Friday, February 29, 2008

And the Latest Epic Drama Comes to an End

With heat! No thanks to Washington Gas though. I was hoping my week would end with a little less "crazy" than what it started with, but no such luck. And though this story is pretty long, it's all a little too weird not to be blogged.

The gas technician showed up a little past noon and I went outside to show him the meter. He asked me what was wrong and I showed him the note they left. "I can't fix that." "What do you mean you can't fix it?" "We don't do that." "What do you mean you don't do that??" "It's not our policy, we don't do that."

As you might imagine, this is right about where I got pretty livid. I wanted to know why the emergency person told me it was now a "service call" when he was telling me it wasn't, why the person this morning whom I told about the "flex connector" note assigned a service man if he couldn't fix it, and lastly, if he really couldn't fix it, WHYTF no one just simply picked up a fucking phone and TOLD me that instead of leaving a note underneath my porch for me to maybe or maybe not find. (Btw, my stove worked this whole time -- another reason I never realized the gas to the heater was off. I learned much later in the day that they're on two separate lines.)

He got all up in the blame-game, telling me that what they told me was wrong, and getting all upset that I expected him to do something, and I just started to tear him a new one. I'm freezing to death in my own home because Washington Gas can't get their shit together for four days to tell me I need to call my contractor? For real? He asked me if I wanted to talk to his supervisor and I said, "WHY? Is he going to FIX it?" "No, he can explain to you our policy." "I *get* it, your policy is to screw your customers over, why do I need your supervisor to explain it to me, seriously?" He did, at one point, tell me he was a Christian. To which I just started to laugh bitterly and ask, "What does THAT have to do with anything?" The one tiny step up from being a religious nutjob who foists their views on everyone, is a "Christian" who insists that they have some God endorsed right to be a jackass.

The weirdest part is that after I realized he really wasn't going to do anything I said, "Alright, so that's it??" And started to walk inside. He just stood there and kept rudely telling me how it wasn't his fault. I kept asking, "You're not going to fix it, so we're done, right?" And he just kept *standing* there. I finally just had to close the door in his face because he wouldn't leave.

About two minutes later I hear something downstairs. I'm like, "oh great, he's probably locking my gas lines or egging my house or something." So I go downstairs and he's walking down from the porch; he'd clearly come back and done something to my meter with a very long pole. I said, "Hey, can I help you with something?" And he said snidely, "No, you can't help me with nothing." Then said, "It was cement, I couldn't do it." I have no idea what that was about, except he probably needed to come back with some measurement to prove he'd been to my house.

Then I hear him again a few minutes later. This time I open the door and he's over the railing hunched by the meter, dosing it with some soapy water (used to find the leaks). He doesn't look up and I just kept watching him....I mean, what's going on? We just had a screaming fight on the porch, and now he's back here...checking for leaks he can't fix? I just let him do his thing until a few minutes later he pointed and said, "Yup, it's right there." I tried to play along, "Oh yeah?"

He got up and started to weirdly get into the same fight with me, about how this wasn't his fault, but he was speaking calmly, and so I just as calmly tried to tell him that it doesn't matter if it's his co-worker (he spent a lot of time blaming the first technician who left me the note), his corporate office, or the reps in Bangalore, it's all "Washington Gas" to *me*, and all I ask is for someone to take a little responsibility so I'm not sitting in an icebox for a week. We actually ended up having a good talk about it, and he told me how he hates the way the customer service phone reps screw everything up, to leave the technicians to deal with the then-pissed-off customers. Then he told me that after we yelled at each other, he got in his van and thought, "If I was without heat for a week, I'd be pretty pissed off, too," and so he came back to double check that there really was a leak, because if he couldn't find one, he could turn my gas back on.

He apologized to me for the service I experienced and told me that he didn't want to leave this housecall with a "bad taste" in my mouth. I apologized to him for yelling at him, though he kept saying at that point that he understood. And he left.

Yeah. That actually happened.

I promptly called my HVAC crew. Although it's true that this was their screw up (the leak itself), I still love them. They always, *always* pick up the phone when I call, are kind and polite (and apologetic if they have to be), they send someone over immediately, and if I'm not at home, they call me afterward to tell me the status. That's all I ask: a little courtesy. So when I called them today -- and I called the head honcho directly, he immediately got his #2 off a job and they both came over personally. The apologized profusely, embarrassed that I've actually had two minor gas leaks, when they often go entire years without any of their customers reporting one, and stayed as long as it took to make sure it was absolutely fixed and that my heat compressor and fireplace were working properly.

