Nearly all homes are powered by propane in San Miguel. Homeowners have huge gas tanks on the roof while casitas and apartments order by the cylinder.
You’ll notice that these tanks have no gauges, so the only way you can tell if you’re getting a full tank is by tipping it back and forth to guesstimate the weight. I’ve never felt adequate at this – is it 3/4 full or full-full? – and at roughly $30 USD per tank it can get critical on a slender budget. My best guess at what I’m getting has been how long a tank lasts. On average, about a month.
So when I ordered a tank last week to discover it was empty within 4 days, I thought I’d gone all wrong, or the gas company had truly cheated me.
These are the kind of situations in Mexico that get me depressed because without a good grip on the language one has no recourse. Facing my next expenditure of $30 how, I wonder, can I explain to the gas person that I haven’t used any more gas than usual, but I’m now empty?
Here’s where I apologize to Soni Gas.
When I moved in last October I used Soni Gas for my first delivery. I can’t smell. Some friends came by who could smell and warned me that I had a gas leak. Using Noel, another gas company, I discovered that the delivery guy with Soni hadn’t hooked the tank up correctly. I made a big stink about it and was chastised for dissing a company without giving them the chance to fix it. But I didn’t have the language to explain the problem so I just switched companies.
But Saturday I had an empty tank from Noel who have been delivering regularly. Had the same guy who’s been here month after month slowly reduced the tank’s capacity while pocketing the difference (plus tip) I gave him? Without gauges it’s easy to do. And San Miguel is full of stories of how it’s done.
What to do?
I decided to give Soni Gas another chance.
Enter the young Arturo who wasn’t in a hurry to hook-up the tank and run. In fact, because friends had been by on Friday and smelled gas again I handed Arturo a cup full of soapy water and asked him to check for leaks. [Could an entire tank have leaked out over the course of 4 days? Was I impugning Noel for something that wasn’t their fault? Arrrrrgh!]
It turns out that my recent $30 expenditure had leaked out.
And Arturo found the reason why. Between the two tanks is a piece of equipment called a regulador para dos tankes de gas. Young Arturo heard a sound and beckoned me to listen. Sure enough, the ancient regulador had sprung a tiny hole. Without a replacement my second $30 dollars in a week would leak out again and, as Arturo informed me, it was peligroso. Dangerous, yes, and no gas to cook on or hot showers until I have it replaced.
O.K., so how much is a new regulador? $120 Pesos mas o menos. (About $10 bucks.)
Arturo sez if that I go buy it he can come back later and change it out.
Good. Because I have NO IDEA how to do it myself.
I say, in mangled Spanish, is it possible I can give you the money and you can buy it and come back later to change it?
Arturo sez, “No problema. Yo regresso in un hora.”
So now I wait for Arturo’s return so he can fix it and I can kiss his feet.
The Moral of the Story
Can you imagine a supplier in the U.S. patiently diagnosing your problem and cheerfully volunteering to run an errand for you so they can fix it?
Yet, with patience, you can find a wonderfully gentle soul in Mexico who will take your problem on as his/her own. Sure I made the appeal to Arturo that I’m an elderly woman living alone with no sons to help me, but Arturo didn’t require much convincing.
Again I realize: the vast majority of Mexicans in San Miguel de Allende are so damn nice – and friggin’ cheerful while they’re at it! – that along with the near perfect climate they will be the single most important thing that I’ll miss when I leave in another few weeks.
If YOU don’t have the health and financial problems that I have and are considering Mexico as a retirement option, THIS is what they mean when they say “It’s a different way of life.”
No snarling clerks, genuine smiles on the street, shy children who can be coaxed to smile with a game of peek-a-boo over the seat on the bus and, once discovered, service providers who, with a relatively generous tip and true appreciation, will go out of their way to be of help.
Now, if Arturo pockets my money and doesn’t show up to replace the equipment I’ll be writing an addendum. But, based on my experience of a year in San Miguel,
I have hope.
No small thing in today’s world.
So, I gave Soni Gas another chance. I have no animus towards Noel Gas. They delivered on time at a fair price, but their guy didn’t figure out the problem. This is how we roll in San Miguel as we search for the best service for our specific circumstances.
Good luck on your search. Unlike the U.S. where we can spend hundreds just to diagnose the problem, here there is a chance to fix it without pledging your first-born.
Yep, it is a “different world.”