Boston Boxes

Greetings All.

I hope your world is a sea of tranquility, and better than mine.  Yesterday was pretty rough.

You could say I experienced a spot of bother.  A tsunami of bother is more like it.  As you may know, Michelle and I have at last moved into our condo in East Boston.  It had been rented, so we couldn’t move in until the first of August.  We painted the living room and bedroom, and assembled monster IKEA bookshelves, since we own lots of books.  Friday the new bedroom furniture arrives, and Saturday the movers will bring all the rest of Michelle’s stuff that she has had stored at her parents’ house when she left for Scotland, including a new mattress to go on the new bed.  Sleeping on an air mattress is best left to children and dead people.

Of the three bookshelves, we thought it would look good if one of them had the optional glass doors, but one of them was missing the little black knob.  Plus one of the bookshelf panels didn’t look right.  Rather than face the bureaucratic hell of getting IKEA to fix my problem, I went to the hardware store just down the street to see what Adid could do for me.  I grabbed a small panel with the color I wanted and left.

As you know, I bought a gorgeous 1996 Audi A4 Quattro 2.8, with paint that looks new since the ophthalmologist who owned it kept it in a garage.  It’s no surprise: I like to look at my car.  As I walked out the back door I glanced lovingly in the car’s direction.  Gulp.  It wasn’t there.

I shook off the sucker punch and walked out into the street for a better look.  Wait, did I park it there or somewhere else?  I parked it RIGHT THERE, dammit.  Then I noticed that there were no cars on the street at all…?  I glanced up and saw the sign on the pole, informing all that on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of every month cars are not allowed on the street due to scheduled street-cleaning.  My car had been towed.

I called Michelle, and she suggested I go to the police station in the neighborhood, since they would know what company handled the city’s towing needs, and where the car would be.  Great, so now I faced a towing charge, at least one day’s “storage” fee, PLUS a parking ticket.  I went off to find some advice.  Adid said that there are complicated scheduling arrangements involving street-cleaning and snow-removal, and that parking tickets and towing are pretty common in this part of the city.

Michelle came home for lunch to help me out, and we walked the few blocks to find my car, which somehow had escaped dents, scrapes, nicks and other heart attack-inducing flaws.  One hundred seventeen dollars to the towing company, and another forty for the parking ticket.  Great.  Oh, we were just getting started.

Maureen, my contact at the Edinburgh shipping company who sent home twenty boxes of my stuff, emailed me a shipping document and told me to expect my stuff to arrive around Monday, August 4th.  Sure enough, I received a call from British Air Freight that the pallet of boxes had arrived, and that I could come and take possession after it had cleared Customs.  In order to collect the boxes I needed to rent a van, which I did in Braintree.  It was large and bulky, with steering and handling like a smallish oil tanker.  We set off for South Boston, where the big commercial piers are, trying hard not to hit other cars and trucks on the convoluted highway system Boston has evolved over thousands of years of highway engineer inbreeding.

We found our way to the right place, and were told to take the paperwork up to Customs, just upstairs and across the hall.  We had a nice chat with the police officer with the Scottish last name, who told us that he married an Englishwoman.  (I tell my “Scotland story” whenever I run into someone who might find it amusing.)  We compared notes regarding little British expressions that make themselves at home in our speech, such as “bloody”, “dodgy”, “loo”, and so forth.  The guy wouldn’t stop talking, but I see that as a good thing, since such a person will help people he likes if they need it.  Soon we were heading back downstairs to show the completed paperwork and get my hands on my stuff.  (This all took place this way because I was told that either a shipping broker could handle the paperwork or I could do it myself and save the broker’s fee.)

Back at British Air Freight the guy took our documents, now stamped with the approval of Customs.  He said everything was OK, and gave me a form to take to the warehouseman.  We walked over to the fenced area of the secure warehouse, handed over the document, and waited confidently.  Oops.  One of the lesser lackeys came over and told us there was a “little problem” with my property, and that they were “looking into it.”  Uh huh.  Then the more important guy came over, with a smile on his face.  He told us that the shipping company guy was 65 and couldn’t read anymore, and then showed me the document the old guy had handed me, which had someone else’s name and address, and listed the contents of the shipment as “cat”.  He laughed and asked me for my original paperwork, and then zoomed off to get my stuff with his forklift.  He even helped to load it all into the van, this while we compared stories of studying in Scotland and his kids in college.

At long last, with my 20 boxes of books, clothes, CD’s, DVD’s, shoes, hats, kitchen miscellany, glassware and everything else — my entire life, in other words — we headed back to the condo in East Boston.  Arriving safely, I backed the van into the tiny lot, to better unload it all.  Of course you can’t see a damn thing, even with a plethora of mirrors, and while I was making sure to not hit Michelle’s car, there was a modest crash and the tinkling of glass.  Whathef*ck!

I had hit the phone pole, breaking one of the rear door’s windows, and now the inside of the van’s cargo area, and most of the street for three or four square blocks was now decorated with tiny bits of broken glass; street bling.  Michelle sprang to my aid — she is phenomenal at doing this — and assured me it was no big thing, and not to worry about it.  My heart was pounding as we unloaded the van in record time.  I carried each box to the top step of the first floor landing, and there Michelle grabbed it and piled them into a previously unknown space in our 457 square-foot condo.

My blood pressure was still off the charts as we finished, and as we got back in the van to return it in its less than pristine condition, my love reminded me again that it was OK, everything would be all right.  God she’s great.

As we drove back to Braintree, every little bump, which would have been smoothly absorbed by the Audi, brought more silicon-based cacophony.  Michelle, a senior insurance claims investigator, said this sort of thing happens all the time with rental equipment, since people have rarely driven such vehicles, and all we’d have to do is pay the deductible.  Sure enough, when we returned the van and told the guy at the counter with the long pony-tail, he was equally blasé and appreciative of our honesty; he noted a fair percentage of renters who damage equipment simply park and dash.  Michelle whipped out her credit card and handled the deductible charge, and suggested we go to her parents’ place —  two minutes away — to relax before heading home.

She recounted the story of my bad day to her folks, who were sympathetic and kept saying “poor man!”  Her mother had been incredibly helpful and generous — both of them have — and so I had sent a dozen pink roses that morning to her mom, who couldn’t get a smile off her face.  Herb brought me a small, restorative bourbon.

On the way back, we stopped at a grocery store we like, where I bought my Sugar Doodle a couple bottles of New Zealand sauvignon blanc, her favorite wine, and a steak for me.  We eat mostly fish and chicken, and she is dead-set about fitting into her wedding gown, but I needed a nice piece of dead cow, which helped me, after a couple martinis, to forget the worst day I’ve had in a while.


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