Friday, August 24, 2012

The Moving Manifesto

“I was born in the house my Father built.”
I’m pretty sure almost no American can make this claim today. We have been a populace on the move for generations now. And that means our possessions also have to move. And that means we need movers. And that means me.

I’m one of the ‘go-to guys’ to help with your move.
1)    I’m strong.
2)    I like helping people.
3)    I enjoy a good workout.
4)    I can arrange different size objects into an efficient use of space. (“Tetrising” you might call it now-a-days. Or “Lego-ing” for us older types.)
5)    I will actually show up, on time, on the correct day of the move, without a hangover.
6)    I love pizza. 

In fact, I might be the ultimate Platonic ideal of a moving helper (I even own a kilt!), except for two glaring, deal-breaking facts:
1)    I don’t own a truck, and
2)    I don’t like beer.

Those shocking revelations aside, I can safely say that I’ve been involved with at least 50 different moves, including my own. So, I know what I'm talking about.
And if you are planning a move, here is what you need to know, if you ever want your friends to show up again for the move AFTER this one. Here then, is how to NOT piss off the volunteers:

I) Moving: A definition. Let's get the most important thing out of the way right away, shall we? You have asked for my help in getting your stuff from your old place to your new one. Fine. I am your friend and I am here to help you move. What I am not here to help you do is PACK. I expect to see boxes and crates full of your schtuff. I do NOT want to see your home as it normally looks, with a bunch of broken down boxes piled in the middle of your living room floor. With a tape gun next to it. And a hopeful look on your face. Nopety-nopenopenope. I do not want to see that. Ever again.
Moving van, on the scene, with boxes
and crates. See how they stack easily?
            A) Now, let's be crystal clear on this point: If you invite me over to help you PACK up your schtuff, I will be there, no problem. I'll bring old newspapers, gossip and movies, and we can wrap up your teacups till the cows come home.
            B) Oftentimes this discrepancy comes down to time management. You meant to pack, you had 3 weeks to do so, you could have called us up at anytime to help, but, you know, there was a Dr. Who marathon on. And now suddenly you have to pack AND move all in the last weekend of the month, and, and, and this is the kind of situation where entirely new forms of swearing are created.
            C) Also, know that Moving, by definition, is not an exact Science. At least one item will be broken, and someone will spill blood before the day is through. Don't take it personally or try to avoid these phenomena: These are just the necessary sacrifices to the Moving Gods. Breakage and spillage MUST occur, or the move is Cursed. Accept it; your new home is now Sanctified - and have a broom and band-aids on hand.

II) A few things we expect to find when we show up:
            A) Coffee. This is so basic as to be laughable, but I've come across situations where this travesty has occurred. If you've packed up every other single thing in your house, for godssake, leave the coffeemaker out on the counter. With all of the other paraphenalia nearby. In an open box, for example.
            B) Boxes and crates. Not BAGS. Bags don't stack, they're flimsy, and they are open at the top. Trust me, your moving van (or friends truck) is going to look like the Tasmanian Devil's bedroom by the time you get it to the new place. Go get some boxes. It's easy: They're everywhere. You could almost walk into any single business in your town and ask for boxes and you'd probably score at least 2 or 3.
            C) If there is a rental van involved, please have it on hand by the time that we show up. That way we don't have to think; we can just get right to it.
            D) Don't be watching TV when we show up. We are giving up our day to work for you, so show some initiative. We want to see momentum.
"Just don't touch anything while you
help me move!"
            E) Pets secured. We love your little ass-wipe dogs, really we do, but we do not want to step on them while we are carrying big boxes down your stairs. Okay, maybe we want to a little bit. But we don't want to deal with your emotional state should that unfortunate situation occur. Which reminds me:
            F) Your emotional state. We are here to carry your physical baggage, not your emotional baggage. Please try to not have a meltdown on the day that you move. We need you, for guidance, answers, and directions to your new place. We do not need your crying, flailing arms and general "Scream" face. It's a stressful time, granted, but let's get through it, get you safely situated in your new digs, and THEN you can fall apart to your hearts content.

