters that did just fine until I took a shower and decided to dry my hair and blew the circuit. Note to self: do not plug in two space heaters and hair dryer in same vicinity. Spread the joy.

One can live fairly comfortably under a comforter, I've discovered, if one has two dogs and a cat to drape over the oneself. Getting them to stay still and on the bed is the challenge, of course, but I think my guys were also feeling the weather a bit and were fairly happy to hunker. I was just glad the dogs were at a relatively clean phase of their lives, since a lot of mud and mess come and go on their coats on a consistent basis.

At any rate, I called the propane guy first thing Monday morning. My neighbors love me enough to give me his secret, special cell phone number. And, I have to say, I came this close to ticking off the propane guy. But something in the sheer sniveling wretchedness of my delivery defrosted his chilly heart and he agreed to come out that afternoon and fill 'er up. My bank account, of course, depleted in direct proportion, but at least I'm set until next fall.

If we want a philosophical takeaway from this experience, I also think it's an important education to be faced unequivocally with one's energy consumption. I thought I had been fairly conservative in my energy use, but plainly, I have another think coming.

Or maybe a leak.