Second Thought: Wednesday, August 13, 2003
U-Haul Heartbreak

Moving is a tool of the devil.


I hate moving. I would put up with almost anything rather than move. I put up with my next-door neighbor working on his truck in his front yard while blaring AC/DC rather than move. I put up with the world’s rustiest, funkiest, loudest, most non-running dishwasher. I put up with rent increases, lease addenda, and unauthorized attacks by a lawn mowing service — all of it, rather than move.

Despite my best efforts, however, eight months ago I had to move into a new apartment. Let me guide you through this magical adventure:

You start by filling out applications and letting complete strangers look at your credit, employment, and rental history in order to judge whether or not you’re good enough to live in their exalted midst. Most places will charge you a fee for this delightful experience and then inform you that application fees are non-refundable, although, according to Texas state law, they are. But they don’t expect you to know that, and what are you going to do about it anyway?

You’re tied in knots for days wondering where and if you’re going to have a place to live. After weeks of sleepless nights, you finally get word you can move in — if they don’t change their minds before you get there.

You spend weeks putting all your possessions into boxes scrounged from liquor stores, friends, and dumpsters. The attainment of more and stronger boxes, in fact, becomes the overriding directive of your waking hours. You throw things away by the bagful, and it doesn’t seem to make a dent. You get a city permit, put an ad in the Thrifty Nickel, and hold a yard sale to which only five people come. You go to Half Price and start inadvertently buying back your own books. You give so much to Goodwill you start new local fashion trends, and spot people in the grocery store wearing your clothes.

You call the phone, electric, and cable companies. You get charged transfer fees plus switching fees, like it really costs anything for them to fill out a form and press a button. Your phone gets cut off, and you have to use pay phones at fifty cents a pop. You reserve a U-Haul and realize you’re going to have to move the accumulation of a lifetime in 12 hours.

Moving day arrives. You pick up the U-Haul truck and find out they neglected to tell you it’s a standard shift. Although everyone said it would be too big, you fill it to capacity. While putting gas in this monstrous thing, you plow into a concrete post, putting a huge dent in the skirt of the truck.

After a nerve-wracking drive to your new apartment complex, during which you develop admiration for truck drivers and hatred for people who hide in your blind spot, you go into the office to finally sign your lease and they tell you that you can’t move in today. The apartment’s not ready.

Never mind that you have called this place several times in the past two weeks, to finalize the approval, to check the address so that you can get your mail forwarded, to give them your new electricity account number. Never mind you called two days ago and were assured everything was OK. Never mind you have a 26-foot truck sitting outside with everything you own in it. Just never mind.

“Well, we can move you into another apartment ... .”

Which you have to take, because what other alternative do you have? This means a whole new round of phone calls and switching fees, but this worry is for later. After an interminable wait, in which you keep looking for the next major bad thing to blindside you, you finally sign the lease.

But you still have to unload the truck. In the dark. With a bad knee. Up a flight of stairs. You bring up box after box after box, plus things that were never meant to be taken up a twisty flight of stairs. The smoke detector’s battery is running low and chirps every two or three minutes until you rip it from the ceiling. There are times you honestly feel like curling up into a ball and crying, because it seems like it’s never going to end. This is not “moving,” this is the Bataan Death March, and it will just keep going on and on.

After that, I swore I wouldn’t move again before the turn of the next millennium. But a horrible job market, a depressed economy, and an increasingly draconian government have convinced me the pastures must be greener elsewhere. So, of course, I’m moving — two weeks after I emptied the final box.

But this time, the joke is on them. I’m moving to China. And Southwestern Bell isn’t getting any more switching fees out of me.

Local free-lance writer Amber Rollins is moving to Zhengzhou, in Henan Province, to teach English at Shenga College.

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