Monday, October 4, 2010

So, Riddle Me This:

Before I can pour the concrete footings for my new backsteps, I need to know where my utility lines are.  A couple of months ago I filled out a form online with DigTess to have my lines marked.  I followed all the instructions, and got an email back the next day that said no locator service is available in the construction area (my house.)  Leads one to believe that no lines are going to be marked, right? 
I come home that evening and was surprised to find little colored flags in my yard.  Cable came out - check. Electric came out - check. Lines were pretty much on top of each other. The next day the gas company comes out, and the guy calls me that he can't find my gas meter. Understandable, because someone way back when built my shed AROUND the gas meter. Yes, the gizmo is inside my shed. I give the guy the combination for the lock, and he's good to go.

I couldn't really tell what color was what company, but hey -- a flurry of little flags in a 3' x 5' area does the job for me -- they are not in the dig area.  Later that week I took some trash to my recycle bin and discovered another couple of flags - yellow.  They were in a little 3 foot line in the space between my carport shed and my alley.  Not exactly where I am building steps.  I put "call locator company to come back out" on my to do list.  Sort of down at the bottom.

Last week when I got the shop drawings, utility location sprung back to the top of the list.  I figure all I need marked is the gas line, right?   So I get online and go to Atmos Energy's website.  I follow the links for "call before you dig."  I am instructed to dial 811 -- turns out that is the same as DigTess, the online service.  No problem.  I explain I really only need the gas line marked.  The operator is sort of horrified that I didn't dig within 10 days of the last markings -- turns out they are worried the lines will shift underground between the time they mark and the time you dig (have they ever seen clay soil?  Trust me, there is no shifting going on...)

Regardless, I have a nice chatty conversation the representative.  She takes down all of my information including the bit about how last time the field guy marked between the shed and the alley but that what I really need marked is between the shed and the HOUSE.  She understands the situation well enough that she chuckles along with me about how that wasn't very helpful.  They'll be there in 48 hours - lovely.

Not surprisingly, the next day I receive 2 voice mails, advising me that a locator service is not available in the construction area.  Not really believing that, I wait. 

Just now, I got a telephone call from the field agent for Atmos Energy.  He's apparently standing in my driveway, punching the combination lock sequence into my digital driveway gate keypad.  Ahh yes, sorry, walk around the house to the other side, to the pedestrian gate.  That's where that number will work.  I recognize him as the same field guy who was in my yard before.  We have nearly the exact same conversation about the gas utility pole location as before.  Yes, it's in the shed.  Uh huh.  Yes, IN the shed.  He seems to be staying with me, so I go one step further and explain that he's there again because last time he marked the line between the shed and the alley.  Not the shed and the house.  There's a long pause.

Finally he says, "Well, I hesitate to tell you this."  And then he hesitates.  I wait.

"I am not authorized to mark that line."    ? 

"I can only mark where it goes between the meter and the main."

I say, but the gas goes into my house somewhere -- I have a gas stove and a gas furnace... if my gas company, Atmos, doesn't mark their own line.....?

"Well, Atmos contracts us to mark lines for them, but the contract doesn't include marking anything except the line between the meter and the main."

I query, well if they don't pay you to mark their own line, who does that??  I mean, who has a greater interest in not having it dug up, exploded, and service interruptus than them? ( Except, perhaps the person weilding the shovel, who admittedly in this case would be me.  And Red.)

He says, "Yeah, that's why I hesitated to tell you.  People usually get kind of mad.  Please don't get mad me.  I guess you'll need to hire a private locator service."


When I calm down, I guess I'll be calling my friends at my only choice for gas service, ATMOS ENERGY.  (And that's such a stupid company name -- who even came up with that?  It's not even a word.)

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