III) Things you can do beforehand that'll make the day go that much smoother:
            A) Clean your furniture. Few things are more repugnant than the idea of moving grimy fixtures into a pristine new environment. Plus, I don't want to be breathing old dust all day while I haul your crap around. And, it's the perfect time: The clutter is gone, the drawers are empty, and there is space in the room to move it away from the wall. Might as well clean the Mofo. Spending 5 minutes on your furniture the night before with a cloth and some Simple Green will make your volunteers soooo much happier the next day.
            B) Corollary to the above: Check under your bed before we arrive. Trust me on this. Just do it. Even if you don't recall anything potentially embarrassing down there, just go take a peek, for both of our sakes. I've uncovered muscle magazines under a supposedly straight guys mattress, a wide assortment and impressive pile of condoms under the "good girls" bed (yes, in both states), and in several instances, plug-in devices so baffling I could not begin to imagine how they would be deployed.
Seriously. Clean your stuff before your friends arrive.
Or they may be holding up another finger later on.
[Side note: Once while carrying a bedroom end table that belonged to a female friend, the drawer slid open, revealing at least 8 different vibrators (and that's not counting the dildos, plugs and, um, attachments for those hard to reach areas) - some of which I swear ran on 220 volt circuits. Being a guy, I immediately showed this treasure to one of the other moving helpers, thinking I would get a good laugh out of him and a good blush out of her. Turns out the guy was her brother though so......not my best moment.]
            C) Have enough people. 4 is about the minimum. 6 to 8 is ideal. Anything less than 4 is just too much work, and more than 8 is too chaotic. I once helped on a simple, 3 mile, house-to-house move where there were 16 people and 4 trucks involved, and it wasn't nearly as smooth and efficient as half that number would have been. I'd criticize the guy involved, but I look at him in the mirror while I shave, so I'll give him a pass this time.
            D) Have a game plan ahead of time if there are special factors involved. Things that will ramp up a move's complexity are:
                        1) Distance. If it's over 20 miles to the new place the move is going to take longer, and your helpers will be more spread out. Make sure that EVERYONE involved has a cell phone on their person.
                        2) Moving two houses into one house (I.E. A couple decides to co-habitate and move both of their households into a new, third place.)
                        3) You have big furniture and the new apartment has a narrow flight of stairs. Mapping out ahead of time how you're going to get that piano up two floors and around that tight corner will be a great service to us sweaty, brainless goons later in the day.
Bonus factoid: At one time everything I owned fit into
two crates and a duffel bag. (This is two people's stuff.)
            E) Very important: If your move requires lots of heavy lifting, then for godssake have a pretty girl on hand. It is an absolute Truth of the Universe that any guy can, and will, lift any thing, no matter its size or weight, if a pretty girl is watching. This Truth transcends age (both parties involved could be 85), known sexual orientation of everyone involved, marital status of the lifter and voyeur, and even (in many cases) gender. (Pound for pound the most macho people I know are women.) As long as there is a little lovely in a sundress on hand to carry the lamps and small boxes, we will happily, smilingly, perform Feats of Strength all the live long day. (Even if we may be spending the next day at the chiropractors.)

IV) Bonus points: Not strictly necessary, but if you want to rack up the combo points with your movers, here are some added value tips for your big day:
            A) Doughnuts to go with the coffee. And we don't need fancy crullers or apple fritters or whathaveyou. Simple cake with sprinkles on top is good enough for the likes of us.
            B) Have a boombox on hand. We are your savage beasts, so soothe us with your charming music. Just put an MP3 player out on the front lawn with a playlist of upbeat songs and watch the wrinkles of the day just smooth themselves right out.
            C) Beverages on hand. Coffee, yeah, DUH, but have some sodas and waters ready to go as well. Just pull 'em out of the fridge, set 'em on the counter and tell us "These are for you". Hydrated movers are far less grumpy.
            D) Mark the destination on the outside of the box. You may not be around when we get a load to the new place. Just a simple "Kitchen" "Bedroom" or "Garage" in Sharpie will get your items to their proper room with speed and efficiency.
            E) If it's a hot day, give us cold, wet washrags to put on our necks. And when we return for the next load, give us a Dove Bar. Quick, easy treats on-the-fly will be remembered and appreciated.
See, down there? What it is (tapestries), and which
room its going into to (rumpus). Simple, eh?
            F) Don't be afraid to give us money. Helping your friends move is traditionally a volunteer activity. We do it because we love you. (AND we want you to help us the next time WE move.) But special circumstances and above-and-beyond plays should be rewarded. If your move was massive and took the entire day, if your new place was in a different town, if it was above a second floor, if you own a collection of anvils, if the weather was extreme, if there were not enough movers, if my truck was the main vehicle taking the abuse - a quick thank you and a 20 dollar bill slipped into the palm is a very nice gesture.
            G) Have an open box that is your Volunteer Kit: Spare work gloves, paper napkins and plates, rope, printed directions to the new place, measuring tape, screwdrivers and an adjustable wrench, box cutters, coffee mugs, band-aids, energy drinks, tape gun, bandanas, wet-naps, and door stops (a timely doorstop to halt an annoying screen door is a Godsend).

