Thursday, February 15, 2018

Last Month's Move

I've had some ridiculous experiences moving before. In 2005, moving from Arizona to Missouri, I had one Uhaul truck blow its transmission near the end of Day 2 of a three-day trek; the local rental place then helpfully moved all my stuff onto a truck that had bad truck springs, which made the rest of my trip a sickening experience and left the truck's front tires worn down to the weave. In 2006, moving from one city in Missouri to another, I had to deal with the fact Uhaul wouldn't allow the model of car I then owned to be towed on one of their dollies. As a result, I had to make several trips back and forth via Amtrak in order to move both my car and my truckload of possessions, separately. Now you judge. Was the move I made a month ago, from Missouri to Minnesota, in the same league of grouchiness-inducing stupidity?

Once again (because I'm insane, and insane people keep doing the same thing and hoping for a different result), I chose Uhaul. This time, I had my car on a tow-dolly pulling behind the truck. I had from noon Friday, Jan. 12 - when I clocked out of my old job for the last time - to 8 a.m. Monday, Jan. 15 - when I was due to clock in for my new job - to pack the truck, hook up the tow-dolly, and make tracks from the southwest-central-Missouri burg of Versailles (rhymes with "whales") to the northwest-central-Minnesota smÄby of Park Rapids (which doesn't rhyme with anything). I figured on driving up to my parents' home, an hour short of my destination in Verndale, Minn., estimating it was going to take me between 12 and 13 hours to get there - possibly more, if I had to maneuver carefully over ice, snow, and slush with a tow-dolly that technically wasn't to be pulled faster than 55 mph. Packing complete, I hit the road at approximately 4 p.m. Friday afternoon, planning to arrive by my folks in the morning, take a nap, and meet some people they had wrangled to help me move into my new place.

Sometime around 10 p.m., about 10 miles south of Indianola, Iowa - approximately halfway through my trip - I was turning at a well-lit highway junction when I suddenly felt as if the front right wheel was about to come off the truck. I pulled over next to a light pole, took a look, saw nothing wrong, tried driving a bit, found the condition unchanged, and pulled over again. At this point, I was in an area of almost pitch darkness on a windy night with sub-zero temperatures and double-digit-sub-zero wind chills. I could not get any service on my cell phone (thanks, AT&T). I saw a light ahead and to the right, correctly guessed it was a floodlight on a nearby farm, and nursed the truck up the farm's long driveway to where I could get out and get a better look by the light of a floodlight mounted on the side of a barn. Nobody answered at the door of the farmhouse; the place looked deserted. It turned out the homeowners were there, but they were hiding from me because they drew the reasonable conclusion that I was there to rob and murder them. During the shrinking window of time I had left before the State Police showed up, I did manage to reach U-haul roadside assistance on my cell, called my dad to tell him there would be delays, and (while the cop was checking my record) heard back from roadside assistance that I could expect a truck service tech to show up in about 35 minutes to an hour. After that, the cop insisted that I pull back out on the highway, where I could no longer reach anybody or be reached by phone.

The cop took a while soothing the nerves of that farm couple - long enough for me to start to worry about whether or not he was ever going to return my driver's license. After a few more minutes of chat, he took off and left me with the engine running, waiting for the truck service guy. It took him until about 12:30 a.m. to show up, and then until about 12:31 a.m. to determine that the problem - a busted wheel bearing - could not be fixed there on the side of the road, nor would parts be available that night. He and I went back and forth between my warm truck cab and his (he had his wife with him), tag-teaming the use of his phone, so each of us could receive the proper instructions from Uhaul roadside assistance. It was very, very cold. I felt at times like I was going to lose digits. At length, we got my car warmed up and backed off the tow-dolly, and I followed the truck service guy to a motel in Indianola, where Uhaul put me up for the night. I was also advised to buy myself a meal and expect up to $15 reimbursed, provided I saved the receipt.

I didn't get much sleep that night. I was kept awake well into the wee hours by repeated calls to and from Uhaul roadside assistance, working out our plan for getting me the rest of the way to my new job. We seriously entertained the idea that I might leave all my stuff in Iowa for a week and come back the next weekend to fetch it. We tried (without success) to find Moving Help providers, to transfer my stuff off one truck and onto another; none were available, according to that service's website, in that area and on the date in question. They found a repair shop/Uhaul rental business in downtown Des Moines, about 18 miles away, that would open on Saturday just for me and do the transloading - which was supposed to be done under my supervision. They found a tower who could pick up the truck where I had left it and move it to that shop in Des Moines, but what with one delay or another, it took until well into the afternoon to manage that. By the time I knew where to go, and had checked out of the motel, and had reached the service place in Des Moines, they had already cut my padlock off the truck and were mostly done transloading. The guys at the shop hooked up the tow dolly and put my car on it and sent me on my way. I hit the road at about 10 minutes to 3 p.m. - by which time all my moving help at the Minnesota end of my trip had given up the project.

Without any further event, I reached my parents' house at 9 p.m. Saturday. My brother Ryan was there, willing and available to help me move the next day. We went to Sunday service at my dad's church, then joined one of the parishioners and my stepmom (who came along to do some apartment cleaning and to serve lunch). The only other fun thing to report is that I got to experience, for the first time since I bought it 18 years ago, the challenge of moving my Yamaha studio piano up a flight of stairs. At a certain point, I believe its full weight was resting against my breastbone, compressing my rib cage. I thought I was going to asphyxiate. Well, that and the fact that we were moving all my worldly possessions, including some awkward and heavy items, up and down a steel ramp while it was pelting down snow - correctly-predicted weather I had hoped to avoid by driving all through Friday night - and the management of my building refused to let us back the truck up across the frozen-solid front lawn so we wouldn't have to muscle everything up the entire length of the front walk. It was slippery, it was messy, yet except for that incident involving the downhill end of the piano and my sternum, the move-in process was miraculously free of horribleness.

There was one more thing to add zest to my first evening in my new town. The management told me the apartment building's parking lot was going to be plowed the next day while I was at work. So, I had to make arrangements to park the Uhaul and its tow dolly somewhere else, and do it that night before I went to bed. Fortunately, the management team at the local Walmart were good sports about letting me park overnight in their lot.

Uhaul eventually, but very reluctantly, coughed up a $130 refund for my pains - or rather, for the $15 worth of food roadside assistance had promised to reimburse, another $15 for destroying a padlock that had served me faithfully since high school, and $100 just for the sheer aggravation and the delays that almost interfered with my plans to be on time for my first day at the new job. The guy who haggled with me about all this challenged everything I said, actually trying to claim the Des Moines shop replaced my padlock (I remember that they tried, but the lock they had could not be made to fit) and having fits about roadside saying they would pay for my meal (they never do that) and the truck service dude saying, "The only thing keeping this wheel on is the fragments of bearing that are still in there" (you're never supposed to tell a customer something like that, apparently). He didn't even have to live through the trip, and he yelled at me as if I wasn't just telling him what happened.

So, in retrospect, I stand by what I told the manager of my apartment building after I had finished moving in... "I hope I die in this apartment, because I never want to move again."

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