A Journal of the Plague Year 2022–chapter 249

It was in the bleak January–and not a spark of life.

Friday, January 15

This week’s crisis: No propane, which we need to run our furnace, water heater, and kitchen stove. It seemed we might spend at least one very cold night without heat.

We have two large propane tanks out at the side of our house. I rarely look at the gauge, since the fuel company has always been very dutiful about refilling them. But when I looked on Tuesday, the gauge seemed to read 10%. 

I telephoned the propane supplier in the afternoon, and they said that they had tried to reach us on December 19 (huh?) but failed. It seems the tanks have to be replaced every ten years or so, and that ours needed to be replaced. We couldn’t get a refill until that happened. They agreed to bring new tanks on Wednesday.

A bit later, hoping for the best, I began to prepare pasta for dinner…when the stove sputtered and the flames died.

So I called the supplier’s emergency number, where the representative insisted that I should go out to the tanks and read the gauge again. It seemed they couldn’t make an emergency delivery that evening unless the gauge read 5% or below. Otherwise, they’d have to levy a $150 charge for a delivery.

By this point it was after 6 p.m. and very dark. They seemed pretty unconcerned. Ah, capitalism…rugged individualism…every-man/being-for-xself-ism! There is no such thing as society, as Margaret Thatcher instructed us!

In any case, by around 8:30 an emergency delivery guy came. He was very cheerful and, employing a portable tank, he gave us a 20% tank refill. That much, he said, should last for a couple of days. The old tanks, he said, had been completely empty. (So, I guess, no extra charge for the delivery.)

Then, at 9 a.m. the next day (Thursday), the same easygoing dude reappeared with two new large propane tanks. Working all by himself, he unloaded them from his truck and, employing only a hand truck, moved them into position. These, he said, were 40% full. Another guy would come sometime in the next couple of days to give us even more gas, he said. And indeed, before the day was out, another delivery guy did come and fill the tanks.

So, crisis over—at least for now. 

In each case, the cheerful guy inspected the stove, water heater, and furnace to make sure they were up and running.

But we experienced an anxiety-filled evening, all for nought. Why did no one tell us about the December 19 visit—when, as best I can tell, we were here—or of the necessity of replacing the propane tanks? Well, who knows? The company apparently intended for the old tanks to run down to nearly empty, so they’d be lighter weight and easier to lift and replace—but no one told us that either.

The lingering question: Just what else is about to hit us?

Along with many others, we have experienced plague, bitter cold, tornado-like winds, obstacles to getting food and fuel, medical crises, and more.

So far, looking over Job’s list of complaints, we have missed out on death and utter destruction. No plague of frogs or locusts. No forest fires here. Emily has had a rash…but no boils or leprosy. I have had arthritis afflicting various parts of my body…but I’m not yet a Granpappy Amos-like cripple.

And so far no nuclear winter, Love Canal- or Chernobyl-like eco-disasters.

Still—what next? Nights are still long and dark.

Dinner: turkey chili and a green salad.

Entertainment: The European animated flick The House, and possibly November Man with Pierce Brosnan.