"I smell gas in the downstairs bathroom."
That was how I awoke my brother-in-law at 5:00 on Christmas morning. And I continued, "Don't make the obvious joke, please."
My sister, Carol, and I had sat up rather late yakking, sort of dozing, and yakking some more. We finally decided we needed to try and get a few hours sleep before everyone else awoke.
Carol went upstairs, and I stepped into the downstairs bath; and smelled a very strong natural gas odor. I went up and asked her what gas appliances they had and together we went down to the basement to check the furnace. Oddly, a fainter odor there, but definitely an odor. Carol has no sense of smell, but sniffed the air nevertheless.
I went up and woke up Bob, who grumped down the stairs to confirm what I had detected. He went into the downstairs bath and was in there for quite some time. At one point, Carol wondered if he had passed out. Then we heard the toilet flush. We rolled our eyes and went into the kitchen to look up the number for the gas company.
Bob came in and took over calling the gas company, who told him to NOT hang up the phone, leave door and windows closed, not to turn anything on, not to start any vehicles and to evacuate the house. And a technician was on the way.
Out of habit, he hung up the phone anyway, then relayed the information to us. He declared there was no way he was waiting outside and went upstairs to get dressed.
Carol and I asked each other if we were going to wake up everyone. I pointed out that I really didn't think the gas was that strong; but I would HATE for that to be the last mistake of my life.
So we went upstairs and started knocking on doors. My younger sister, Janice, shot straight up at the words "gas leak" and she and her husband were downstairs in no time.
As far as my parents, we waited....and waited...and waited. Carol went back up to make sure they hadn't rolled back over and gone to sleep. A few minutes later, they came downstairs, slowly and completely dressed. We are so lucky that our family never had to flee across borders to escape tyranny. We'd be toast if that were the case. Completely dressed, but toast nevertheless.
After Mom put on the coat she wanted, we all went outside. My parents waited in the car in the driveway along with my sisters. I passed the time pacing up and down the driveway, and noticed something unusual in the tread in Bob's truck tire. A very large nail.
The technician soon confirmed there was a gas leak (HA!) There was a loose fitting in the gas pipe that ran underneath the bathroom floor. He tightened it and we all went inside. Some groggily headed back upstairs to bed; some of us headed into the kitchen for coffee.
As I passed my brother-in-law, he jokingly thanked me for saving everyone's life. I mentioned the nail in his truck tire and pointed out that I'd saved his life TWICE!!! Then I finished by saying "It's all in a day's work and you're welcome. Now fix me some coffee, willya?"
UPDATE: There was a gas explosion yesterday morning in an apartment in St. Louis. One of the neighbors had smelled gas, but didn't think it came from the apartment that exploded because "the man doesn't cook." The technician who came out to investigate our leak pointed out that the odor is put into gas so you can smell it, and anytime you DO smell it, CALL THE GAS COMPANY. It's better than ending up as a headline.