They used some new bendy type pipes on my house, and told me that although they're supposed to be high quality material, they're finding out that they get knocked out of place too easily -- which is likely what happened to mine, it got kicked or the incredible wind storms we've been having knocked it too much. They're going to come back in the next couple of weeks and replace those flexi-tubes with fixed (hard piping) tubes.

You know what? Shit happens. I understand that things break sometimes, and a little human decency in dealing with this stuff goes a long, long way. I still highly recommend these guys, so if you want their info, email me.

Update From Bangalore: My Gas Technician Will Be Here "Between the Day"

Wow. I've had some frustrating calls with Indian customer service reps, mostly because I have a hard time understanding people with thick accents anyway, much less over my crappy Verizon cell phone. This guy was either hard of hearing himself or some kind of idiot, because I literally repeated everything, EVERYTHING three times, and not cause he asked, but because I'd say it and there would just be silence, and he'd then keep talking like I hadn't said anything.

Washington Gas has had my last name misspelled since I turned the service on, so I figured I might as well fix that. Oh -- wait, first, he was like, "That's not the phone number we have on record," and I said, "I only have one phone, so why don't you?" He then ran off some Maryland number I've never heard of. Idiots. Then we had some fun trying to spell my name. After five or six repeats, using military letters (alpha beta): "That's only three letters." "I SAID TWO S'S!! ARG!"

"Is that all?" "Uh, no, I already told you that's not the reason why I was calling -- why would I wait on hold for 45 minutes to change two letters in my name?"

So I explained to him the situation, which he did not understand, but put me on hold anyway. Then he came back, asked me to repeat it, put me on hold. Then he came back, asked for one bit of info, put me on hold. One more bit of info. On hold. And everytime he came back he said, "Thank you for your patience with holding," and...well you can guess what I wanted to say to that.

I read him the "flex connector" thing from the note. Which he didn't hear at all, even though it took me at least 10 seconds to read fully. Then he kept asking, "Is it fixed?" "I can't tell from this note." "Okay, but is it fixed?" "I don't know!!" Three minutes later. "Did he fix the problem?" "I AM NOT A GAS TECHNICIAN, HOW THE HELL WOULD I KNOW IF IT'S FIXED!!"

After my 20th time on hold he came back and said, "Okay we'll try to send out a technician today." "What do you mean *try*? I've been without heat for 2 days and it's 20 degrees outside. Send one over NOW. This should be your top priority." "Okay please hold." Then: "Okay a technician will be coming over between the day." "What?" "*unintelligible english*" "Wait, what?" "Between the day." "Oh my god, that is NOT an English phrase." "Please hold." Two minutes later, "Okay a technician will be coming over between the day."

[[smashes head on desk]]

They tell you at the beginning of the phone call that you should stay on the line after you speak with a rep for a customer survey. Of course I've never actually done that because my phone calls to Washington Gas typically end with me with hanging up angrily on the service rep and throwing my phone across the room. This time I held on: "Washington Gas is having technical difficulties." And then I got sent to the main menu.


Thursday, February 28, 2008


The contractors who did up a little kitchen design and estimate came over today to go over them with me. These are the same guys who noticed a gas leak last week and said I should call my heating contractor. I did, and the heating guy said that he smelled it wafting from the ground, underneath the meter, which means I needed to call the gas company.

That in itself sucks pretty bad, because I've had nothing but incredibly rude, incompetent service from this bunch of buffoons since I bought this house. I called their emergency line and they said they'd send someone out as soon as they could. This was early, I was at work, and with the zillion things going on, I just forgot about it after a few hours.

That was last Friday. The heat stopped working on Tuesday.

As my kitchen guys were leaving today I said, "hey, do you smell any more gas?" Because I didn't smell it in the first place, so I figured they would if it was still there. They said they didn't, but they're typical touchy handymen and both went to inspect the meter. One of them said, hey, there's a little note attached here. I hadn't seen it, and definitely couldn't reach it. The contractor nearly fell over the railing trying to pull it off. It says: "FLEX CONNECTOR FITTING LEAKING. NO ONE HERE TO SIGN." And my contractor added, looking at the meter, "The gas is turned off."

Well folks, I guess we figured out the mystery of the programmable thermostat. THE GAS HAS TO BE FUCKING ON FOR IT TO WORK. ARRRRGGGJAOPERJIANJKE;FNA;EFJA;.

