Gather round, friends, and let me tell you the tale of The Move That Went Wrong. It’s an epic story of bad decisions and bad luck. I don’t know which deity I insulted to bring this adventure on, but when I find out many obeyances will be offered. Until then, I will count the bad decisions that marred the move from the Los Angeles area to Cleveland to take a full-time teaching job.
Understand, friends, that the tragedy is compounded by how well I thought I had everything planned out. This would be a thoroughly planned-out operation, like a well-oiled machine.
Here is the plan:
Monday, Dec. 27: U-Pack, will drop off two moving cubes that will be packed with my stuff and stored in Cleveland until I buy a forever home. I’ve been assured a two-bedroom apartment will fit in two cubes.
Tuesday, Dec. 28: Movers will load the boxes into the cubes
My daughters and I, along with our elderly cat, will stay in a cool retro motel in Burbank that has a free airport shuttle
Wednesday, Dec. 29: U-Pack will pick up the cubes
We hop on a 7 am plane and fly to Cleveland
Also, at some point a car transport company will pick up my car and truck it to Cleveland
Daughters will stay with me and cat for a few days in an Airbnb I’ve booked for a month
I’ll take the train places until the car is delivered, and probably even after that. Airbnb is 2 blocks from the train station
Lots of moving parts, all organized and scheduled and tidy.
One adjustment to the schedule. I want to take along my great-grandmother’s chifforobe and my parents’ oak roll-top desk. Both of these things are at my Mom and Dad’s house in Camarillo, about an hour from my place in Glendale. So, Dad will pick up a 10-foot U-Haul in Camarillo. Movers will go to Dad’s place first and pack up the antiques. Dad will drive U-Haul to my place. Movers will load the furniture in to the cube. Dad will return the U-Haul.
Still organized and tidy.
I have been packing boxes since November—a few here, a few there. Fifty boxes just of books. Maybe 10 of framed photos and paintings by family and friends. Books and art—my home decor brand.
Now, those of you with a logistical mind will see a wrinkle or two in the “organized and scheduled and tidy” plan. First, what if the car folks pick up the car on Monday? Second, did I book another cube to accommodate the antique furniture?
The answers: That would be inconvenient. Thank goodness for Uber. And, no. Why? (Yes, this will become a problem. But I have fixated on two cubes. Two cubes fit in one parking space. I have two cubes. Everything will fit in two cubes.)
Christmas Day (Saturday), daughters and I have dinner with Mom and Dad and I realize how large the roll-top desk is. Daughter #1 says we’re going to need another cube. Maybe she’s right. I will think about that tomorrow. I do not, in fact, think about this again until Tuesday. My brain is certain I need two cubes.
As we enjoy Dec. 26, everything is on track. Daughters and I pack up the bathroom and kitchen. And the closet. And the other closet. Oh my goodness there is so much still not packed. How is there so much still not packed?
One last detail: I need to run across the street to Marshalls to pick up a giant suitcase. I’ve got one, but I need another. I’m going to live out of suitcases for at least a month. I didn’t want to get it too soon because my apartment is crowded enough as it is. Didn’t want to go to Marshalls on Dec. 23 or 24. No worries; Marshalls always has a lot of suitcases.
Problem: I did not consider supply chains and holiday travel. Marshalls doesn’t have any suitcases. At all. I also strike out at Ross and Home Goods. I do not want to pay retail. I head home to consider what will be the first of many many Plans B.
During one of my waking moments that night, I realize I can load up the carryon suitcases and a box and load them into the car. I won’t have those clothes for the first week, but no big deal. What would be really great is if they didn’t pick up the car until Tuesday. Maybe Wednesday. Thursday would work too.
And so, as Monday morning dawns gray and cold—which I’m sure is not foreshadowing or an omen or anything—I call the car carrier to find out if we can schedule the pickup later in the week.
The driver will be here to pick up the car in 30 minutes.
And so it begins.
