The ant and the grasshopper

The frigid temperatures of the past week caught many folks unprepared. They found themselves low on heating oil and suddenly local companies – indeed, companies throughout the region – were flooded with calls from people crying for help.

As you can imagine, our local companies did the best they could to accommodate everyone, as they always do, but because of the weather, because of Christmas and New Year’s days, they found themselves behind.

We have absolutely no issue with these companies. They all are either run by, or employ, local folks who care about their neighbors, and we know for a fact that they are always out there, regardless of the weather, doing their best.

Our issue is with the people who allowed themselves to get into a position where panic mode seemed a reasonable fallback. It was, in some ways, the old fable of the ant and the grasshopper, immortalized in a Disney cartoon that contained a scene of the grasshopper singing this:

“Working can wait. This is paradise, having no work to do. And taking it easy, too. Working can wait.”

While he took it easy, the ant prepared for all eventualities, including winter, thus did well when the grasshopper, naturally, leaped into panic mode.

Here’s the problem as we see it vis a vis the Great Heating Oil Panic of Early 2018 – too many of us failed to establish a relationship with suppliers. Too many of us, realizing that we were a bit low on heating oil and fearing the below-zero temperatures predicted for last weekend, suddenly decided to start calling around trying to get oil. But companies, quite naturally, were already busy taking care of the people who had established relationships with them, either through their summer pre-buy programs (where you pay for a year’s supply of oil in advance) or making sure they are on a companies automatic delivery system. The ant would have done one of those.

The grasshopper?

“Yikes! I need oil. Help me now!”

Well, of course, the companies will help, but they can’t take care of all of the area’s grasshoppers. They’ve already got relationships with the ants and are busy delivering to them.

This, friends, is on us. It is important for us, as consumers, to establish relationships with the companies we need. Not only fuel oil firms, but car repair firms and our plow guys. If you patronize a local car repair shop on a regular basis, if you trust that garage to take care of you and in return take care of them by – for instance, promptly paying your bill – they will take care of you. And be an ant there, too: Don’t wait until December to buy new snow tires then panic when you have to deal with snow-covered roads and local repair shops and tire dealers are swamped with other grasshoppers.

And the guy who plows your driveway? If you’ve got a good relationship with him, you won’t have to call him in a grasshopper panic. He’ll be there. We know of one plow guy in Lyndeborough who was out after last week’s storm at 5 a.m. taking care of his people.

You can’t beat dealing with local people, local companies, but even they have limits to what they can do. Establish that relationship. Treat them fairly and with respect, and you can bet they’ll do the same for you.

Don’t be a grasshopper.