We're Moving Out!
by Ruby Bayan
"You're joking, right?"
"No. The company has given me a new assignment. And we have to move. To Orlando. We have a week to find a place and pull out."
"What?!" I couldn't begin to tell Mike that I had very recently finished unpacking the luggage I transported from across the oceans -- to move in to his new apartment in Jacksonville. I had just put up the picture frames and an origami mobile in the living room. We had just bought a new couch and a set of lounging chairs! And we're moving everything? To another apartment, three hours away?! He was serious.
A To-Do List
"Okay, so, how is it done here in the USA?" I asked, trying to snap out of the shock. In the Philippines, we'd simply tell our friends we're moving, one would know someone who knows a vacant apartment, one would offer to lend his pick-up truck, the rest would volunteer to haul, and we'd all have a barbecue afterwards. I found out Mike didn't have friends who knew vacant apartments, would lend him a truck, help with the move, and be available for a barbecue. We had to do things differently. This was America: do-it-yourself land.
"We'll have to take care of everything ourselves. Let's draw up a list of things to do -- we have to have a plan." Mike tried to sound organized. I tried to keep my composure. Finally, this was our action plan:
- Ask the Manager of the apartment complex we were staying in if they have affiliates in Orlando -- that way we can get a reference and maybe the new place won't require an application fee.
- Go to Orlando to look at apartments. Get a map.
- Check the Yellow Pages for moving services or truck rentals -- U-Haul, Ryder, Penske? Do-it-yourself should be most cost effective.
- Call the utilities (electricity, water, phone, cable, newspaper delivery) to advise them that we're pulling out in a week.
- Ask Mike's office if they have used boxes to pack our stuff in. We need plastic bags, packing tape, and marker pens.
- Fill out a forwarding address form at the Post Office.
- Make another list -- the packing strategy and procedure. Nothing should be packed too heavy to lift. Pack fragile items appropriately. Stay calm.
- Move out on Saturday.
Fortunately, there were affiliate apartment complexes in Orlando. That narrowed our apartment hunting to just two places. One was cheap but it was in a crowded community an hour's drive from Mike's area of responsibility. So, we signed up with the more expensive one, a gated complex next to Universal Studios -- semi-furnished, with washer and dryer, and a patio.
I spent the next three days packing, while Mike closed our accounts with the utilities. My quick inventory showed that we could rent a 10-foot truck, load that with the mattress, furniture, and boxes of clothes, while the two TVs, VCR, microwave, and other loose items can sit in our minivan for a second trip. We should be able to move everything, by ourselves, from Jacksonville to Orlando, in less than 10 hours. Or so we thought.
"Houston, we have a problem!" Mike went to pick up a U-Haul rental but not one was available that Saturday morning! We hadn't made reservations. I learned a crucial lesson that instant: in America, you have to make reservations -- not just for dinner, tickets, accommodations, and purchases, but also for rental trucks.
But we couldn't postpone the move -- we were all packed, our utilities were being disconnected, and Mike was supposed to start work at Orlando that Monday. So, we panicked.
We drove to the nearest public phone (our line had been cut), and frantically called every other mover service on the phone book. Sweltering for more than an hour under the Florida heat, we finally found a truck, available at noon, for almost double our rental budget. We had to take it -- price to pay for not making reservations.
And since Mike and I were totally convinced that we were healthy and able enough to move all our stuff by ourselves, we didn't bother anyone else. Maybe we should have. Because for the month of August, it was terribly hot, even for Florida -- an abominable day to have to load a 8-foot, 250-lb couch from a second floor apartment onto a tall truck. It took us two hours to fill the truck and the minivan. We couldn't move fast because of the heat. Why didn't the company decide to relocate us during the cooler months? At least it wasn't raining.
During the three-hour drive to Orlando, I tried to keep my adrenaline high for the job still ahead. I was relieved to unload our stuff into a first floor unit -- I would've died if we had to carry that couch up a flight of stairs! But still, it took us more than an hour to unload -- we were running out of steam. And we had to drive back to Jacksonville to return the truck and get our van. Six or so more hours before we can call it a day.
A little after midnight, Mike lugged the last carton into the bedroom. He clapped his hands in jubilation, "We made it!" I lay on the couch -- my arms numb, my legs refusing to obey my brain. I was certain I had lost more than 10 pounds that day.
Yet somehow, I felt a quaint sense of achievement -- I was starting to grasp the do-it-yourself perspective of the highly individualized American way of life.
Sharing my fatigue and debilitation, Mike made a last ditch effort to cheer us up, "Hey, look at the bright side, we're right next to Disney World!"
I mumbled, half comatose, "Let's not do this too often, okay? And you owe me a barbecue."
[First published at New2USA.com, 2000]