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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Gas and Good Neighbors

On my way home the other day, I was startled by Uncle Si Robertson shouting “Hey! Hey!” As I was alone in the Jeep, this was even more surprising. The greatest amazement was the fact he was yelling from my shirt pocket.
With the swiftness of a woodchuck ascending a hill, I realized my phone was receiving a call. I cannot honestly say my phone “rings”. It chirps, warbles, beeps, honks, plays music, vibrates and talks. But it doesn’t ring, unless I choose the “old phone” tone, but, that is so 20th Century.
Seeing my Lovely Bride’s name, phone number, and photo of her with Ike on my screen, I promptly activated my turn signal, pulling safely onto the shoulder of the highway. Only after coming to a complete stop, shutting off the engine, and engaging the hazard flashers did I answer the call.
Actually, I swiped the screen, tucked the phone beneath my chin, dodged a semi, and said “Hello.”LB is quite considerate; she was letting me know her presence was required at a meeting in the middle of the county at 5:00.  She also had a meeting with some residents of her ward and others at 6:30. Therefore, dinner would be YOYO…You’re On Your Own. Which was fine; I recently successfully completed a week of bachelor-hood.
What struck my interest was the topic of the resident’s meeting; offensive smelling gas from one of their neighbors.  This promised no end of amusement to my permanently stuck  pre-teenaged brain. Eagerly, I agreed to attend this meeting in her absence. The tone of LB’s voice conveyed her slight surprise. Typically my participation in such events consists of avoiding them.  Like a root canal, I would prefer to not partake.
The sense of hilarity heightened upon learning the meeting was to be held at our local library. The irony, the juxtaposition; it was just too much!  Add the Mayor, Fire Chief, and Service Director to the mix; and I could barely contain the giggles.  All this because of someone’s olfactory assault upon the neighbors!
When LB said people were upset because of “a real bad gas smell”….well, I nearly swerved across two lanes of traffic while trying to control my laughter.
My warped little mind conjured up images of some poor soul relegated to a diet of sauerkraut, baked beans, and hard boiled eggs due to an extremely rare gastric malady. Gas-X has no effect whatsoever.
They guzzle baking soda and warm water in a vain attempt to buffer the inevitable reactions which only contributes in causing the expansive results to be more voluminous, to the chagrin of all.
It was with such anticipation that I sauntered into the meeting room.
Imagine my profound disappointment when I realized the topic of discussion centered upon an old abandoned natural gas well. Talk about a letdown.
The evening was not a total bust, however. Actually, I found it rather interesting. You must realize, though, I consider reading “Geology of the Great Lakes” to be moderately light reading. I find the antics of Pre-Cambrian and Cambrian tectonic plate shifts, the boring consistencies of glacial scouring, and the resultant topographical features quite entertaining.
The vast majority of people don’t realize the expansive geological reach of the Lakes region. Without boring everyone to tears, I will simply state Eastern Ohio is the Western edge of the Appalachian Ridge. Our lake shore consists of steep cliffs, with primarily narrow rocky beaches at their bases. And, in keeping with much of the Appalachian region, we have coal, oil, and gas. Along the eastern basin of Lake Erie, and under her waters are vast reserves of natural gas. In fact, Erie’s Canadian waters are dotted with scores of producing gas wells.
From the mid 19th until the mid 20th Centuries, our city was a rural township. Gas was rapidly becoming a viable heat and light source. As a result, wells were being drilled with abandon. Sadly, with the passage of time, many of those wells became just that; abandoned.
Eventually, steel and iron pipes which have been underground for decades become corroded, and ultimately fail. This was the catalyst for the meeting at the library.  Gas, from an abandoned well was seeping from a rusted pipe. As the gas percolates through the soil, there is a definite odor. The neighborhood would be permeated by the odor of gas.
The Fire Chief helped to allay fears of a cataclysmic disaster by reassuring those in attendance natural gas is flammable only in concentrations of 5 to 15% of the atmosphere. It also requires an ignition source. Essentially, the chances of a very narrow band of concentration outdoors, with an source to set it off simultaneously are rather remote.
Eventually, a plan of action was arrived at, tensions and worries were greatly reduced, the group departed, and a big stink was avoided.
All without a giggle or a guffaw.

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