Archive for June, 2011

Leavin’ on a Jet Plane

June 25, 2011

For those of you who follow the Fountain and keep score, I am happy to report that Phase 3 will soon be accomplished. If you will recall, Phase 1 was moving out of the condo; Phase 2 was securing a renter, which we did recently; and Phase 3 is for this weary correspondent to leave Boston and fly to Seattle.

We are ecstatic, anxious and nervous. But we are optimistic.

My flight leaves Boston at oh-dark-hundred Thursday morning, July 7th, and arrives in the early afternoon Seattle time. We will be flying at an altitude of many thousands of feet, and hopefully we won’t have to fly through any volcanic dust or Japanese nuclear fall-out. When we reach the Puget Sound, the captain has assured me that we will throw out the special aircraft anchor and come to a halt in what is known as the Emerald City.

Once on the ground, I will move into the Foxconn Apartments, which will become my temporary base of operations while looking for work. The landlady, Ms Long Fang, warned me that to qualify for the low rent, I will be required to assemble Apple iPhones, but no more than 1,000 per shift. That is a relief. In photographs of the apartment building, it appeared that the windows on the upper floors were covered with nets, but I couldn’t tell why.

I have been working my list of old contacts in Seattle, but most of them seem to have moved into assisted living residences in Boca Raton. The other pool of candidates who could possibly help me find a job are former students from Western Washington University in Bellingham. There must be some of them working in the Seattle area — I didn’t flunk all of them…

After a lucky employer has hired me (Phase 4) and I am knocking off corporate socks, then my lovely, patient wife Michelle will be given the green light to quit her job, and join me in the Pacific Northwest, where we will make beautiful lattes together. That will be Phase 5, and while both of us wish that we could somehow skip a few phases, that might cause a minute tear in the fragile fabric of the universe.

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From A to B

June 8, 2011

I believe it was Dorothy Parker who leveled the devastating criticism at Katharine Hepburn’s acting, by saying that Ms Hepburn could only convey a range of emotions from A to B. Right now the only emotion I can convey is exhaustion, from the ordeal of preparing all our stuff for a  move from A to B. ‘A’ is Boston, and ‘B’ is Seattle.

Do I look tired? You tell me.

The nice people at pods.com accepted a contract to show up on Friday, June 3rd, dropping off a whopper of a moving pod, which they did. They were to return on Saturday, June 4th, to haul it away, which they did, and then to store it in the æther, like a computer’s memory. When we give the green light at some point in the future, the pod will be brought to our door in Seattle. Sounds good on paper.

One problem we had was that they could not give us ahead of time an estimated time of arrival. This was one of many weak links in our planning chain, since the movers had to be told when to come, so they could move our stuff from the condo into the aforesaid storage pod. The moving company wanted two days notice, so they wanted to know on Wednesday approximately when to come. The pod company said that they would inform me the day before the pod delivery; they did alert me, at 5:50 pm the day before.

Not very much notice. Plus, all they could tell us was that the pod should be on our doorstep between 9 am and noon.  Even the cable guy can do better than that.

The moving company told me that they would arrive on site between 11 am and 1 pm. OK, so again, this might work on paper, unless of course the pod came at the end of the range, and the movers came at the beginning. The luckless customer — that would be me, in case you’re not keeping score — would then have to pay $125/hour for movers to stand around. Movers, being of the stern and burly variety, don’t like to be challenged on issues like the right to collect lots of money to stand around.

This moving company, by the way, has an interesting slogan: “My grandfather moved your grandfather.” Sounds very folksy, doesn’t it?, like a very small company, very mom and pop, only in a father and son vein. But, turns out they are a huge firm, serving much of New England with dozens of branch offices. Sort of like being a fan of Mom’s Cookies, and imagining a maternal type in the kitchen, moving her grey strands of hair from her face with flour-smudged fingers, and then discovering that Mom’s Cookies are made in huge factories by a huge, global company with thousands of employees.

Anyway, back to our story. Ralph, the pod guy, arrived at about 10:35 am, and by miraculous luck, was able to maneuver the huge pod into place, since our tiny parking lot was empty of cars. The pod truck was one of those enormous flatbed trucks that towing companies use to move passenger vehicles the size of Rhode Island. You probably know vehicles like that — most of the stupidly big SUV’s on the road these days.

