This is SUPER long, but this is the story of our move from L.A. to D.C. this summer. I swear, I feel like I’m still recovering. But, we are settled now, and hopefully here for a while; although, officially, at this very second, it’s only for a year. We shall see. I’m not sure I can take another move only a year from now, after all this nonsense. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I want to stay longer!
If you don’t count our initial move away from home, I think we’ve moved, probably, a dozen times, but honestly, I can’t remember. I have lost count. It truly doesn’t matter anymore. Bad things have happened on all of those moves. Things have broken. We’ve lost things. We’ve ended up in crummy houses, and in neighborhoods that we’ve not have chosen, had we had more knowledge. Once, I literally lived in the ghetto and didn’t even know it. Six months after I moved out, someone was shot on my block!
But, good things have happened too. We picked, randomly, great schools. We’ve met friends that we’ve hung onto for decades. We’ve grabbed onto traditions that we cling to like life rafts. We’ve made memories out of ridiculous events, like our toddler son playing with tumbleweeds in the barren desert of mid-Texas. Things happen when you move, crisscrossing the country, like gypsy nomads, that don’t happen to everyone else, good things that you can hang your hat on as wondrous and different.
This move though, this move from Los Angeles, back to DC was the worst move we’ve ever had. Military spouses learn not to complain, at least not loudly, about the idea of moving. There’s no point. Although, I make it pretty clear that I hate leaving L.A. It’s my home now.
So, I was already primed to be miserable. I had to leave my ocean view, the hydrangeas that I’d planted, that were about to bloom. I had to leave my perfect house, and my art room. I had to leave my son’s perfect school, and the neighborhood I knew. And, I had to leave my doctor. I was basically ready to kill Bryon with dirty looks alone. Every time he came into a room, he started conversations with, “I’m sorry.”
“I’m sorry. I love you. What should we have for dinner?” Poor Bryon.
Then, this move went down in history as the worst move in history; but not just because we left L.A. and landed in D.C. Even Bryon agrees, and he’s basically neutral on ever topic in history.
When you surrender your family’s possessions, the very things that make up your home, to the driver of the moving truck, you sign a novel’s worth of documents, including the loading manifest, and roughly twenty other pages worth of nonsense that includes insurance and other important information. One of those pages, a page that we’ve singed for every move, apparently, means that we give the driver permission to store our goods, if they beat us to the destination. Really, this, in bold, should say that they have the right to take your goods hostage for an indefinite amount of time, and damage them as they see fit, because they are pirates.
Obviously, truck drivers, fueled by Red Bull and Funyuns, drive faster than a family caravan loaded down with two cats and a hamster; so, they will generally get to the destination before you. However, since we were in a hurry to get to the home we already had lined up, the driver beat us by ONE day. ONE. Can I stress that he beat us by a single day? Either he is a slow trucker, or we are a fast family. We were fueled, primarily by falafel and pretzel rods, by the way.
We had specifically asked the driver not to store our goods. However, we’d done it verbally, and being the equivalent of a trained monkey: me drive truck, me put truck in this slot, me go home; he didn’t take other commands into account, apparently. And, we called the moving company several times to schedule delivery ahead of our arrival. Bryon had taken the month off, ready to unload and unpack, because I had just had shoulder surgery. So, when he was given papers to sign, he assumed that none of them were authorizing storage. You know, because we’d mentioned it to everyone, in advance, a million times.
He was told, repeatedly, “we’ll worry about delivery dates when you get here.” When he asked the driver about scheduling, the driver stared at him blankly, and basically told him “uhhhh.”
No one would give him a date. No one would schedule. No one would help. But, he signed the page that said storage was okay, without being told what it was, and my silly husband didn’t read it carefully enough. I don’t blame him, because you have to sign every page of the manifest, which is dozens of pages. If you’ve ever moved, they list every box, every lamp, everything. So, your manifest might be upwards of 100000000 pages. It’s easy to sign something you didn’t read carefully. Why yes, certainly, I shall sign for that pony. I expect to see it delivered in D.C. Its name is buttercup, and it eats only cupcakes. Keep her safe. Don’t give her Funyuns, no matter how much she asks. In a dozen or so moves, we’ve never had a problem getting delivery of our goods; so, it didn’t even occur to us.
It took over a month, after we got here, to get our stuff. A month. We spent part of it living in a hotel, and part of it living in an empty house (because they stopped paying for the hotel), sleeping on an air mattress. There’s no way to stress how uncomfortable that is.
The worst part of that is that when the stuff did come, we only had about three days to unpack our house before Bryon had to go back to work. He’d taken off an entire month to help me unpack. Instead, he got three days.
Pause to give my amazing husband credit for unpacking a five-bedroom house in three days. I think he’s still tired.
The best part of waiting this month for our things was calling the moving company every day and begging, then yelling, then going back to begging, for our things to get delivered. When they finally gave us a delivery date, they called the MORNING of the delivery and said they had to cancel.
