|One of my more compulsively-organized friends recently changed addresses
and her move took place with fewer flaws than Operation Desert Storm. When I complimented
her on the success -- nothing broken, nothing lost, all on time -- she told me to credit
myself. It was my horror story about moving that helped her avoid my mistakes.
Demonic possession, spinning heads, projectile spewing of green bodily fluids -- when you mention horror, these are things that are brought to mind. For most people. For me it was two wimps, a half-ton van, and chasing James Arness around my basement.
I've done serious moving twice in my life. The times when I could change addresses by putting all of my belongings into my car with room for an ice-chest of beer do not count. The first time was just after I was married. It involved eighteen trips in a borrowed pick-up truck and heavy lifting and straining of possessions that belonged to my new wife. When the second time came around, our move from a two-bedroom apartment to our newly purchased house, I was going to do it the right way. With Professionals.
I browsed the yellow pages and after several calls settled on the local representatives of a well-known nationwide moving firm. I told the woman setting up the move that we had a large, two-bedroom apartment with seven years of belongings that included a piano and a queen-sized bed. She assured me with a certain sneer in her voice that they were experts at moving everything.
I hung up with a warm glow. On May 28th, movers the size of Godzilla would arrive in a block-long semi with their emblem emblazoned on it. They would tote my belongs manfully, yet with infinite care, while I stood around looking proprietary. Sometimes in my fantasies I wore a satin and velvet smoking jacket and used "my good man" and "tut, tut, tut" a lot.
In the week before the move my wife and I carefully packed up our belongings in copier paper boxes and labelled the location where each was to go. The woman at the movers stressed that we be completely ready by 7 a.m. because the movers were on a tight schedule. We worked until 3 a.m. getting ready for this crack moving team that had to operate with machine-like precision.
After three hours of fitful sleep and a frantic hour of sharing a denuded bathroom we both stood at the window and waited. And waited. At eight, my wife ended up on the living room floor sleeping like the dead. All she needed was an outline taped around her. I, on the other hand, felt like one of the living dead.
At nine I called the movers. Their line was busy. After fourteen more tries I got through. When I told the man who answered that his people were late, he cursed in words I'd never heard before and said they would be there in 10 minutes.
A few minutes after ten, a dirty white van that was a finalist in the Rustiest Means of Transportation Contest, national division, pulled into the parking lot and two disreputable characters came toward our building. I was on the verge of dialing 911 when the doorbell rang. My wife sprang off the floor like a slug and I asked who was there. They were the movers. I asked them in.
I'm on the short side of average, but I had three inches on the one guy, and he was past fifty, way past. The other guy was in his twenties and weighed as much as a large meal I'd once had. No uniforms, but at least the young guy wore a mesh tank top that showed his lovely tatoos. I always find skulls pierced by daggers attractive. Below it were the words: "Kill 'em All and Let God Sort Them Out." My wife advised that I tip big. The short guy smelled like he'd spent the night in a tobacco curing flue while the skinny guy must have used at least 10W40 on his ponytail.
"Where's the piano and bed we're supposed to move?" asked the old guy.
I pointed out the large brown, wooden object taking up most of the room to this music expert and asked if he thought everything else would fit in the van.
He looked at me as if I were asking him to fly around the room by flapping his arms and said they were only told about a piano and a bed. He advised how he'd better call his boss. The phone glowed red with the boss' invective when he found out it was a full moving job.
Shorty offered me the phone and the boss told me that the van would make as many trips as necessary to make the move -- and they wouldn't charge me for the extra milage. I said that was very kind and that we'd already agreed on that price anyway.
The move proceeded. Shorty took frequent cigarette breaks during which Slim trimmed his fingernails with a six-inch Buck knife. I hung out in a corner and watched. My wife suddenly that she had to go to her office.
Slim and Shorty managed to move everything but the piano. They horsed it down the stairs while I clenched my jaw at each musical clang, but they needed help getting it up into the truck. In desperate I lent a hand, or rather both of them, while things twanged unpleasantly in my torso.
Moving in was like watching an auto accident in reverse. Again I had to help with the piano. As a result, today I can no longer effectively turn my head and cough.
My wife came home in time to see me bid the movers farewell. As we started trying to make order of chaos we found things out about the house that we'd missed during our tours.
The former owner had been improvementally challenged, but that didn't stop him from doing his mischief. We had light switches in odd locations, faucets that turned the wrong way, and a furnace that would later turn some rooms into kilns and others into chambers suitable for the cryogenic storage of the dead. My wife said he must have made shoes for a living since everything they guy did was cobbled together.
Finally, at 1 a.m. we fell into bed while the spring breezed flapped the shades.
A "bang" as loud as a sonic boom caused us to bolt upright, hearts beating hard enough to be seen through our chests.
"That was a door slamming in he house!"
"Yeah, I know. I guess I'd better check it out."
I pulled on a pair of pants and began a stealthy search of the house. A sweep of the second floor revealed nothing. I tried to turn on the lights to go downstairs, but they weren't properly set: if you turned them off downstairs you couldn't turn them on from upstairs. I went down in the dark.
Kitchen was okay, the same for the living room and dining room. The den was as dark as the inside of a cow. I reached over with my left hand for the light switch and reached, and reached. I turned and used my right hand and found the switch about three feet inside the doorway. I was blinded by about 50,000 watts and pinned to the wall with a spotlight that bleached my nose hairs.
The two track lights in the ceiling were pointed directly at me. I froze like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming truck. The room had to be empty. If anyone was in there I would have heard the guffawing. That left the basement.
I explored every room until I came to the old coal bin. The door was closed. I could have sworn it was open as we moved things into the basement.
Suddenly I was Kenneth Tobey and awaiting me on the other side of the door was a young James Arness dressed as a seven foot space monster ready to snatch the liver from my still-living body and devour it before my horrified eyes. For the first and only time in my life I actually felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up.
I picked up the only weapon at hand, a plastic bottle of Downy fabric softener, and opened the door. It was the bravest thing I'd ever done. I faced sure death knowing that my screams of anguish would give my wife enough warning to leap from the second floor window to save herself from a fate worse than death.
The room was empty. The door kept closing because the cobbler mis-set the hinges.
The house searched, safed, and secured, I went back to bed. As I came down the hall I heard my wife quietly call my name. I saw her poised like Lou Gehrig with my Louisville Slugger about to bash my brains out because she thought I was a prowler. It would not have been the happiest day of my life.
I assured her of my identity and we sat in bed, trying to calm down. We were about to go back to sleep when the door slammed again. But this time we heard several good-byes along with it. Peaking through the bedroom shades we found that through some trick of acoustics, we could hear our neighbor's back door better than our own.
Later I realized that the slamming door couldn't have been in our house. There isn't a door plumb enough in our home to close without pushing on it like a linebacker making his way in from the two yard line. But, home improvement's another story.
© 2003, Pete Nofel