Packing: how hard could it be?

August 11, 2015


Are you moving? Have you moved? You’ll relate to this mini-series on a move I did some years ago during which pretty much everyone was tortured. In one way or another. Catch up here, with the preface.

Chapter 1:
Confidence is the feeling you have just before you fully understand the situation.

You have to have a screw loose to drive three cats and 2,800 square feet of household goods clear across the country from Tampa, Fla. to San Jose, Calif. That became only too clear as Cecily, Tyler, Taz and I watched the back end of the 24-foot U-haul that described the “amazing” Serpent Mounds in Ohio (what are the Serpent Mounds, and, more important, who cares?), me from the driver’s seat of the Rice Rocket (my car) and the three cats from a converted dog kennel that sat precariously on the back seat, blocking my rear view for five days and 3,000 miles.

But I digress.

Earlier in the week, I looked at the truck, looked at our boxes and furniture, kept asking my husband, Bob, “Gee, do you think it’s all going to fit?”

“Absolutely,” he would reassure me. “They’re the experts and they tell me it will. Most families with a house our size fit everything in 24 feet, and in fact, they said we could probably get away with a 17-footer.”

“They” were the guys at the U-Haul outlet in Tampa. I wasn’t convinced that “expert” was the right designation.

Bob was in charge of the move and insisted we move ourselves at a significant savings. After all, he reasoned, he was retired with plenty of time on his hands to coordinate things, while I worked. He’d do the packing, too. Our plan was for me to work through Thursday, and he’d have us ready to go on Friday morning, after the new owner of our home inspected the house to make sure we hadn’t made off with anything he now owned and returned our $1,000 security deposit for the month-long rent-back we’d done.

Thursday morning, Bob hired a couple of laborers from the Salvation Army, one a former mover, and they proceeded to load up. I called the house from my office around 3 p.m. to check in.

seriously“We’re going to have to leave a few things behind,” Bob informed me.
“What things, exactly,” I asked, apprehensively.
“Oh, the second sofa, the big chair and few other things,” he said.
We hadn’t planned to leave these things behind–I had counted on them for our initial rental home in California. The home I had not yet seen, as Bob had found it during his January ski trip.
“That’s not acceptable,” I said. “I’ll be home at 5:30 p.m. and take a look.”

I was supposed to be finishing a strategic communications plan for a client. I stared at the screen. Why didn’t that stuff fit in the truck? I wondered.  Our office manager appeared in my office doorway.
“You don’t look so good,” she said.
“I’m wondering if these chest pains are just anxiety or if I should go to the hospital,” I replied.
I was serious.

It was clear that the truck was completely full, I could see that as I pulled into the driveway. What I didn’t see until I got out was the overflow that Bob planned to leave behind: the sofa and overstuffed chair were there. So was every lamp we owned, the bedroom night tables, a Madison table, a butcher block table, coffee tables, end tables, one of the six chairs from the dining room set (sans cushions, they were already on their way), three bicycles worth $1,500, the treadmill we’d tried desperately to sell and about 15 boxes of household goods, including the cremated remains of my favorite cat.

“This is really unacceptable,” I said. “I thought they told you everything would fit!”

“Well, it didn’t,” Bob replied. He was a man of few words.

I speak from experience. Lots of it, too.

We couldn’t do much about it at the moment. The only logical solution was to pack up the remaining goods and hope to God some van line could take the overflow at the last minute. It was all too clear that there was no way we could start this drive the next day. Still, only one day behind would still get us in before Pacific Bell came to install our four phone lines in San Jose.

We spent a fitful night at the local Howard Johnson’s. Although the night tables were still in the house (and so were all our lamps), the bed was stuffed into the U-Haul.

It was only fitting that my last night in Tampa was spent at that particular motel, because early on, I’d rented the house next door to it. As I moved in, I noticed that women kept getting dropped off in front of my house. Once, I was out in the yard and a car with darkened windows pulled up. A young woman in stilettos and the shortest skirt I’d ever seen jumped out, looked at me, and in her best southern drawl, said “Oh, he’s only a friend!” and walked back to the motel.

hookersIt finally dawned on me that hookers were working out of the HoJo’s next door and being dropped off by johns in my driveway. I bought a house on a different street the following month.