“Mrs. McClain, it turns out we might not have the men to do the job today---”
“Hold up. Did you just say ‘might’ after making us wait a month for our goods? Because I think you just said might? I don’t care if YOU have to personally get in your fucking car and do it your damn self. My truck will be unloaded today because you promised. I expect you here at 1 pm, or I expect the name of your boss, and his boss and I expect your fucking job. This is ridiculous.”
“Ma’am, now that you’ve cursed at me---”
“Oh no. We’re not going to pretend cursing is the problem in this conversation. If you want to, you can talk to my husband, who will tell you the same thing without hurting your delicate ears. Or, I can repeat the same request in a delicate tone. But, listen Mr. XXX, I’m sorry to tell you that a lady, even in the south, can say whatever she God Damn well pleases. Now, tell me the names of who will show up here in exactly three hours, or get off the fucking phone.”
We travelled with two cats and a hamster in a single vehicle. Why we traveled in one car is a long story, best left untold. However, two cats and a hamster in one car was a challenge in itself. We expected it to be worse than it was, and it actually worked out pretty well, cat-wise. The cats barely noticed him, until we checked into the hotel every night. Loki spent the first ten minutes sniffing him, and then the rest of the night buried under the comforter. P.S. the car didn’t stink!
We bought a little travel carrier, meant for small animals and Frodo didn’t mind being zipped into it. I suppose, if he did mind, we wouldn’t know. It’s not like he crafted a little protest sign that said, “I mind this!” We tucked his little carrier into small corners, away from where cats liked to snuggle, and Frodo just went to sleep. He was happy and content.
That is, until we got to Tuscon (BTW, they had the best falafel of the road – this is what vegans eat when they travel through the south). When we checked into the hotel, and unloaded all the bags, Bryon nudged me as he unpacked Frodo, and told me that he thought he was dead.
Sure enough, he was sleeping a little too soundly, and a little too stiffly. We have no idea where or when he died, because no one looked at him while we traveled. Why would we? Frodo was a victim of the road. He was an old hamster, and he definitely outlived his normal lifespan, so he could’ve died of old age, and that’s what we are going with; but Bryon can’t shake the feeling that his carrier was in a spot that was a little too warm. It’s heartbreaking to think he might’ve died of heatstroke.
We keep telling Collin that Frodo tried really hard to be with him to D.C. and he was really trying to be brave for him. Breaking death to a kid with autism was tough, especially his pet, now that he’s older. When Eddie, our dog, died, years ago, Collin felt nothing. Bryon and I were sobbing on the way home from the vet. Collin, who was about five, at the time, said, “Why are you guys sad? Let’s just get another dog on the way home.” Empathy is tough for autistic kids.
Frodo was buried behind a gross La Quinta that abutted an apartment complex that looked like the projects. He was mourned briefly by his family, and his grave his marked by several “special” rocks that were found by Collin, as he foraged for suitable treasures (the best ones he kept, of course).
I know it’s terrible, but so much of me is glad that Frodo is dead. I’m NOT happy an animal is gone; but, I’m happy to see my son have a human emotion. I happy not to deal with the fight about cleaning up the damn thing, and not to have the hamster smell in my house anymore. I’m happy to not have hamster vs. cat death matches anymore. And mostly, I’m happy to see Collin have empathetic reasoning come from this. It happened at the right age. Plus, Frodo was old. I’m not a monster. It’s not like I fed it to the cat, or something.
While the moving company was refusing to deliver our things, they were claiming that there was simply not enough manpower in the area to make deliveries, move loads from docks and unload trucks. Their claim was that the government had changed regulations about illegal workers, and that their contract with them hamstrung their ability to hire enough minimum wage people to do menial labor. Yes, someone at the company told me this. Damn those illegals taking American jobs. FYI: jobs out there for you Americans looking for work, there’s good, hard labor available in the moving industry. Trust me, it’s fucking hard work.
We offered to hire our own moving company to go to the storage facility to pick up our load, bring it to our house, and unload it. We were told that this was impossible, because it was at the back of their warehouse, and that they didn’t have the crew to move the rest of the loads out of the way for another crew to come in and get our load. Ummmm, okay? So, we had to “wait our turn,” to get our load out of storage, in order. Frustrating.
I smelled bullshit. I should’ve smelled mold.
As our unloading team started to pull stuff out of the truck, they started to refuse to put things into our house for health and safety reasons. This was because our furniture was coated in mold. Mold, because the load was NOT stored in a warehouse. The load was left in the truck it was shipped in, parked in the elements for the entire time, and the truck was not road-worthy. It leaked like a sieve. It was full of standing water and places where it was rusted through, both on the roof and the ground.
This is our meth cabinet, for example.
We have vintage vinyl kitchen chairs. The moisture seeped THROUGH the vinyl and into the foam. The mold is so strong that you can see it growing under the foam.