And no one at Washington Gas could have picked up a god damn phone and called me? I had to figure it out by freezing to death for 24 hours and waiting for someone with better eyes than me to practically crawl underneath my porch?? And maybe you can see how the four day difference between my "emergency" (if there was ever a use for scare quotes) call to the gas company and them actually sending someone out means I didn't make the connection about my heat right away.

So I called the emergency line back and was like, "Get over here and turn my gas on RIGHT NOW." After putting me on hold for five minutes, she informed me that this is now a service call, and I'll have to call back at 8am. Guess how much I swore in her perky little ear?

And the stupid part is, I know how to turn the meter back on, but I can't tell from this poorly written note if it's actually been fixed or not. But guess who's probably going to have to take a day off work to figure it out? And it's not perky "emergency" services girl, that's for sure.

Did I just singlehandedly disable my entire HVAC system with one push of a button?

I think that I did. I have a fancy programmable thermostat that was installed with my new heating system, but taking 2 minutes to actually program it hadn't been in my schedule, so I just turned the heat up and down when I left and returned, no biggie.

But the other day I accidentally hit the mysterious "hold" button before I hit the "up" temperature. The compressor (the heat part) never came on. I changed the temp a bunch of times, took out the batteries on the thermostat, but I got nuthin.

So I was like, fine, I'll program the damn thing. I scheduled all four settings (wake, leave, return, sleep) and checked and rechecked them. The scheduled temp always went up or down on cue, but still, the compressor wasn't turning on (and obvs, the real temp wasn't changing). I tried turning the fan from "auto" to "on," and it came on, but still no heat was coming out. Even tried overriding my brand new schedule with the "temporary" and "hold" buttons (now I know what they do). I'm pretty much at a loss now.

A few days ago it wasn't that cold and my house was retaining a decent 63-65 degree temp inside, but today I got home and it was 59. I dragged all the space heaters upstairs, but...? I just flipped the breaker, no dice.

So I checked out the troubleshooting manual. Here we go, "Condenser fan runs, compressor doesn't." Okay! What do I do?

Possible cause / Remedy

Run or start capacitor failed (single phase only) / Replace
Start relay defective (single phase only) / Replace
Loose connection / Check for correct voltage at compressor - check & tighten all connections
Compressor stuck, grounded or open motor winding open internal overload / Wait at least 2 hours for overload to reset, If still open, replace the compressor (!!!)
Low voltage condition / Add start kit components

Well. Okay! My compressor, by the way, is on the roof with access only from a 30 foot ladder, and just to be clear, the compressor is the entire heating system. So, I'll get right on all that. Or I could just call my HVAC contractor, who will come over probably just to tell me I needed to hit up, up, down, up, down on the thermostat, like the manual says. Duh.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Keeping Up with the Who?

Ah, the blog! Hi. Sorry. Shits been nuts up in here. Cliffnotes (foreshadowing!):

I got some very, very good monetary news at work the other day. Let's just say that March 7 is going to be on me. Like, all of it. Whatever you want boys and girls, you want that lollipop? Its yours. Credit cards? Be gone! Kitchen renovation? Yes plz. Guess what? I worked a lot of effing hours in 2007, it turns out. I kind of remember it.

Speaking of March 7. Exposed is almost upon us. It's bigger this year, which means a couple snags here and there, but we'll hit that finish line, I hope, quite awesomely. Though I'm not even kidding about retiring on March 8. Seriously. I'll be in Cabo with something frosty and no communication devices in sight.

My second article is up on Washingtonian. It's the dreaded mortgage column. It had to be done. Speaking of which, I meet a contractor on Thursday to go over three design proposals he made for my kitchen. As long as it includes cabinets that don't open the wrong direction, any counter space at all, and a garbage disposal, we're good to go.

Good news! The Sound and the Fury is finally started to make sense. Of course, it required going to Wikipedia and reading the entire synopsis of each chapter, but you know, I'm totally getting it now. Actually I'm glad I did that, because although I more or less got that Quentin killed himself, once I got to the third chapter and suddenly Quentin is a GIRL and SEVENTEEN and I was like "wtf my mind is exploding" because I totally did not get at all, even a little bit, that Caddy got pregnant, married, and dumped by her husband for cheating. I mean, not even a little bit. So I'm all caught up now, and Jason's hateful chapter is moving right along.

Which, I think I'll go read now. So long!

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