Well - my friends - I am going to end this series of posts with this lesson I learned from IKE.
All we need ever do to get people to wait in line for our services is to provide exceptional value.
(This photo was taken on 9/15, 2 full days after the storm had passed. This line was at least an hour before they would reach the pumps at Sam's and to the right of the cars in the foreground. The bad news is the line started in front of Ryans, in front of Wal-Mart, behind the Sam's store and this pic shows the far corner of the parking lot and the line headed to the pumps.)
When almost the entire Houston metroplex, covering more than 5 counties in the area, including Montgomery County which is more than one hour's drive from the coast, were without power - there was enormous value in having gasoline and a way to pump it out of the ground.
On Tuesday, September 16, more than 3 days after the storm had passed, this is how a large portion of the population spent the day. If I did not have so many things I needed to do to care for my personal home, I would have walked the long lines and collected stories.
Rest assured, virtually each car would have told stories of hardship and gratitude...you see, most of the people in line had a generator. Those that did not have a generator probably sat at home in the heat and humidity - or waiting in a different (but just as long) line to get food rations, ice and water.
I did ask people in both lines I photographed how long they had been waiting. The answers ranged from 3 1/2 to 4 hours and my pics were taken at least an hour away from getting the fuel. All in all, each of these weary people felt proud to be able to keep their family cool with at least fans and maybe a refrigerator. I heard few complaints.
(This photo shows a hand written sign attached to a shopping cart to indicate the traffic control needed to get people in and out of the grocery store running on generator without becoming mixed with the traffic attempting to get gas.)
I'll share one story about a family (I spoke to the brother-in-law) that was scheduled for induced labor on Thursday before the storm. The appointment was cancelled because of the impending disaster. Still, labor began on Sunday after the wind subsided. Of course, the entire family wanted to be in the waiting room. But because the hospital was on generator, they would not allow the family to stay and made the comment "This is not a shelter. You cannot take advantage of our air conditioning." Needless to say, this family was not happy about being booted out of the waiting room. The baby was born healthy and they were able to see her briefly.
(Where people were entering the parking lot for gasoline, two police cruisers monitored the operation. After 5 hours of waiting, I'm sure that some people may not have been in their best behavior...but because of the police presence, I heard of no incidences of anger.)
As I conclude this series of stories about the storms, know that I learned many, many more things during this episode of my life than I can ever share with you. One of my single mother friends said that it was a bigger blessing than she could have imagined because of the relationship she developed with her neighbors.
These things I know. I know that there is nothing in this world more important than the relationships we develop with others. I know that it is my responsibilty to provide value to my clients and if I do, I will never be without a source of income. I know that this area of the country has some of the most entreprenueristic, hard working, creative and enthusiastic people I have ever met. I am grateful for having the knowledge I have gained from this storm.