But the worst part is that they destroyed a box of our holiday ornaments. One of our treasured holiday traditions is we make ornaments every year. We’ve made so many, that now we have to make a holiday “craft” because our tree is so full. They are now covered with mold. Some of them are so destroyed that they are unrecognizable and have to be thrown away.
Ornaments my son made in preschool. Ornaments we bought to commemorate or trip to Europe. Ornaments that my husband and I bought in Vegas when we got married: destroyed. Gone. How do you make a damage claim on that?
I’m so angry at the moving company for their negligence. How dare they use substandard equipment to move families’ lives across the country, and then to flippantly store it just anywhere, like it doesn’t matter, like it’s just a pile of things. We went tearing through the rest of our unopened, look at later boxes, last night. Were our wedding albums okay? Were our baby pictures okay? How dare they treat someone’s things like they are just things. These are the lives of other people.
If you have substandard equipment, replace it. If you don’t have enough storage room, get more. If you can’t afford it, then your company isn’t operating properly and you need to subcontract, or you need to give up the contract with the government. You aren’t honoring its terms. Profit over people is unacceptable when you are destroying the very thing that you are proclaiming to honor, which is moving peoples’ lives.
Military families have very little to hold onto when they move from place to place, and one of those things is their traditions and their memories; when you treat them with such blatant disrespect and disregard for feeling and care, you don’t deserve the government contract. In all the moves, in all the broken knick-knacks, lamps and pieces of furniture, I’ve never been so heartbroken.
Did I mention that the way your packers packed my grandmother’s red desk, in order to prevent it from being destroyed, my unpackers had to take it apart and rebuild it, and reinforce it (something they didn’t have to do); but they saw my tears and couldn’t bear to see it destroyed. One of them is a furniture builder and made sure nothing would ever happen to it again.
No matter how much claim money you hand me, you’ll never be able to replace the ornament my son made for me when he was three. You’ll never be able to replace the glee on his face when he found that knight ornament in the gift shop at Napoleon’s tomb. He was so into knights at the time, and it was the only one there. You’ll never be able to replicate those things.
I don’t care that you wrecked my meth cabinet. I don’t care that you wrecked my chairs. I can replace those. It’s annoying that I have to, but I don’t really care. It’s negligent and ridiculous that you did it. But, I do care that you did it in a way that says you don’t care about your job and your responsibility to do it well. How dare you treat anyone’s belongings with such irresponsibility? Our unpacking men, who knew they were breaking the rules to do so, invited us into the truck to show us what was causing the damage to our things. There were puddles in the truck so deep that you could slosh around in them.
** I will say that the men who unloaded my truck were amazing. They wanted it clear that the damage was unacceptable, and they were wonderful. We did have a dyslexic unpacker, who kept mixing up box numbers, but I even forgive that guy.
Plus, when we arrived, we were supposed to pull up in our driveway, meet our property manager with the keys, and slip right into our house. This did not happen, not exactly. She gave us the keys, and said we could come and go as we please, but we couldn’t live in the house yet. See, as she was having workers prep the house for last minute items, the sewer pipe in the basement burst, so we had no water. She said it should only take a day or two. It took a week. We visited a few times. When she said there’d be no floor in the basement, she was not kidding. Yikes. Don’t worry, there’s a floor now.
Then, she forgot to put the washer and dryer in which was in the lease. She made a mistake because she didn’t mean to offer it to us; she’d meant to offer it to a previous person she’d offered the house to, and only left it in our offer by mistake. Oh well, her loss, our gain. So, we had to wait another week for the washer and dryer. At least we could move in like that. Still, without our things, and only what we’d travelled with, that meant a trip to the laundromat.
Then, when we did move in, we discovered that the owner had been using the fifth bedroom as a kitty bathroom. This would be no big deal, except that he had built a large table for them to use as a litter box. It was roughly the size of a kitchen table. He filled it with litter and just let them use it as a potty and, apparently scooped it, meh, never? The cats hopped up there and, well, went. There was sprayed poop on the walls, urine, everything. It was “cleaned” up, but there was evidence of “cat,” everywhere. Those of you who have been in my house know that I do not have evidence of “cat,” despite having them. There’s no hair. There’s no smell. It was super gross. That room took hours to disinfect. Cat shit walls=ew, no matter how you slice it.
This house is amazing (after cleaning the cat shit). I will have to show it off next time. I have even told Bryon that despite it being Virginia, I will tolerate it, with happiness, if he follows on here. I like my neighborhood. I like my doctors. Collin found a good school. Everything is great. Now that we are all settled in, I can happily stay here for a few years. Of course, if he comes out on the Colonel’s list, we’ll probably have no choices in our lives anymore and get yanked around the universe. We’ll probably get assigned to Mars, and I’ll have to find a doctor who takes Tricare and also has tentacles.