A roommate who threatened to cut my head off, a boss under investigation for murder. Enjoy these stories & more in my book Odd Jobs & After Hours
Throw out all your stuff and leave.
Don’t hire a moving company.
Back in the deep dark early months of the pandemic, I was moving out of Florida back to New England.
I looked up the prices of a moving company online and did a casual tally of my stuff.
Laptop, guitar, one decent sofa, one decent bed. Button downs, t-shirts, jeans. Boots and shoes. I guess it is all worth trying to keep.
The total value of the belongings is probably three times as much as the price the mover quotes me.
Moving company sends me a date, time, and price.
The moving truck will arrive one week before my lease expires.
It is cheaper than renting a U-Haul myself. This plan should work.
I punch in the card numbers to pay.
Add an electronic signature.
The moving company’s first phone call brings trouble.
Hi, says the call center rep, can you confirm your identity with the account code?
I dig up the email and recite 13 digits to her.
“Can you tell us the exact square footage of all your belongings?”
“They’re not all packed up yet.”
“Well, make your best guess about how many boxes you will have! We’re trying to avoid any adjustment fees.”
But are they really, truly trying to avoid any adjustment fees?
I walk around with a tape measure. Condense stuff into boxes in my head. Give her an answer.
When I buy the approved 18″x18″ boxes, I need two more than I guessed.
I guessed three but needed five.
I call them back. After ten minutes of hold music, they ask me to confirm my identity with the account number. Time to dig up those 13 digits again.
The adjustment fee for two more boxes is gigantic.
Still spending less than I would to replace everything though.
Three days before move out date, I am working on my laptop from a mostly packed apartment.
When some of the rooms are empty, they echo again.
It sounded like this in here when I first moved in a year ago.
The moving company calls again.
“Hi! Before we get started, can you confirm your identity with the account number-“
“I’ll pull up the email.”
The rep asks if I have my own bubble wrap for dismantled furniture or if they will have to charge me for that, too.
I bet you charge per bubble, I say to the rep.
She doesn’t laugh.
The call center rep is peppy while she menaces me with each new fee.
It’s two days before the move. I must still disassemble a bed, a desk, a chair, bubble wrap them, and pack the kitchen where I have been cooking.
A video meeting is about to start for my job will start in ten minutes.
The moving company calls me again. Demand that 13-digit number again.
“We will be there in two hours,” the moving company’s rep says after the confirmation code.
“No, you will be here in two days,” I answer.
I recite the date on the email with the confirmation code to her. I’ve got it in writing. The truck can’t show up right now.
The rep explains, again with peppy menace, that in the fine print it says the company has a 48-hour window in which the truck may arrive, and the date in bold at the top is just an estimate.
“What? How do you estimate a date? When you buy a plane ticket do they say, ‘we estimate takeoff will happen in this 48 hour window, so just be ready to dash to the airport anytime we need you?”
She doesn’t like that question. Long explainers. She explains the fine print again. I get it, I get it.
Sir this, and sir that, she says. I tune it out and zoom in on the .2-sized light grey on lighter grey font that does specify, in round-about jargon, the 48-hour window she describes.
And there is my electronic signature under it.
Nothing much I can do.
“I have a meeting for work in two minutes. I can’t stay on the phone with you for long, but I can’t have everything packed in two hours.”
“Let me put you on hold and we will see about rescheduling, but keep in mind if you need to reschedule there is-“
“An adjustment fee?”
“Can you call me back when you know when you can be here?”
“No, we don’t do callbacks. Please wait on hold.”
Major key piano hold music.
The work meeting starts. I hang up on the hold music.
Three hours later, I call the moving company back.
Major key piano hold music again. The same four chords for forty minutes.
“Thank you for calling Go Mover, may I have your account number please?”
I dig up the email they sent me so I can read out the 13-digit account number they assigned me again.
Finally, they say they can be there on Saturday morning. But I must pay an adjustment fee just to get the date I was originally promised.
Saturday comes. No call, no show. No answer. I leave maybe seven voicemails.
My lease ends on Monday. I’ve got one Sunday to figure out what to do.
I call the apartment complex. Ask if I can please stay one more day till Tuesday. Just till the movers arrive.
The apartment clerk panics. Raves about a security escort out of the apartment for overstaying the lease. Raves about trespassing charges. Raves about personal object removal fees.
I get the idea, I say. I’ll be gone. Hang up.
The movers call me back. They ask me for the 13-digit account code they sent me.
Let me dig up the email, I say. They tell me they can now only show up on Wednesday.
“Just don’t bother. I know I’ve already sunk money into your company, but at this point, I just want you out of my life.”
I hanged up.
Which felt great for maybe two seconds.
Because after two seconds I was in an apartment with boxes on boxes of belongings, books, and furniture.
I now had no plan of how to get it out of here before apartment security escorted me out and loaded me down with fees.
Trespassing, inconvenience fees, charging me because they had to throw my stuff out.
I check the cost of renting a U-Haul and driving it up the whole east coast. It’s four times as much as everything I own. U-Haul does not want trucks in the north east right now, so the prices are spiked.
But for just one day, a U-Haul is doable.
I rent one, drive it to my apartment, and park it outside. Load in the mattress and bedframe. A few big boxes of clothing.
“Hey you,” I call to a stranger in a hoodie prowling around the mailroom.
“Need any free furniture?”
“Yeah,” he says. “I’ve got nothing in my place but me and my dogs.”
Have a sofa. Take the desk and swivel chair. Roll up the rug and walk it out. Want the bed? No, he’s got one. Salvation Army will get that.
As I leave, he shoves sixty in cash into my hand.
“I can’t take it all for nothing,” he says.
I triage my whole life. I want the books. The guitar. Need the laptop. Most of the clothes.
The rest, I load into the U-Haul. Truck it to Salvation Army. They say they accept full beds but not at this location. I drive forty-five minutes to Fort Lauderdale.
I return the U-Haul to the rental center. Drive my Toyota Corolla back to my apartment. Throw the few bags my life now fit into in the back seat. Twist the key and settle in for the long drive north.
Learn to let go, as they say.
I don’t know why.
Maybe because it is good practice for death.