Sunday, September 19, 2010

Propane In The Ass

This morning, just as I slapped a drippy piece of egg-covered bread onto the skillet, I noticed that the flame on our two-burner stove was unusually low.  Luckily, the water for our coffee reached a reasonably hot temperature just before the flame completely disappeared.  We had tried to refill our propane tank last week, but learned that the 10-year safety check had just expired.  The town we are in doesn't have any testing stations, so we figured we would wait and get it tested when we finally made it to a "big" city (do those exist on the south island?).

It was Saturday, and the most obvious option was to wait until Monday to get the tank re-tested somewhere (at least 120 miles away).  I didn't even have to say it because Scott said it first, "We can't wait until Monday, with no hot shower, no coffee, and no cooked meals!".

Lucky for us, we just happened to have 3 hours to spend trying to figure out how to get propane for an "expired" tank.  The first idea was to drive to the various gas stations, hoping to find one that would not notice the expired date stamp.  Strike one.  It turns out that it's a $5000 fine for filling an expired tank, so all of the operators were very diligent.

Next, Scott came up with a potentially brilliant (albiet also illegal) idea.  We bought a metal letter/number stamping set so that we could stamp the tank ourselves.  This didn't work, as the stamp actually chipped the paint off for every strike of the hammer without leaving a legible number. It definitely didn't look professional or realistic.  Strike two, but we were able to return the stamping set for a refund.

We drove and walked back and forth between a few stores to discover that we could buy a new propane tank for $65. Unfortunately, the new tanks have a different connector, which requires a different regulator, and another $25. By this time, it really was our only option.  We were happy when it rang up for $5 less too.  These are the kinds of things you spend hours on when you are retired.

The worst part is that we have a perfectly functioning, expired tank (and regulator) sitting in our van that we have to get rid of.  It would be nice if someone could use it, and it would be even nicer if someone could use it AND we could get a little bit of money for it.  At the very least, we need to find a responsible method for getting it out of our small living quarters.

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