ACT one, scene one: two friends but distant neighbours meet at the community centre one day. I am one of them. The other approaches me, “Jeez, I remember reading in your book about how much lifting and carrying was required out here. At the time, I just read over that quickly. Now that we have come out here, too, I know how hard it is. Oh my God! Next time write more about that!”
“Yeah. I know what you mean. Schlepping is a huge part of it. But Sally edited out my whinging and complaining because she thought it off-putting for the reader. I would have dedicated a chapter to Tylenol threes alone. Couple of paragraphs on the merits of opiates. Could have done a trilogy on sleep. It is hard to pass on that kind of painful experience in a meaningful and entertaining way. I eventually just came to describe it as: ‘like dragging a dead hippo up a flight of stairs’.”
“What I don’t understand, though, is how you learned how to actually do stuff?”
“Well, how are you learning about stuff now that you are out here?”
“ I ask the locals.”
“You don’t ask me very often. And I am now a local.”
“Yeah, but one of the first things I learned from you was that you don’t know anything.”
“Good point! You are learning quickly, grasshopper.”
Act one, scene two: Attempting to learn stuff.
I walked into the local gas-products shop years ago. “Hi! I am building off the grid and want to buy all the stuff I need to install propane gas to my stove, my fridge, a small freezer and a demand hot water heater. If I draw that system out on paper, can you tell me what I need? I wouldn’t mind buying a small do-it-yourself gas-fitter’s manual either, if you have one?”
“Unh, I can sell you some bits and pieces but it is against the law for anyone but a provincially licensed gas-fitter to install a system like you are describing. You are going to have to hire someone.”
“Well, I could do that if I could find someone who wants to travel into the wilderness for however long it will take and scramble up and down mossy slopes in the rain while doing it.”
“That’s gonna be expensive.”
“The fitter’s rates are not the half of it. I will have to transport them and feed them and likely give them a place to stay overnight. That will be in a tent unless they want to sleep in the boat shed with my wife and me. She snores. Then there are the bears.”
“Yeah. Place is crawling with them. But not to worry. I have an extra gun for him or her to carry. Just a precaution. It would help if they are gun savvy, tho. And not afraid to kill ’em if they have to.”
“Let me get Sam. He’s a gas-fitter. Sam’s almost retired so it won’t be him. But he may know someone.”
Sam and I spoke. He laughed out loud when I repeated the bear and gun story.
“Ha! That won’t be me even though I don’t believe the bear story for a second. But I know the mossy slope thing is true. I’ve been out there. And no, no one is going to go and do it for you. You will have to do it yourself and break the law but, just so you know, the law was written so some doofus doesn’t blow his neighbourhood up. You don’t have a neighbourhood to blow up. So I’ll sell you the parts. I’ll even tell you how to do it. Do what I say and then test it. And, if you blow yourself to smithereens, don’t come whining to me.”
“Smithereens don’t whine.”
“Good. We understand each other.”
And so it was I got a half hour lesson on flaring tools and regulators and liquid soap testing and all that. That was twelve years ago and so far, no smithereens have resulted. If I was to add anything to Sam’s instructions, it would be to put all your gas lines under the house in a well ventilated place where any leaks will blow away and none can collect. NO enclosed spaces. Where the lines enter the house, a gas detector is a good idea, too.
Nothin’ like learnin’ on the fly, eh?