I spend half an hour frantically throwing clothes into suitcases and boxes, making sure the suitcases going on the plane have pants and shirts and bras and underwear and ooh, socks would be good too. I get as much stuff as possible into a box and a couple of small suitcases and load it all into the Prius just in time for the driver to call that he’s outside.
I step outside to tell him to go around back and see a semi carrying the U-Pack cubes. Now I’m confused. I thought he was coming to get the car.
“You need to move that around to the back,” I say, gesturing to the truck.
“That’s not me,” he says. “Where’s the car?”
“What? In the back. Where is that guy?”
“Don’t know. I’m here for the car.”
My phone rings. Looks like the number for a lender so I reject it because right now I need to deal with car guy. I don’t need to talk to anyone about being pre-approved for a mortgage. I walk the car guy through to the back where the car is parked. My phone buzzes: a text from the U-Pack guy “Where do I want the cubes?” I call him while car guy is cataloging the numerous bumps and bruises on my car (don’t judge; I taught daughters to drive in this car) and try to explain the directions to the back of the building. Now car guy is done and wants me to sign things and wants to explain the process and I’m trying to direct cube guy and HOW DID THEY SHOW UP AT THE SAME TIME?!
Car guy departs and my phone rings again. Car transport company calling about the car. What? The guy just left with the car, I say. Did I just give my car to some random dude? Before I can figure out the probability of random dude knowing I was shipping my car today and carrying the appropriate documents, transport co says everything is good.
Now to deal with cube guy. Oh, and where to park the cubes.
Part of the whole “organized and scheduled and tidy” plan was getting parking permits so the cubes could be parked on the street. There are always plenty of spaces during the day. But today, people are parked in the space where I hoped to park the cubes. Because it’s a holiday week. People aren’t at work. Oops. Maybe I can use my neighbor’s uncovered parking spot. But she doesn’t answer her door. Will they fit in my (covered) spot. Nope; too tall. What about that empty spot at the end of the lot? Don’t know those folks. Better not take it. One does not just TAKE someone else’s parking spot. The cubes will have to go farther down the street than I wanted.
While I fast-walk back and forth to work through these options, cube guy is patiently following me around in a forklift, which does not in any way add to the stress or drama of the situation. Not at all. While he parks the cubes I print out the parking permits (organized and tidy!). And that’s when I realize the city had sent “No Parking” signs that I could have posted yesterday at the spot I wanted. Note to self: read your email.
No worries, we’ve got a spot. Cube guy parks the cubes—his forklift driving is masterful, a true joy to watch—and we're all set for tomorrow. Whew!
Little did I know, that was nothing.
Everything starts well. Even the weather, which went from rainy and gray to sunny and cold. The deities are with me! Dad picks up U-Haul, movers pack up antiques, Dad and movers travel uneventfully to my place and the movers get the furniture into a cube.
I walk down the hill (Did I mention I live on a hill? No foreshadowing or anything, but It’s a pretty steep hill) excited to begin. I greet the movers with a hearty “Good morning!” and look in the cube and ... Holy shit! The furniture is much bigger than I remembered. So much bigger. The desk is massive. The chifforobe is so tall. They take up so much of the cube. And nothing can be stacked on top of them, especially the chifforobe, because it’s 125 years old and fragile. In my head I’m thinking, “Shit shit shit!” Out loud I say, “Do you think I should get another cube?”
The movers walk with me up the steep street and up the very steep driveway. They take one look around my apartment and declare, “You should see if they have another cube.”
Of course. No problem. I’ll get another cube. I call U-Pack and ask for another cube.
There are no other cubes.
And if there were another cube, they couldn’t deliver it until tomorrow.
But I’m getting on a plane tomorrow. Tomorrow is not an option. I need a cube today.
Nice woman on the phone puts me on hold.
There isn’t a cube, but there is a truck. A big-ass 28-foot-long semi-trailer. I can have part of it (or all of it) but they can’t bring it to me. They can’t bring me anything until tomorrow. I can take things to the trailer.