V) Endgame. Ideally a move will not take all day. If it starts early in the morning (and it should), If you have PACKED before your MOVE, if you've cleaned your furniture, if you have the rental truck on hand for the big items, and you have coffee ready for us, we'll get your schtuff to your new place by early afternoon. Complex moves (as outlined in III-D above) may require a quick lunch, on the go, but for the most part we volunteers are a single stage rocket: Point us to the boxes, give us directions to the new place and we'll do the job straight through without a break. Why? Because we know that there is a Magical Meal waiting for us. And this is so important to the entire enterprise that I'm going to break it down very precisely:
            A) Imagine the following sentence written in 30-foot high letters of fire: If you arrange to have friends help you move, you must serve them pizza and beer at the end of the move.
            B) Got that?
                        1) PIZZA
                        2) and BEER
                        3) at the END of the move.
            C) This is pretty much hard-wired into the American brainpan from birth. Moving = pizza and beer afterwards. Not pizza halfway through the day - that sends the wrong signal to the brain that the moving is now complete. And not beer halfway either - not when you are negotiating stairs while carrying Nana's good china, or, you know, DRIVING across town.
Pizza (L) and Beer (R)
            D) Pizza-and-beer-after-the-move. It's like a work chant that sailors would use out at sea. This is what we are working for. Sure we love you and everything, but, but PIZZA.........and, and BEER! Come on! Hand me that box - let's get this fool thing finished.
            E) Important, subtle point: P and B must be served immediately when the move is complete. "Immediate" is defined here as "right away". Put down last box / sit down on said box / open a beer / start eating a slice of pizza. Bam bam bam. Just like that. You, the movee, have to gauge when the move is almost done, so you can time the arrival of the pizza precisely when the move is complete. You can either:
                        1) Call for delivery, and be careful to direct the driver to your NEW address. (Yes, that tragedy happened once on a move I was on, and it was NOT pretty.)
                        2) Dispatch the pretty girl to go get the pizza and beer, because Team Testosterone doesn't need to show off for her anymore.
            F) Nothin' fancy with the pies. We may be foodies and gourmets during the week, but right now we are just hot, sweaty, sore and HUNGRY. Basic no-nonsense pizza will totally hit the spot.
            G) Beer though. Life's too short for crappy beer. Make with the good stuff.
            H) This signifies the completion of the move, as far as the movers are concerned. Once the P and B are in hand, we aint moving a single, solitary box a muthaflippin' INCH. So don't expect anything else out of us. Our indenture is now fulfilled.

You though. You have to go back to your old place and start cleaning! Hahahahahaha!

Angus McMahan

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  1. One of your best! I lol'd! In the library, no less!

  2. Oh yeah, how about this...I LOL'd after my kids went to bed! IIIB...omg! Gonna read this out loud to my husband now.

  3. All true! The "Good Girl" was mortified, the owner of the vibrator drawer (one of the Derby Girls) just giggled and said "Its not like I use ALL of them!"

  4. So good. Simple, clear, laugh-out-loud instructions.
    IKEA could learn from your example. -.-

  5. Hey, now THERE'S an idea! I wonder if they are hiring.....

  6. I loved this blog entry. Well, I pretty much love them all, but this hits a nerve with me as it clearly does with. I am one of those people that others do NOT mind moving. I am packed and ready to load, in proper containers when people show up. And I pack well. Like you, MAYBE even more so, I am Tetris GOD.

    I) Yes, please be packed! For F's sake!
    B) Yes, you have to plan and not procrastinate. Manage your time and get your resources lined up. For the next time someone asks me to help them MOVE I will be tempted to tell them that if, when I show up, at least 90% of their stuff is not ready to load, I will turn around and leave. But, I suspect that will not be a welcome notion.

    II, A) Sorry, coffee is on you. Well, it might be if you try to carry it around when you are lifting things. But, seriously, unless it's discussed ahead of time, I expect caffeine addicts to tend to their own needs. My movers have shown up with Peet's or Starbuck's cups in hand. Amazingly, they seemed to have been able to find such a dispensary on the way to my place.

    II, B) I wish I could say "Duh!" but you are right to explain this folks.

    II, C) I try to get two volunteers to show up early. One sits at the house to greet arrivals, and other goes with me to the rental place to get the truck.

