Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Elusive Gas Line

I got home last night to see that the utility locator company guy must have had pity on me.  He gave me the faintest marking in yellow -- without flags -- near the other utility markers -- presumably to ilustrate to me where the line is between the shed and the yard.  Wasn't that kind of him? 

THANK YOU Mr. Utility Locator Field Agent!
THANK YOU for realizing how ridiculous the situation was.
THANK YOU for thinking outside the box.

And, I am taking this as validation that staying calm with him on the telephone yesterday paid off (although I did express my disbelief...)  The optimist in me says, "See?  Two rational people seeing the irrationality of it all -- and working together."  I'd seriously slip him a $20 if I knew who he was.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Dear Valued Customer

Dear Valued Customer,

Thank you for your email. We apologize for any inconvenience that you have been caused. However, we only mark the lines from the main to the meter. If you wish to have any other lines marked you would need to contact a qualified person of your choice.


Atmos Energy

Please do not reply to this message. Submit any requests or further communications at: www.atmosenergy.com.

This message contains information that may be privileged or confidential and is the property of the Atmos Energy Corporation. It is intended only for the person to whom it is addressed. If you are not the intended recipient, you are not authorized to read, print, retain, copy, disseminate, distribute, or use this message or any part thereof. If you receive this message in error, please notify the sender immediately and delete all copies of this message.


(c)2010 Atmos Energy Corporation

Confirmation Number: 450698


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.)

Hoo Hoo Hoo-Hooooo

I had two owls in my front pecan tree last night.  I looked them up, and I believe they were Great Horned Owls.  It was about 8 p.m. and I was watching TV when I thought I heard people talking outside.  As in RIGHT outside.  I stuck my head out the front door, but didn't see anyone.  And then I heard the "hoo hoo hoo-hooooo" right over my head.  Surprised, I reached in, turned off my porch light and stepped out.  At the same time, my neighbor across the street stepped out, looking up.  She called, "where is it?"  I said, "You could hear it too??  It's over here, in my tree."  We heard more hooting... and then not one but two large owls flew out of the tree.  VERY cool.  I spent about 30 minutes after that reading about them online.  I did my preliminary identification from my bird book which described the hooting, and the brief flash of pale grey I saw on a very large wingspan.   I'm going to start looking for them at dusk.  I'd heard one before, and talked with a neighbor about it, but never heard it that nearby!

My Way of Lounging, Apparently

Ironically, one of the 2 tasks that I purposely removed from my weekend to-do list is the one large task that I tackled on Saturday:  Refinishing my front door. 

While in a yoga pose on my livingroom floor a couple of weeks ago I was appalled to realize that I could very nearly look out into the street under my front door.  Um, yeah, that needs some attention.

In an effort to avoid TX/OU traffic, Red and I had gone to a late movie Friday night ("The Town" with Ben Affleck:  2 thumbs up.)  Which lead to very low motivation Saturday morning.  Slept in... had coffee... went to breakfast... languished in the morning sun on my porch... ahhhhhh.  I thought I did "nothing" quite well.  When I finally dragged myself into a sitting position on the porch, searching for motivation, Red teased me that I really am unable to do nothing.  "Huh?  I thought I was doing nothing really well!"  I mean, I'll bet that was at least 20 minutes of lounging.

I knew that Sunday would be mostly blown in the getting-things-done department, because I had volunteered to help staff the Habitat for Humanity booth at the Texas State Fair.  The shift was 10-3, but realistically I knew that would become 9 - 4 at least. 

I looked at my scribbled to-do list... looking for the task with the least resistance that I could do, so that I could at least cross off one item by days end.  Ah, replace the screws holding in the door knob plate.  I learned recently that to make it more difficult to have your front door kicked in that you should replace the screws with 3" or longer screws.  Easy.  I already had the screws.  I ambled out to the shed.  Red settled in on the couch, aptly providing the needed moral support and troubleshooting.  I'm good with that.  I need moral support...  Don't you agree?  Tasks are easier to tackle with companionship?  It's true for me.

The screw replacement was pretty easy.  I did one plate on each of my three front doors.  (Yes, I really have three.)  I need to get more screws, because there are 2 plates per door and I only had enough screws to do one on each.  But, better than nothing.

My motivation was returning.  I decided to install the new interior weather strip on the bottom of my front door.  That was accomplished fairly easily.  I will not elaborate about the dusty fluff that fell out from behind the old one when it came off.  Eeew.  (Next time, as we say, I'll know that it is MY dirt.)  Since I was right there, I wiped down the door frame in anticipation of affixing new weather stripping.  Much less nasty.  I'm sitting there on the floor, in the open door frame, and looked at the sun hitting my front door.  My poor door.  It really needed some love.  It takes full sun... and gets beat with splashing rain, dutifully holding my stained glass panel.  I ran my hands over it.  Looked at Red.  "I wonder if I should tackle this project today?"  A non-committal response.  Hmmm. 

Before I really realize what's happening, I'm to the shop and back with fine grit sandpaper, my power sander, an extension cord... and things are happening.  I take my time, working in the morning sun, and hand sand the small grooves around the panels.  I power sand the panels.  I see that whomever provided a modicum of care to this door before me slopped varnish all over the brass door handle.  (Strikingly similar to door hardware that is totally painted over inside the house...)   I start working on that with steel wool.  "Oh MY -- babe, what color do you think this handle is supposed to be?  Because look at what's happening!" Ewww!  Years and years of ... what?  Red offers to take off the deadbolt and handle so that I can sand around them.  Nah.  Well, yeah, I guess so, thanks.  Just the top one.  Later on, "hey babe, can you take the second one off too?"  Then, giving in to the project, Red gets the Dremel out, and starts buffing the door handle.  WOW.  Shiny, beautiful brass! 

It was a great day.  The weather was sunny and beautiful -- no problem having my front door and screen doors open for hours --  I got to putter with a satisfying project with my guy hanging out with me.  The door is looking amazing!  I still need to apply the sealant; the stain needed to dry for 8 hours before it was sealed.  (That seemed like longer than necessary to me, but since it is my front door, I want to do it right.)  And at this point there's no rain in the forecast, so the door should be okay until I have at least 4 hours of daylight for my door to be open again.  I'll post a photo when I get the sealant on.

As for the other items on the list, I did get 2 of my 7 vents permanently attached.  They've been propped up because there isn't really anything to screw the screws into to hold them up.  It took a fair amount of rigging with small blocks of wood, but 2 down 5 to go.  I did the two that were the most annoying... more satisfaction, you know.