At this point, I really want to freak out. I had a plan. A well-oiled machine. Everything was organized. And now everything is falling apart.
I do not freak out. Sorry, freak-out, you will have to wait until tomorrow. No, tomorrow is a travel day. I can freak-out on Thursday. I mentally schedule a freak-out for Thursday.
OK, ok, ok. Deep breath. No worries; we can do this. I can take part of the trailer. We’ve got a U-Haul. We can load most of the stuff into the cubes then load other stuff into the trailer. I pay for as much of the trailer as I use.
The price for the trailer is ... it’s so much. The cubes cost $6,000. Five feet in the trailer costs FOUR THOUSAND DOLLARS!!!!! But what am I going to do? I’m getting on a plane tomorrow. I need to get my stuff packed today. And there’s no cube. Not today, not tomorrow. I live in a cube-less world.
Fortunately, I also live in a world where I have money in my bank account. Like, down-payment-on-a-house money. I can roll with this very expensive change of plans.
Meanwhile, Dad and the movers have been considering the problem of moving all the stuff down the steep driveway and steep hill to the cubes. Their solution: load everything into the U-Haul by my back door, drive the U-Haul to the cubes, load from U-Haul into cubes.
That only works if we can keep the U-Haul and if the movers can stay longer. I call U-Haul and the movers’ boss and yes, the U-Haul and the movers can stay.
Ok. Deep breath. We can do this.
First, the movers will load all my boxes (so many boxes. SO MANY BOXES) into the U-Haul (which is only 10 feet, because we only needed it for two pieces of furniture, remember?). They will drive to the trailer 20 minutes away and pack the boxes (Who bought all these books? What asshole kept all these books? Don’t answer that.) into the trailer. Then they’ll come back and get as much as possible into the cubes. If anything doesn’t fit, they’ll make one last trip to the trailer.
The U-Haul needs to be back by 4 pm, so we need to move quickly. But we can do this.
Dad asks, “Can you change your flight?”
Honestly, I don’t know. But I don’t want to. This is going to work. It has to work. I am getting on a plane tomorrow. I have a plan and I’ve already changed this part of it. I don’t want to have to change that too.
Meanwhile, the daughters are packing the “last few things.” Which, it turns out, are a lot of things. So many things. And we have run out of boxes. I had so many boxes and yet we have run out. Daughters get creative about using bins and trash cans and laundry baskets.
Everyone is rolling with the changes, staying calm. Except the cat.
The cat is starting to freak out.
Cat freak-out was not part of the plan. (It should have been. I really should have considered how much the cat would freak out. But I did not. Add that to the list of Things I Should Have Thought Of.)
Muzgle (Muzzy) is our wonderful, loving, beautiful, vicious-with-strangers 17-year-old calico cat. She has advanced kidney disease and is living on borrowed time. She was attacked by a coyote right on our patio in March, and we thought she had about a month to live, two tops. But she’s stubborn and 9 months later she’s still eating and drinking and taking care of her fur and being a loving snuggle buddy. How are her kidneys doing? No idea, because we can’t take her to the vet. She has a big red sticker on her chart because she shredded a vet tech on her first visit. They have to sedate her to examine her. So she hasn’t been back since the coyote episode when we discovered her kidneys were shot. Since then she’s been on pain meds and subcutaneous fluids and another medicine to absorb excess phosphate.
I had considered many times that perhaps Muzzy shouldn’t make the trip. But she’s not showing any of the usual signs that her time is ending. And if I’m honest, I’m not ready to let her go. I’m looking forward to having her company as I settle in to a new city.
I have a carrier for her and I’ve been getting her used to being in the carrier and taking trips in the car. We’ve even gone to the bookstore and to a friend’s house. She’s been great. I thought she’d be OK.
Muzzy is not OK.
