I was home alone the day that a man came to inspect the hose on our gas tank. Apparently ours had expired in 2008. Not good, I guess.
“It might explode,” he said.
“What?” I was still trying to figure out exactly who this guy was, how he had burst past me in the doorway, and how in the world I was going to get him out.
“It might explode,” he said again, more slowly this time as if he realized that I was a foreigner.
I was silent, my mind racing in all directions.
He lifted his eyebrows. “BOOM!”
I explained that my roommate wasn’t there and she was the one in charge of the household, so he couldn’t do anything. Surely there was some sort of a law that said a serviceman couldn’t barge into an apartment and do a job against the wishes of the occupants. Right? This was ridiculous.
He gave a long and rapid speech about how it was obligatory and since he was from thirty minutes away, he had to do it now. He probably said more too, but that was what I caught.
“Now all I need is your card or your passport.” His head was in our cupboard and he was fiddling with our tank.
“Wait. Don’t do anything. Wait!” The situation was spiraling out of control. I dashed into my room to grab my phone and call my roommate. Twice. She was in the middle of an English class and didn’t answer.
When I returned to the kitchen, I saw that the man had parked himself on a kitchen stool. The oddity of the situation struck me as I looked at him there. “Do you want a glass of water?”
The question caught him by surprise. “No thank you,” he said.
“Look, I can’t do anything until I talk with my roommate.”
“What time will she be home?”
“That’s too late. I leave work at six. You have to change the hose. It’s obligatory. Look, if you don’t change it, you might have an explosion. BOOM!”
There he was, booming again, as if a hose expired ten years couldn’t wait a few more days. I heaved a sigh. “If there’s an explosion, I will go to heaven. It doesn’t matter to me.”
Again, he was taken off-guard. Perhaps not every client has said that.
He insisted. I insisted. Finally, he was on the verge of a concession, “You don’t want to pay that price?”
He was going to drop it. I was pretty sure. But it didn’t matter. Obligatory or not, he would not change our hose today. “I don’t want you to do anything.”
We finally agreed that he would leave his information so I could call him after I had talked with my roommate because, I pointed out, if expired hoses have to be changed now, what does he do if someone doesn’t answer their door?
He asked for my number and scribbled it on a piece of paper. I took his business card and took a picture of the contract.
I smiled. I had won. At least for now.
But he was smiling too. “I will message you on whatsapp, okay? Not for the business. For me, like friends.”
Or had he won? I wondered as he walked out of the apartment with my number in his pocket.
Side note: As far as we can figure out, this was a scam. Gas hoses do expire, but the government does not send out servicemen to inspect and change them for 42€ cash. A friend kindly changed ours for 8.50€ to keep us from going “BOOM.” And, no, I am not in contact with the scammer via whatsapp.