I was sitting in the Nest ‘O’ Love at the weekend, happily bashing out a quite frankly disturbingly rubbish essay on how social psychological knowledge can be misused. Taking one of my incredibly frequent breaks from the computer, I wandered out, letter box key in hand, to see if there was anything of interest in the letter box which is handily located outside our building on the main street.
As I opened the door, the strongest smell of gas hit me smack between the nostrils. “Hello,” I thought to myself, “I wonder what’s going on here.”
Congratulating myself on not wandering about with a naked flame all willy nilly, I went downstairs only to find that the smell was getting stronger. Since gas rises, I thought this was a bit suspicious and all. “Hmmm,” I pondered away, “I wonder if I’ll be killed in a massive explosion.”
I went to the letter box - there was nothing there - and then came back up the stairs, pausing only to prop the door to the building open, and to stand outside Flat 5, where I thought the main whiff was coming from. I was getting a headache.
Back in the flat, I declined to switch on any lights, having been exposed (though clip shows, rather than the real thing - I’m far too young) to those public service films that used to stop at the moment the man switched on the light, implying that the entire place KABOOOMED around him moments later. My first thought was to ring the landlords.
“Hello,” I started, “I live in [name of building in which Nest ‘O’ Love is situated].”
This was greeted by the clearly audible sound of a man rolling his eyes.
I’ve been forced to call them a few times over the last month, but I think I’ve been hugely justified, thanks to the MOUSE INFESTATION I may have already mentioned once or twice.
Undeterred by the man’s disinterest, I continued.
“There is a strong smell of gas in the hallway of the building.”
“Right,” he said, not giving one tiny jot, “I’ll send someone over in a bit.”
“Yes,” I said, carrying on as if I couldn’t hear him flicking Vs at the phone, “it really is an incredibly strong smell.”
“Right,” he said again, with what I think was his tongue in his bottom lip, as he made a spakker face at me.
“Thanks!” I said, all up beat, so that when I met my death in a flaming fire ball he would feel guilty.
I hung up, and pondered my next move.
I phoned the gas emergency number.
“There is a strong smell of gas in the hallway of my building.”
“Right,” said the lady on the other end, “I’ll just take down some details.”
We had what was about a five minute conversation in which I said my name, my address, my phone number and the details of the leak about seven times - I’m not exaggerating - because she kept getting everything wrong. Then she reeled off a long list of things I should definitely not do, such as staying in the building or putting a match to some hay. After all of that, she asked me breezily if I would be in the flat all afternoon.
“Well,” I said, “I’m not sure now after hearing all of that!”
She gave me a reassuring chuckle and said that they have to say that to everyone, and it’s all perfectly safe. Probably.
I hoped my dental records were up to date so that they could identify my body well enough to have me shipped back home.
The gas man came about 20 minutes later and started to tell me, as he checked all the pipes at the ground floor, that in a lot of these types of buildings, whenever they are called out for a suspected gas leak, it usually tends to be someone painting or redecorating. No one, he explained, talks to their neighbours any more.
I started to feel like a bit of a fool, and went back upstairs.
30 minutes later he knocked on the door.
“You must have known something I didn’t,” he said. “There was a huge leak in the flat below you. Huge. Your landlords had fixed it about two months ago, but it seems the problem came back again. The gas is switched off now. You were right to call us out.”
I thanked him, and then turned back into what now looked like the Deathtrap ‘O’ Love.
My favourite part of that story is the fact that, when I called the landlords and identified Flat 5 as being the one from which I thought the gas was escaping, they Didn’t. Do. A. Thing. When my tragic death is reported in the national and international press, please point the investigators in the direction of this post.