    II, E) I DO want to step on your neurotic yapper.

    II, F) I allow for stress (moving is near the top of the list of life's stressful events), discombobulation (so many things and people to deal with!) and dropped balls. But, yeah, a certain amount of coherence is required.

    III, A) Yes! A bit off cleaning ahead of time has many benefits. Including that your new place will start off nicer.

    III, B) Naw. Go ahead and leave your dirty secrets where I can see them. I won't be embarassed (there's no sex toy or apparatus I haven't seen - and may already own myself) Besides, now I have some real dirt on you. As it were...

    III, C) Spot on - 6 to 8. It's like being a foreman... one can only effectivey direct the actions of a certain # of folks. As to the problem of too many people showing up, the fellow in your anecdote has a rare problem -- too many friends. Serves him right for being such a great guy. Harumph!

    III, D, 1) I'm not sure what you've experienced that informs the Distance issue. Maybe it's because all of the other pieces of my moves are generally well-planned and thought out ahead of time, but this has not been an issue. I coordinate the departure and arrival of 'waves' of folks and vehicles and it's worked out nicely.

    III, D, 3) Not only should the Movee scope out the site ahead, but they should inform their Movers of the challenge. I find I usually end up identifying a "Captain" on the team who I can trust to manage such things while I attend to the many other demands put on me. "Where does this go?"

    III, E) You know, I've never really thought about that. I guess I've always had one around. Usually she's attached to me in some way, so she's already there. :)

    (end Reply Part 1. Apparently I have too much to say :))

  7. (Reply Part 2)

    IV, A) Doughnuts, maybe. Depending on your peeps, might be bagels with stuff to put on 'em. I say; go for more substantial "food value" to help with the workload, too.

    IV, B, C & D) Yeah, food, beverages and music helps keep energy up and a rhythm going. Tip: Have a camping cooler for the beverages and food. (I also have one for the stuff that comes out of the fridge/freezer. You didn't mention that. I actually clear out the fridge and freezer, by eating or tossing, in the days ahead so there's little left that needs to move. :))

    IV, F) Offer, with substantial sincerity and forcefulness, to 'compensate' heroes. I dropped around $50 to more than one person on my last move. They worked really hard, they had gas and toll (and their Starbucks :P :)) expenses, they supplied a vehicle, and they were otherwise 'put out' to be there and come through for me. Maybe other rewards, like bodywork at a later date, or other in-kind bonuses are good. And make sure that you follow through on them, if they are offered.

    IV, (should have been "G") Great points. I have a cleaning bucket with gloves, cleaners, etc., a tool crate with hammer, screws, tape gun, etc., and a "important stuff" box with directions, a clipboard with pen, etc. The disposable eating-ware and such go with the cooler.

    V) You don't have stick to pizza and beer, of course, but do give people what works for them (chinese?) but definitely save the 'carrot' for the end of the day. Food and beer in your belly makes you slow down and get drowsy. That's Afterglow, not halftime.

    I think it would be a really interesting cultural and social experiment to adopt this kind of writing as a pre-requisite agreement for Movees to review and adopt BEFORE people agree to help. But, I like to torment myself with ideas about how I can change people. It works great for me! Uh huh.

  8. Now i'm wondering if I compensated you properly for all of your help with our move last January.

  9. Haha! Your move was different in that it was staggered. You had a few weeks in which to transfer your stuff, so it was a lot more episodic and laid back. Plus, and of Primal Importance, you had PACKED before your moving help arrived.

    1. I've never understood WHY someone would want help packing up their things. "Here, just go through my stuff, and make sure to get your fingerprints and hair all over it." I hate going to help someone move and seeing that they've done nothing to prepare for said move.

    2. With ya. Plus, if I am forced to pack as well as move, then I am NOT going to be gentle with the packing part. ;-)

  10. Great post, Angus! Love your humour too. When I was able to finally own my first home, I organized a moving party (funds were short after the down payment!). I made sure new home was cleaned beforehand and also made sure my furniture was too. Then I had a few friends come over the night before to help me pack all the non-furniture items (along with the master bed and dresser). I had another group of friends the next day to move my furniture to a storage facility, another group to help drive and load the boxes and yet another to unload and put in the right rooms. Then we all sat around with take-out and beer for the rest of the day. I didn’t have to worry about anything getting trashed or finding space around unplaced items. So, you see, a big moving gang can actually work!

    1. Daaayummmmm! Way to compartmentalize, Edward! That must have gone off like clockwork.