We are trying to keep her in one bedroom and she is not having it. So I put her on a leash and see if I can take her for a walk. I pick her up as one of the movers walks by and she shrieks, hisses, and swipes at him. (Fortunately, she misses.) Oh boy, this is bad.
As the daughters and I trade off managing the cat, the movers have packed my boxes into the U-Haul. Mom and Dad are going to drive the U-Haul to the trailer yard. The movers will follow in their truck. I’m going to stay behind with the daughters to finish packing the “last few things.” Instead, we sit on the floor and discuss the cat. We have to face the truth. I have to face the truth. Muzzy isn’t going to be able to handle air travel. The only thing calming her down at all right now is food and we can’t feed her canned food in a plane or airport. And she is so stressed out. And we can’t give her any more meds to calm her down or sedate her because she is on so much already.
We cry. Then we try to find someone to make a house call to euthanize our cat on short notice. Our regular vet can’t do it. It takes many phone calls, but we find a vet who can come at 9 pm. We spend the next hour sitting on the floor with Muzzy, who is sound asleep in front of the heater.
When Mom and Dad and the movers return, we have dried our eyes.
And, we are realizing this move is not getting finished today. There is still so much to move and we’re running out of light.
More phone calls:
Can we change our flight? Yes.
Can we keep the U-Haul until tomorrow? Yes.
Can the movers come back tomorrow? Yes.
Can we get another night at the motel where we are staying tonight? Well, it’s Rose Bowl week and the motel is booked. They can move us to a different, more expensive room for the second night. Can we get two nights in the same room? A couple more phone calls later, yes, but it will cost you. At this point, I’ve lit so much cash on fire I’m numb to the pain. Sure, book us in the mini suite. Why not? It’s actually the cheapest option available.
Much earlier in the day, I asked myself why I didn’t make different decisions.
Why didn’t I get a full-service moving company in the first place? Because I didn’t have a permanent place to live in Cleveland yet and I wanted to be able to store the stuff in the cubes. I hadn’t even talked to a full-service company or gotten an in-person quote because a) pandemic, and b) what I was quoted over the phone and online matched what I’d found in my research.
Why didn’t I order a third cube when I arranged for the antiques? I was fixated on two. Fixated. Note to self: my brain fixates very easily and readily. The professionals said two cubes. My neighbors had used the equivalent of two cubes. Two cubes was supposed to be correct.
Why didn’t I park the cubes in the vacant spot and let those people have my spot? My spot was empty. But you don’t take someone’s parking spot. You just don’t. Except, by the time the movers start packing the U-Haul, I realize those people had moved out. Their spot is permanently empty. We park the U-Haul there. How much easier would everything have been if the cubes had been parked there?
I hadn’t considered all the books. And all the art. And the big desk and the antique chifforobe. I hadn’t factored in the heavy wrought-iron bed frame or the big media cabinet. The movers hadn’t asked about stairs or steep driveways or streets or how far it would be from the back door to the cubes.
I stop myself. No second-guessing today. No self-deprecation today. Stay flexible. Stay focused on what can be done today, what has to be changed, what we’ve managed.
The movers make one more trip from the apartment to the cubes and call it a night. Mom and Dad head home in the U-Haul. We will reconvene in the morning.
Daughters and I sit on the floor eating leftovers and waiting for a doctor to euthanize our cat.
When she comes, the doctor is amazing. She brings a bouquet of flowers and a manner that is so calm and soothing she makes everything as easy as possible. The process is peaceful and quick. We pet her and say good-bye and cry together before watching the doctor carry away our beloved Muzzy with the silkiest fur I’ve ever felt. I am going to miss her so much.
And then we are left in a mostly empty apartment with 17 years of wear in the carpets and the walls. It suddenly feels so sad and empty and lonely. So we call an Uber and head to the motel in Burbank where a mini suite with a king-size bed and a sofa bed is waiting for us.
