February 7, 2015

The red bar on the heating oil tank gauge is at the bottom.  We had been on the home heating oil company’s automated routine delivery list for today.  (I had been told that earlier in the week.)  At noon, I called, since there had been no delivery.  I got a maybe yes, maybe no sort of answer, “You’re one of many.”

We’ve been with this oil company for years, probably twenty.  They used to say customers would never run out, that they’d give you a free tank if you did, they were that sure that you wouldn’t and they put that much emphasis on customer service.

Now they say, “We took on a lot of new business recently and we can’t keep up.  Your pipes won’t start freezing for 8 to 10 hours after your heat stops running.”

I signed us up on the emergency list, which should get us a small amount of “fluid” to tide us over until they bring the full amount.   We’ll see what happens.

This is what we get from systems and norms we as a society accept, if not embrace.  I see contributing factors from capitalism, greed, inadequate conscientiousness, insufficient ability to think ahead, and just not thinking about others to whom commitments have already been made and who are depending on those commitments.

It could be worse.  I have no babies here or elderly ill adults (as they have across the street), it’s just Jordan and myself.  But it does impact my peace of mind, my trust in others, and my sense that if I do my part (pay my oil bills and keep my walkway clear), they will do theirs and all will go smoothly.  And it could lead to damage (to house, to health, to my ability to get done what I need to get done later today).  As it is, they questioned whether I was opening the door more or something, to require more heating;  not only am I not, but, as I pointed out to the fellow, our energy consumption should actually be lower because we had six new storm windows installed this summer.

So much for good will, customer service, and the market.

Update:  We received oil late this afternoon.  While the emergency technician was preparing to hand-carry five-gallon vessels of oil from his van to pour into the tank, the company called my house to say the delivery truck would make it today after all.  I put the technician on the phone, he was relieved, as he had been trying to contact his company, and I was fine with waiting for the substantial delivery, so long as I was being told it really would come.  And it did come, about an hour later, around 4 o’clock.  The technician had told me to make sure the furnace was running while the oil was being delivered (by increasing the thermostat setting), to make sure the furnace didn’t need to be primed.


2 Responses to “Energy”

  1. jimmy Says:

    Your house on Google appears to be early 19th century. Don’t you have a wood- burning fireplace or two?

    • Diana Moses Says:

      The house was built in around 1895. The chimney has multiple flues. In the first floor fireplace (in the dining room), we put in a wood-burning stove after a severe ice storm north of us brought home the fact that no shelter would take us with our dog. The aperture on the third (attic) floor is a hole, probably for a stove, and the place where there is probably a hole (or remnants of a fireplace) on the second floor is covered by paneling. So, we could heat the first floor with the wood-burning stove, and would in an emergency. (We even brought in more wood before the blizzard.) But the rest of the house would not be heated adequately. (And we wouldn’t have hot water either.) I am paying this oil company an annual service contract fee, I expect to have oil. We switched from the cheaper, no-name home heating oil company that the previous owners had used after it became clear that their lack of a service component was a significant problem. The wood-burning stove is a back-up for events beyond not having enough trucks to service customers (for example, for events like power outages). Of course, if push had come to shove, we would have used the wood-burning stove, but that doesn’t really speak to the issue of reasonable reliance on our arrangements with the oil company — they admit it’s their bad that they haven’t been able to keep up with deliveries.

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