In public. With people that I had just met.
Lighting gas anything has always made me a little uncomfortable. After Katrina our water heater, which had sat in Katrina water for god knows how long after the storm, needed to be relit on a regular basis. By the time the landlord installed a new water heater (about a month before our lease expired... thanks), my roommates and I had become pros at relighting it. We also stopped caring about actually getting dressed to do it and would often slam out of the backdoor in our towel, shoes, and a box of matches cursing the cold shower we almost took.
Despite my experience with this, I still flinch whenever I have to hold a lit match to a barbeque pit, stove, or anything else that is attached to a large canister of natural gas that could catch on fire. I am pretty sure there is a moment of uneasiness for a lot of people in this situation, but apparently these things make me more uncomfortable than most.
I realized this when I was out with a group of people enjoying a few drinks on a patio that was kept warm with those outdoor heaters that look like a large column with a convex fire disc (official name that I just made up) at the top, and a large space at the bottom which houses a Blue Rhino type gas tank. My chair was next to one of the heaters which ran out of gas and went out. One of my friends immediately started messing with it, trying to get it to restart. I found myself stammering like Milton in Office Space (stapler guy): "Ummm.... I don't think that is such a good idea... maybe we should just let the heater be.... I'm not cold... Is anyone cold?... It's not that cold.... Maybe we should just let it be... I don't know if you should push that button again..." She realized it was out of a gas and soon there was an employee out there to reload. Oh shit, I thought- I am about to die.
I sat there while the guy rolled out a new gas tank and pulled out the old one and then put in the new one. I felt my heart start racing and I tried to focus on the conversation going on next to me, but all I could think of was body parts and lime slices being thrown onto the street when the heater exploded.
My friend sitting next to me realized I was uncomfortable (I think it was my rigid body position, my lack of motion, my face screwed up into a tight manic smile, and my eyes looking anywhere BUT the heater and the employee relighting it). She offered to switch chairs with me so I could be further away from the scene- to which I responded "That's OK- when it blows, were all going to die. It really doesn't matter where I sit." She encouraged me to finish my Tequila and try to relax.
I did. Well at least I finished my drink. I didn't relax until the heater was back on and the Blue Rhino tank magically disappeared into the base of the column. Until then, I sat there- my eyes getting a little more glazed over, and my palms sweating a little more, and thought "now I understand what they mean that you feel calm right before you die." (I think that was the tequila talking).
Overall, I had a wonderful night but I am not sure I made the best first impression on my friend's friends. Oh well. I am sure there will be other nights. I am just hoping they don't involve relighting outdoor heaters.