The day I almost exploded

I’ve always thought I should have learned a trade. I could have made some real money as a plumber or electrician. But then, my days would involve sewage and potential electrocution and I’m particularly worried about the latter. I tend to think most things will explode (light socket! overfilled tire! balloons!), so when I have to swap out the propane tank this weekend on my grill, I’m worried. A simple task, I know, but I’m one to read the safety section of manuals; plus, the words “Danger!” “Peligro!” and “Explode!” are plastered on the tank.

I hit Home Depot where a guy swings the tank into my car, and I’m on my way, fish in hand, ready to grill. I hook the hose to the tank and hear that startling air pressure sound, which makes me think (after several repetitions and a slow awakening) that the valve is open (i.e., dangerous). The knob won’t budge toward Open or Close, and I curse the person who had tightened the knob so ruthlessly. I get my wrench from the fishing tackle toolbox, which helps not one bit.

I do what most people do when they have a dilemma: I call my mother.

“Is this dangerous?”

“Hmmm, I don’t know. I haven’t used a gas grill in years. Call your sister and brother-in-law.”

“OK, better do that now in case it’s dangerous,” I say, ready to dial.

I eye the tank, sitting innocently on the patio. Inert tank or ticking time bomb?

“Yeah, I use charcoal now, so I don’t really kno—”

“Gotta go before I explode!”

I call my brother-in-law, despite the fact that his bronchitis is lingering. In a creaky voice, he tells me that sound is not normal, try a wrench, and just return it to the store (but drive with the windows rolled down). I do so, terrified of getting in an accident where my car might explode in a fireball.

“You’re back,” says the guy at Home Depot.

I explain the problem.

“Oh, that’s not your fault,” he says.

“I know! I’m annoyed!”

“Oh,” he says, reassessing. “Right, let’s get you another one. This one’s defective. Happens once or twice a week.”

I head home, hook it up, and the grill fires up and nothing explodes. But I think, even if there is a massive firestorm, it’s hard to ruin the fact that it’s 60 degrees at twilight. In New England. In March. A little fire would only make it warmer.

Another bad mix: balloons and propane

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