The pod-moving mechanism was like something we built out of Erector Sets when we were kids. Ralph could control the motorized rolling frame by adjusting the direction of all four of its wheels. He had a remote control device — possibly available from Radio Shack — around his waist, and he was able to surgically insert the pod into the parking space we had designated. This space officially belongs to one of our nice neighbors, but we ensured that he would suffer no inconvenience, since we told him to take our space while we parked on the street.

Ralph almost could not drive away, since a vital parking space on the street next to our lot’s entrance was needed for the huge pod truck to turn in the narrow street. He was lucky.

OK, so now we’ve got a box, measuring 8 feet wide by 8 feet high by 16 feet long. Is it big enough? We’ll find out.

As we said, the movers were due to arrive between 11 and 1, and as luck would have it, they came just as Ralph was finishing up. If you close your eyes and imagine a team of professional movers, you see guys who are as wide as they are tall, with shoulders as broad as an ox. What I saw was a skinny black guy with one of those wooly caps Jamaican men wear. This did not fit my idea of a mover, but let’s not stop there. Along with him was another guy, a little bigger, but still not exactly a rugby player or a Scottish athlete who throws the caber. These guys are going to move all our heavy boxes and furniture in less than three hours? Harrumph.

Our street is very narrow, and it’s very difficult for large vehicles to perform complex maneuvers like pulling into our lot, or turning around. The moving guys came in a large van, since they need to be able to not only fill a nearby pod, but to deliver a van full of stuff to a destination, depending on the job. So what to do with their van? It was too large to leave in the middle of the street, and there was not enough room to legally park it on the street. So they decided to park it in our little lot, close to the pod.

It turned out that the third guy, the one who had stayed with the van, was the only one who looked like a mover, thick with an expressionless face. Our crew got to work and it surprised us that so much stuff was moved so quickly. In about two hours they had finished with the heavy and hard to carry stuff, which left only a few things we had to wrap up ourselves, things like stereo components and speakers. The pod was mostly full, with just a few cubic yards of space left. I paid the movers, and then they left. Only it wasn’t easy for them.

There was one crucial parking space on the street, next to the entrance to our lot, which was needed to be vacant for the large vehicle to exit and turn onto the street. It was filled with a car, which had barged in while we had let our guard down. There was no way the big van could do that back-and-forth thing, gaining an inch here and a degree there; they needed that space. Then the team leader, the skinny one with the rasta hat, noticed a space between the phone pole and the roof of our building. If I moved my car, which blocked that potential exit route, the truck might fit out that way, and gain egress down the main road to freedom. They worked it and they worked it, only slightly denting the traffic light mounted on the phone pole. Surely no one will notice…

Later that evening, we received word at about 6 pm again, that the pod guy would return the next day between 1:30 and 4:30 pm. That was good, since it gave us some assurance that we could get a little sleep, and finish our moving before the pod would be taken. It worked like a charm. The pod guy, this time it was Brad, called to let us know he would be there at 1:30, or even a tad early. Brad was a cheerful, likable guy, and he handled the pod mechanisms like a champ. Again, we had some luck regarding other cars and necessary spaces for a large vehicle to maneuver.

We had hoped that no cars would be in vital spaces, those which would block the works, and we were able to park our cars to save them; we would move them just in time to allow the big truck to get out. The only problem was one car, and while Brad and I contemplated our next move, a local businessman, a guy we call the Mattress King, unknowingly saved us. One or two doors away from our building is a tiny store which used to house a shop catering to ladies who wore naughty garments. I will not go into details, but the blush-inducing sign of the former business remains, so if you care to drive by you can see for yourself. The guy who bought the space, a little Hispanic gentleman, keeps about five or six mattresses in his shop, and he sells them to local customers.

So while Brad and I wondered what to do, the Mattress King walked over, as if to watch the Pod Show, but sauntered past, got in his car, and drove away. We high-fived, and I assumed an aggressive posture to prevent would-be intruders from parking a car there. Sure enough, moments later some fellow pulled up, triumphant in that urban challenge of finding a parking space, but he was no match for my steely will. I crossed my beefy forearms in an ‘X’ and shook my head, pointing to the huge truck getting ready to pull out of our little lot. He gave up and pulled by. Soon, Brad and our locked pod were on their way, and our condo was as empty and bereft of human influence as the day it was born.

Phase One was complete, and now we could start Phase Two, finding a renter.