A sense of duty and smell saves the day


To the Editor:

My inspiration for this letter was a short, but very productive, recent visit by a smiling, energetic man, Isaque Silva, employed by Vineyard Propane. He had shown up promptly after I called to complain of possible propane odors emanating from my garden just outside my front door. After a cursory, routine inspection with a propane probe of the house, including the walk-in part of our basement, all of which proved negative, we went back outside to the garden. These were odors that neither I nor Isaque could, at the time, smell ourselves — even with an up-close “snout” examination of the gas pipeline leading from the low-pressure regulator through the shingles into the basement.

“See. Nothing,” I said, optimistically. Had it not been for my niece, Ali (who loves to get her name mentioned in the papers), and the only one at the party the night before who absolutely insisted that she could smell gas, I would not have been so willing to allow Isaque to continue with a simple “bubble test” on the valve that would tell all.

Sure enough, the tiniest telltale and almost microscopic trail of bubbles appeared around some pipe threads, but disappeared as soon as the joint was tightened. Fixed. Isaque and I shook hands with me taking all the credit.

Not so fast. Just to be on the safe side, Isaque wanted to shut down the gas and put a time test on the line to make sure there were no other leaks. “Do you think this is really necessary?” I asked, as professionally as possible. The clock was ticking all right. This was Sunday, and Vineyard Propane would be getting double time for his being there. “It will take just 10 minutes more. Better safe than sorry,” he convinced me.

Bad news. The pressure was not holding.

“I gotta go into the basement.”

“We did that already,” I reminded him. “With the gas probe.”

“Doesn’t matter to me. I need to go back to double check,” he insisted.

“Do you know how many rats and mice and skunks and racoons and spiders and snakes and sewage and bats I’ve seen come flying out of there over the years?”

“Doesn’t matter to me. I’m goin’ in.”

I think I’m as tough as the next guy when it comes to crawling around in tight spaces, but I gotta say I was humbled by this man, just doing his job. (You have to know my basement.) Bottom line is with his military determination, personal conviction, and devotion to principle, he succeeded in finding much, much deeper within the crawl space a significant leak that was accumulating gas in a valley on the other side of a support wall, all of which, up until the night of the party, had gone unnoticed. The leak, separate from the one we had found, was much more serious than the one at the shingles on the outside of the house. It was leaking into the inside, barely detectable but by this stage (according to the pressure test) very quickly accumulating. So kudos to Ali and Isaque and Vineyard Propane. I honestly think they saved my house, and possibly lives.

Nick van Nes

West Tisbury