Moving from one residence to another is widely acknowledged as a stress-inducing activity. In fact, “moving” often scores among the top 10 when people are asked to identify stressful life events.
Sure, some household moves go smoothly. Others? Let’s just say if you’ve survived a cross- country move with little more than a chipped tea cup to complain about, you’re in good shape. These folks, on the other hand, have experienced Murphy’s Law-type moves.
Little can add up to big troubles
When Greg and Sally Slack moved from Colorado to Missouri in 2004, they took along two very excited golden retrievers and towed a boat.
The night before they left, one of the dogs jumped up and broke Sally’s nose. The day of the move, a boat trailer tire went flat near the Colorado/Kansas border; fortunately they had a spare. They weren’t as lucky when a second trailer tire blew about 150 miles from the Missouri border, in a fairly desolate portion of Kansas.
“We spent several hours locating a tire dealer and replacing the second tire at twice the price it would have cost us anywhere else,” recalls Sally. “Let me assure you: Sitting on the side of a freeway in blistering heat waiting for that replacement tire was not the picnic some might think.”
Once the couple finally got to Missouri, they unloaded mattresses from their truck and fell asleep at around midnight. At 2 a.m., Greg woke up with chest pains – fearful he was having a heart attack.
The couple called 911 and an ambulance carried the couple to a hospital in a completely unfamiliar city. It took two days for doctors to determine Greg had not had a heart attack; he’d taken too much NoDoz in an attempt to keep himself awake, thus the heart palpitations.
Downhill from there
Moving from one Seattle neighborhood to another sounded simple enough, thought David Tobey. Not so.
Tobey suggested that his professional movers park their truck in front of his apartment for loading. Fearing a ticket, the movers chose instead to park on a steep hill perpendicular to the building.
The truck was half full when Tobey went upstairs to check on things in the apartment.
“Suddenly I heard a terrible noise, like metal being dragged across a street, and saw a large object flying down the hill, followed by assorted debris and people running,” he says. Then he heard the crash.
Tobey ran downstairs to find the truck’s brakes had failed, and it had careened down the hill, demolishing two parked cars (one belonging to a friend who had bussed to work that day) and ramming through the guardrail. It stopped just shy of Interstate 5.
Police and news crews arrived and were able to surmise that the driver did not have a commercial driver’s license and did not use “blocks” — those big triangular stops that go in front of the tires of large automobiles when parked on a hill. Police were unable to discern whether the driver had used the truck’s hand brake.
After waiting four hours for the truck to be pulled off the guardrail and a new moving truck to come, the old truck was offloaded and the move was completed.
Naturally, some items were lost: broken bed, stereo, glasses and plates. There were no casualties (except for the family’s beloved potted ficus).
The moving company charged Tobey for the full cost of the move (minus the four-hour crash-induced delay). He’s still finding damaged items, so he hasn’t completed the paperwork that company representatives say they need to reimburse him for damage.
Keys to disaster
Kellie Williams’ move from Washington to Oregon went off without a hitch — with one very grand exception.
“After uncrating the pieces of the grand piano, the movers scooped up all of the hardware, presented it to me in outstretched hands and asked, ‘Do you know how this goes together?’” she recalls.
Williams plays the piano but was not exactly versed in its assembly — until that day.
“I ended up studying the parts and putting it back together myself, with the movers hoisting it upright once the legs were attached,” she says. “My piano is pretty special to me, and I wasn’t sure I even wanted them to touch it anymore.”
Don’t go it alone
Caitlin Burke was moving into her first solo apartment in Washington, D.C., and was determined to manage the move on her own. She packed up her belongings and contracted with a moving company she found online.
The truck and its two-man crew showed up pretty much on time and got right to work. The driver handled paperwork while the second man wrapped and moved items; Burke recalls being awed as he single-handedly carried her sofa to the truck.
Within 20 minutes, everything was packed, and Burke was headed to her new place – just two miles away – where she waited. After 45 minutes, she called the movers; there was no answer and no voice mail. Every five minutes or so, she’d call again.
Finally, four hours after leaving her old apartment, the truck pulled up to her building.
The young journalist was about to give the movers a piece of her mind when the passenger-side door of the truck opened and one of the men tumbled out.
“He fell straight to the pavement,” she says. “He had a gash above his eye and was bleeding. His eye was swollen, and he had dried blood on his shirt. This guy had clearly been knocked out.”
Burke called a friend to come to her aid. By the time he arrived, she was in tears. Meanwhile, the driver had left to charge his phone, and the bleeding man was stumbling around the back of her apartment building.
Burke’s pal called police. When officers arrived, the driver explained that the truck had broken down, his partner was hung over, a new mover was on his way and Burke was hysterical because she was afraid she’d be charged for exceeding the two-hour move time for which she’d paid.
Burke called the man a liar and began pointing out holes in his story. That’s when her friend stepped in and encouraged her to hush up if she ever wanted her stuff unloaded.
“The police left thinking I was a crazy woman that was stressed about moving,” she says.
In the end, Burke was charged for a two-hour move and – mostly out of fear – she tipped both the driver and the new mover. She didn’t see the bleeding man again and isn’t sure what really happened to him that day.
“I will say, the biggest lesson I learned was to never be alone with movers. No matter how high my ‘independent woman’ mantra is running, it’s never a good idea to try and pull something like that off by yourself.”
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