I Can’t Wait For The UPS Truck!

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As many of you may already know, I’m not an impulse buyer. All my purchases are well-considered and thoroughly thought out far in advance. Still, there are opportunities that arise, chiefly on eBay, that require a snap decision and a firm commitment to furthering one’s stable of useful and necessary items. Hence the auction below, which I just won:

Just click to enlarge!

Yes, within days, I will have my own Little Blue Thing to fool around with. Sometimes Patty isn’t in 100% alignment on the things I buy, but this purchase is sure to meet with her approval. I can see it now:

“Hey, Patty; the LBT and I are up early and rearing to go! Is there anything around the house that you need smushed this morning?”

“Why, yes, my Darling Husband! Howzabout having your new mechanical friend smush that fat ugly empty thing perched on top of your neck?”

“No problem! Where’s my LBT remote control?”

Well, as you know, there wasn’t really a Little Blue Thing for sale on eBay, at least today. But maybe one day . . .

Where’s Our LBT?!?!??!

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After the street crew parked everything for the weekend, having done as much damage as they could for one week, I didn’t see our old friend, Little Blue Thing.

I walked out to where all the machines, gravel, asphalt and pipe were on the side of the road, and looked around.

Wait a minute! Is that a little blue nose sticking out of that giant steel contraption used to keep the sides of the hole from caving in?

Yes! LBT is hiding inside it. I don’t know if he was driven into it via his remote-control box or if the machine operator placed the contraption over LBT.

It’s a snug fit, no matter how he got in there.

It’s a Gas Gas Gas!


I’m so proud of my Boston terrier, Murphy. He is truly a wonder dog.

Aaron and Murphy during our excitement.

I was taking a nap this afternoon about 3pm, and, as is the norm, Murphy was sleeping at the foot of my bed. My son, Aaron, who has a cold, was also asleep. Patty was at work.

Suddenly Murphy jumps on my head and starts barking incessantly. He’s never done that before. So I get up, get dressed, opened the bedroom door and was overpowered by the smell of gas. I ran downstairs, thinking that perhaps Aaron had somehow started a fire in the kitchen and the smell was even worse there.

Then it dawned on me: The street repair folks out front must have broken a gas line. I ran out on the front porch and the smell of gas was overwhelming and you could hear it hissing loudly. The crew, except for one staunch fellow and one staunch woman, had hauled ass down the street a ways.

My neighbor next door, Karl, who works nights, walked onto his front porch with a cup of coffee and an unlit cigarette in his mouth. I yelled, “Hey, Karl; I wouldn’t light that if I were you!”

Neighbors Karl and Bill; we’re cracking jokes once safely down the street.

I got Aaron up and leashed Murphy and, joined by Karl, we all went down to the corner; on the way, we saw Buddy, another neighbor, poke his head out of his front door and told him to get out of his house. By now the smell was super strong.

I called 911 and the Hyattville Fire Department showed up very quickly. The Washington Gas folks weren’t as prompt, but they showed up after about 40 minutes and sent a crew down to the hole in the street where gas had been spraying out all this time.

Hyattsville Fire Department pros suit up before walking to the gas leak.

Washington Gas trucks arrive.

Brave young men.

After about 40 more minutes, the gas line was capped and the Washington Gas techs gave us the all clear. One of their techs, a really nice man, brought a sniffer wand into my house to make sure it had aired out after I had turned on all the ceiling fans and opened the windows.

From my front porch.

So all’s well that ends well. My only concern, and I expressed this pointedly to the WSSC contractor’s supervisor, the fire department folks and the folks from Washington Gas, is that somebody should have alerted the residents of the street that there was a problem and that they should (a) not turn on any flame and (b) vacate their homes until everything was safe again and (c) the contractor should have called 911.

And I am so proud of Murphy for knowing something was amiss and waking me up!!!

That white PVC pipe down in the hole is what broke.

Words to live by . . .

7pm Update:

Still at it!

The contractors are still hard at work; now they’re filling the hole where the gas line broke. I guess they’ve got a few more hours of work ahead of them.

I love the colors in this iPhone photo. On your left, about a third of the way from the bottom of the pic, is our friend, Little Blue Thing. That’s his headlight shining.

Buddy, one of our neighbors, walked over to Jefferson Street when the gas was escaping and he said the smell of gas was very evident at that point, well over a block from where it was whooshing out of its pipe. So we were lucky that all turned out well. Karl and the folks across the street, Colleen and Mar, still don’t have their gas restored, but everyone is hard at work trying to restore the service.

Morning After Update:

As the above photo indicates, this morning the contractors have marked the gas lines a lot more obviously than they had previously done. Before, there were just thin yellow lines of paint to show where the high-pressure gas lines were; now there’s big white lettering, too. The importance of good, clear graphics!

The Washington Gas guys told me that those gas lines have a pressure of 50psi, which doesn’t sound like much but can produce a huge volume of gas in the air when the pipe is ruptured, as our event yesterday afternoon proved.

“I Have Got to Get Me One of These!”


You already know what Will Smith movie the header quote came from, so I won’t bother telling you.

The WSSC is tearing up our street again, and the letter they sent to us all promised that, during this project, we’d see “interesting machines.” Patty thought that was a strange thing for them to say, but it has proved to be true.

My neighbors and I– at least the male neighbors– have fallen in love with this little blue thing. We all want one.

It’s about half the size of a car, articulated in the middle, and is radio controlled. When it’s powered up, the round light in front flashes orange and it begins to shudder, like a puppy held tight on a leash:

It isn’t speedy, but it is determined as it moves down the road. It’s shape gives it an R2-D2 quality.

Here it is relentlessly proceeding to the actual holes in the street down our hill:

Here’s the fellow controlling it with a black box about the size of a Lipton’s tea-bag package. He stands pretty far away from this unit, so I couldn’t get them both in the same photo. The controller’s skill is high; we watched him parallel park the thing and it was most impressive.

The technical name for this device, based upon the knobby wide metal wheels, is, I believe, a “smusher.”

Here we see Little Blue Thing parked alongside its bigger brother, Somewhat Larger Blue Thing. Go ahead; call them The Blues Brothers.

As happens occasionally even in human families, the smaller brother is the cuter one. The larger one is not unattractive, but its need to have a steering wheel, driver’s seat and roll bar get in the way of its smooth lines. It looks purposeful but not cute.

In addition, the bulging hood on Somewhat Larger Blue Thing, combined with the row of vents at the sides of the hood, give this fellow a more aggressive look. It’s like what happened to the Ford Mustang after it had been out a couple of years.


Our hero, LBT (Little Blue Thing) gets a chance to show its stuff as it takes on the challenge of smushing down the red-clay dirt at the bottom of a deep trench. Notice how the crew lowers LBT down into the trench using some large machine:

Once in the trench, you can sense the LBT’s enthusiasm as it trembles in anticipation before the control-person sends it into action. Clearly in its element, LBT blithely rolls back and forth, smushing with abandon. Even the jaded construction crew smiles with joy and– yes– pride as they watch LBT’s antics:


The crew working on this sewer project are splendid; they get in early, work steadily all day and clean up before they leave in the evening; not only sweeping the street but washing down where they’ve worked.

And I can’t say “these guys” are excellent; there are women among the crew. They dress the same as the men, including the green safety vests, so it isn’t immediately obvious that they’re female.

Some of our neighbors were initially rather upset that this work wasn’t done a couple of years ago when our street was totally replaced, but the super job that the WSSC contractors are doing has put most of that feeling to rest. After the crew leaves each day, many of us are outside marveling at the way they’ve approached their task.

So it’s become sort of a social thing but then again this is a close-knit community.