When the clerk mentioned the sofa bed, a little alarm bell went off in my head. Sofa beds are, in my experience, an abomination. Neither successful at being a sofa nor a bed, they are creaky and lumpy and uncomfortable. But perhaps sofa beds have gotten better over the years. They wouldn’t charge so much for a lumpy bed, would they?
Dear friends, sofa beds have not gotten better. The motel would indeed charge so much for a lumpy bed. This one is among the worst I have ever seen. It unfolds into less of a bed than a ramp. It is tilted at a good 10 degrees. At first, it looks like only the head is tilted, which wouldn’t be so bad—kind of like a faux hospital bed. After lying in it for 5 minutes I realize the whole bed is a ramp. I move the mattress to the floor and try to fold up the bed, but of course it doesn’t fold back up. Whatever. It is late. I am exhausted. For tonight the mattress on the floor will do. I need to sleep.
Or do I? My brain has other ideas. First it considers and reconsiders every decision I’ve made, explaining why another option would have been better. Then it panics about the next day. Then it remembers Muzgle.
I do not get a good night’s sleep.
Room service. I love room service. And the breakfast is really good. And what’s another $50 after everything I’ve spent already.
We Uber back to the apartment where we set about taking apart the last of the furniture to make things go faster on day 2. Dad and Mom arrive with the U-Haul and a tool kit.
Don’t I have a tool kit? Yeah. Of course. Packed away in a box. Because we weren’t going to need it.
We take apart the shelving units—so easy with 4 people.
We try to take apart my bed frame. I have a wrought-iron bed frame that I picked up a few years ago at the Rose Bowl Swap Meet. It’s from Morocco (?) and it’s gorgeous. Elegant swirls of black iron at the head and foot and the side rails. The side rail tubes slip onto pegs on the head and foot boards. Except “slide” is a bit of an optimistic word.
It is not coming apart. One side comes apart, but the other is stuck. It has decided it never wants to be parted from the headboard. I try with the daughters and we can’t get it to budge. We wait for the movers, who bring a full toolbox, including WD40. The side rail WILL NOT LET GO. Finally, one of the movers whacks with with a sledge hammer while the other pulls. Could this move possibly need a sledge hammer? Yes. Because of course it does.
Also to be taken apart is the sewing table: an IKEA table top with one side resting on a bookcase and the other attached to a pair of legs. The legs need an Allen wrench. I have the right one ... packed away in a box. But no worries, Dad has an extensive screwdriver set. But not the right size Allen wrench. That’s ok, mover guy has a full tool box. But not the right size Allen wrench. It takes at least 15 minutes and three men to remove the legs with pliers.
The U-Haul is getting loaded. It looks like most things will fit in the cubes. We’ll need one more trip to the trailer.
And my phone rings again.
It’s my bank. I bank with USAA, a credit union for military personnel, veterans, and their families (thanks, Dad!). USAA is awesome: magnificent customer service, online banking that works seamlessly. When the car carrier picked up the car, I ordered at teller’s check to be mailed to Cleveland so I can pay for the car on delivery.
Why is USAA calling me? It seems the vendor that produces teller’s checks for them is having some issues and they don’t know when they’ll be able to get a check cut for me. Why I don’t just walk into a branch to get a check? USAA doesn’t have physical branches. They do everything online or by mail. It’s literally never been a problem before. I can use any bank’s ATM and USAA refunds the fees. I deposit checks on my phone. I ordered a teller’s check on my phone.
But I can’t get a wad of cash on my phone and those are the options: cash or cashier’s (teller’s) check.
USAA can increase my ATM limit temporarily. So I’ll do that. Sigh. Because no part of this move can go smoothly, I guess.
Finally, the furniture is in the cubes. There are a few more things to take to the trailer. Mom and Dad are adopting our office chairs to replace theirs. Mom and Dad drive the U-Haul to the trailer; the movers follow in their truck. Daughters and I Uber back to the motel.
Total cost of the move: I don’t want to think about it. Probably double what I was originally quoted.