But back to our story. At dawn the next day we left the motel l and headed back to pack up the garage. I had called every van line I could find. By 8 am, I finally reached an Allied Van Lines rep. No, he couldn’t come pick them up. But he could take the excess goods–for an exorbitant fee– if we brought them over ourselves to be weighed by 3 p.m.

We ran out to rent a second U-haul, this one a 14 footer. As we stood in line to get the truck, I saw the sign, plain as day.

“24 foot superhauler: 3-4 bedroom home, 1500-2000 square feet”

Our home had 4 bedrooms, but at 2,800 square feet, its contents were never going to fit in the 24 foot superhauler. Even on a good day.

I pointed this out to Bob.

“How did you think this would fit?”, I asked. “Did you even see this sign?”

“Yes, but we had a garage sale,” he said.

Who could argue with that logic? I could, and I did.

Venus-clearly thesmarter planetNow we had two U-hauls-a 24 footer and a 14 footer. I briefly considered driving the 14-footer across the country, towing my car. Only briefly. We loaded it up and Bob made it to Allied on time, signed the credit card slip, and we were finally done. The goods were gone (at least from the house) and we knew we’d be gone in the morning.

Finally. A day late and $2,000 poorer.

Maybe you’re like me, and wonder, how could a husband think that leaving a random assortment of furniture behind was a good idea? Would it be ok to have only four of the six chairs to the dining room set? Or the sofa and living room chair–part of a coordinated grouping? Oh, so many questions and no good answers.

Men really are from Mars and I’m certain Venus is a smarter planet. Just saying.

Chapter 2 to come! Don’t want to miss an installment? Subscribe to my blog and get it delivered to your inbox. Simply click here. Or go to the landing page and you’ll see a box in the right column. Thanks!

21 comments on “Packing: how hard could it be?
  1. Mary says:

    What an experience, looking forward to hearing Chapter 2! Thank goodness we haven’t moved in 25 years, and I’m not planning to anytime soon.

  2. hayli says:

    we have never hired a moving truck, luckily my mother inlaws work has a trailer they rent out, but if we were moving very far it would be a pain to take multiple trips

  3. Haralee says:

    Your brain labels are hysterical as is the move saga! Looking forward to the drive, chapter 2.

  4. Love this post Carol. You tell the best stories!

  5. I think we passed each other on Highway to Hell.

  6. My worst moving story has to do with a bag of potatoes and movers who thoughtfully put it into a sealed box after telling me they wouldn’t pack any food.

    Good times. Good times.

    Sounds like you were off to a rocky start. 🙂

  7. We moved annually during our first 10 years of marriage, but the company paid for pro movers. When we were moving across town one time and had to do it ourselves it was a nightmare. I remember following the truck and noticing a bra and other assorted lingerie hanging out of the bottom of the trucks back door. When we got there I saw how they had taken the drawers out of my lingerie chest and not covered them with anything. Men! neanderthals!

  8. Diane says:

    Oh, this is too good to miss! Can’t wait for the next instalment!

  9. When my husband and I moved into our house somebody said, “are you two guys fighting?” and my answer was “how can you be fighting when you aren’t speaking to each other”. That’s how our moving day went.

  10. Lux says:

    I think I laughed more than was necessary. 😀

  11. Are you still married to this guy? Just kidding—sort of. 😉

  12. This is hilarious Carol! Can’t wait for the rest!

  13. Thanks for linking this up to the Welcome Home Wednesdays link party! I’ve moved 3 times in the past 3 years so I feel your pain!! Thanks for sharing…we hope to see you again next week!

  14. Carol Graham says:

    Hope Chapter 2 brings closure without any mishaps. I don’t think I would have kept my cool as well as you did

  15. Myke Todd says:

    This is fantastic… It is a great challenge for me just to pack a parcel to mail away. The only moving day experience I have endured was just awful. It was twenty years ago, and I just finished unpacking last month.

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