Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
As this Arctic Vortex reached way down here to South Texas, and grabbed ahold with its icy hand, we had a hard time getting propane when we needed it the most. Not because of supply and demand like other parts of the country, we just couldn’t find a gas attendant that wanted to come out of their warm office and fill a small motorhome tank. They made all kinds of excuses. I stopped four times in one morning between Bay City, Texas and Corpus Christi. The one that put me over the edge was the Ace Hardware in Rockport, Tx. I finally had two people show up to fill me. They looked like they might freeze to death. It was hovering dangerously around 38 degrees. When I stepped out of the motorhome I was asked if I had any pets. Since our cat was waving at them from the dash, I said yes. The woman said I had to have all people and pets out of the vehicle before I could be filled with propane. I’ve been at this RVing for a lot of years and I have never heard that one before. I wasn’t about to bring out two nervous cats and take a chance of them getting away. I told them to keep their gas, which was music to their ears. I hardly got the words out of my mouth before they were back in the warmth of the store.
Am I the only one who has ever heard of this rule? Should I be more understanding of the cold weather challenged? I thought it was pretty obvious that they didn’t want to stand in the cold and fill me.
--Frosted in Fulton
That is a new one on me. I have been filling for 50 years and have never heard that one before. Let’s start with some common sense, propane fill rules that may or may not be regulation. If you fill ten times in ten different places you will have ten different experiences. It is best to have your own safety rules with you. It is not uncommon to have a propane attendant that has no idea how the equipment works. Your first clue is when they don’t know where to attach the filler hose. Many don’t know the 80 percent rule and have no clue there is a reason for it. Most tanks are manufactured with some type of overfill float, but don’t assume an attendant cannot overfill your tank. Even if I stop at an actual propane dealer, I still watch the whole procedure and make sure they are doing it properly. At a gas station outside of Glacier National Park I had a guy overfill my tank years ago. As the sun rose and things started heating up the propane expanded and it sounded like someone was firing a shotgun in the cab. I suggest you shut off all gas appliances, all passengers exit the vehicle, shut off the main valve at the tank, and watch the attendant like a hawk.
Now, as for your recent situation. I called the business you mentioned and at first they were sticking to the pet story. When I asked where I could find this regulation, they started backing water. Wait though, there is more to this story than meets the cat’s eye.
I then called the Texas National Propane Gas Association. I was told that Texas does require pets to be removed before filling. I asked about house plants, but she wasn’t sure. You will probably never have this happen again in a hundred years, but this particular business seems to be on top of things. I will give them credit for following the rules set forth and assume they follow all other procedures. Probably not a bad place to fill up, but hide the cat first. My Irish grandmother always said, “A little white lie is always better than a big fight.”
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink