Haz Mat

After removing three oil tanks, two chimneys, one pellet stove,  one oil furnace – having run the table, heating wise, you could say – we wondered about this odd-shaped device, rusted and ominously anchored to the basement wall.

Something told me to call the utility.  “There are rusted old pipes and before I remove them I would like you to take a look.  And, by the way, there is a natural gas converter from the oil furnace.  You may as well take that back too.”  A perfunctory call.   Prudent nonetheless.

Roger, a natural gas man, arrived in his white fleet car.  The gas converter was a five-minute detail.  He was glad to get that back.  That odd-shaped device in the basement – like a UFO from Roswell New Mexico – unleashed a whole new dimension.

“Do NOT touch that!” he exclaimed.  “That is a mercury regulator!  I thought we had retrieved all those!”  He gazed at it, excitement mounting, as though our basement held an elixir to the doldrums of a mid-career utility man.  “That is maybe from the 1950s.  Those were popular when my father worked in the natural gas business.  But mercury became taboo in the 1990s so we started taking them out.  I thought we had gotten them all by now.”  My heart sank to my stomach.  Was this the dreaded “other shoe,” discovered at last in our basement?

He continued, “You cannot remove that.  If the mercury falls onto your floor this basement will be covered with men in white suits.  That needs to be removed by a hazardous waste specialist.”

My stomach began churning with dollar signs.  Roger said, “This needs to be removed by the utility.  The utility foots the bill.”  My interest piqued, excitedly.  “Could you repeat that?” I asked?

Roger called his boss, and then called his boss’s boss (and made a point of telling me so).  I asked again.  Are you saying this will be removed by the utility, at no cost to me?  “Yes,” he said.  Proudly.  “But it may take some time.”

So here we are.  Waiting in line, not sure our number.  Not able to get info from the utility.  And the rusted relic waits, quietly by the wall, until come the men in white suits.

Hopefully before we move in.

But never will I touch that singular non-DIY object in the house.

One Comment on “Haz Mat”

  1. bam says:

    david, you are such a powerful writer. i was reading those sentences for structure as much as content, and i was sliding lower in my chair, dropping my jaw, the power of your story telling. my heart was in my throat as i read. thank god you didn’t touch the thing. how bizarre and not bizarre that it’s been sleeping in your basement all these years…..

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