Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Gas Leak

There's a musty-smelling room in the basement of my apartment building where we go to do our laundry, push rent through a slot in the wall, and haphazardly store our bikes. Like everything in the building it's imperfect, but functional laundry machines and relatively secure bicycle storage is all I can ask for, really.

Last week I woke up early Sunday morning, intending to go to church. But when I opened the metal door leading to the basement the smell that greeted me was not must, it was gas. Very strong gas. I held my breath while extricating my bike and pulling it up the stairs. Noticed briefly that the dryers appeared to be pulled away from the wall. Gasped the fresh air once back outside!

Once in an over-occupied student house in Ann Arbor I thought we had a gas leak, woke up all my housemates, and called the fire department as we sat on the porch eating cereal. Their truck blocked the traffic on our one-lane street while they informed us that actually, our refrigerator had suffered a mini explosion. This crossed my mind as my fiance and I called the fire department and DTE. I'd feel pretty stupid if that happened again.

We first guessed that someone had walked into the room before me, smelled the gas leak, and then decided too unplug the dryers and call it good. Maddeningly irresponsible but not sinister. But the firefighters noticed something I had not - the glass punched in on the inner door to the room, just big enough to slip in a hand and turn the lock. Their first guess, which seriously freaked me out, was that somebody with a grudge had cut the line on purpose - perhaps intending to blow us up. I knew if that were the case we would move. Immediately. Pay two rents, live at my parents' - anything to get out of a targeted building.

But then they noticed that the coin boxes had been torn out, all the quarters gone. I don't think they're really ever emptied, so with $3 per resident per week that could have been a lot of cash. The new narrative that emerged was of serial thieves who target laundry rooms in beat-up looking apartments everywhere, who took the coins and then were in the process of stealing the appliances when something scared them off - maybe even the gas leak itself.

It still doesn't make me feel super comfortable, but at least it wasn't purely malicious and at least no one entered our personal apartment space. On the up side, the landlord  has been shocked into doing some landscaping to make this place look occupied. On the down side, who knows when we'll have laundry again? I don't know whether we'll keep living here after our lease is up. I'm mostly just happy they didn't take our bikes.

Has anybody else had this particular experience? Or gone through other property crimes that didn't directly affect your safety but made you feel squirmy nonetheless?

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