Fortunately there wasn't much traffic back to our place from La Guardia, and I made it to the apartment in good time. The movers were scheduled to show up at 11:30 a.m. When I originally booked them I had thought this was perhaps too late, but now I was glad. I still needed to do a bunch of things in the apartment before they got there. For now, though, I had to get the truck.
U-Haul is on 4th Avenue in Brooklyn, an extremely busy road, six lanes wide. The plan was to get the truck, leave the car, load the truck, come back, get the dolly hooked up, somehow, and then load the car into it. Then drive to New Jersey to Mike's place, pick him up, and then, at last, finally, start driving to Kentucky with all our stuff. Easy right?
U-Haul was as unfriendly as ever. It was one of those businesses that no matter what you did, no matter when you came in, no matter what you needed, the people behind the counter always acted like you were putting them out. And there was always a line.
I got in the line without thinking about it, almost by reflex. There were two dudes in front of me who were just talking a lot, and they looked in no hurry. Great, I had about two hours, and needed to get things going.
"Oh you can go," one of them said. Huh? They didn't work there, that was for sure, so why were they just hanging around chatting? No idea. Whatever.
At the desk I took out my reservation, and when the woman finally got back from her break, which naturally took a few minutes, I handed it to her. She looked it over semi-skeptically and then had me go through a long, long sign in process via a keypad in front of me. I put it all on my credit card, signed the various waivers that needed to be signed, paid for the insurance, the whole deal. This took about ten minutes. From there I was given a blue receipt in a paper sleeve, and told to go to dispatch. I thanked her, and walked outside.
I wasn't exactly sure where dispatch was, and didn't see anyone around. Still, I was in a hurry and needed to get my truck right away. So I walked to the first employee I saw, and asked if I was in the right place for dispatch.
The employee was a youngish guy in his mid-20s. He gave me one of those looks like "don't piss me off" and told me that he was dispatch and he would get to me when he could get to me. Go wait by the sign. This was the stuff that I could never just explain away to Randi. Why was is that in New York people were often rude for no real reason? I never had an answer other than it's just part of the deal. Politeness is great, but not mandatory in the city, and it's just another one of the costs of doing business. I guess you could say in New York we see friendliness as a privilege, not a right?
Randi, despite living in the New York area for over a decade, never could understand this, and never wanted to. I couldn't blame her, and I could never explain it to her satisfaction. Because, honestly, it's not that we're always in a rush.
I waited by the sign (the one that said "dispatch" on it, of course) for about five minutes while a truly enormous truck drove out of the parking lot. The driver behind the wheel was a really goofy, yet confident, looking white guy with a backwards baseball cap. The dispatcher looked highly dubious as he went over the various instructions this guy would need in order to not cause a major disaster. The size of the truck scared me. Would I have to command such a beast?
Finally it was my turn. I contritely explained that I had my receipt and needed my vehicle. I was told, once again, to wait as a large truck -- thankfully not quite as large as the one I just saw -- was wheeled in front of me. After a brief visual inspection by the dispatcher I climbed into the elevated cabin feeling either like BJ or The Bear, I remain unsure which.
The first thing I did behind the wheel is pull the seat up. This is a constant in my life. Whenever someone else drives my car they push the seat back, it doesn't matter the situation. It can be a team of dwarf Mexican wrestlers (and, yes, this happens all the time) they always lean the seat way back. I have brought my car to garages where the guys were no taller than me, I just knew it. But apparently I am the short one, because whenever I get back in the driver's seat it looks like somebody just got laid in there. I have to pull it way forward, and tilt the back of the chair way up. I must have really short legs and enjoy sitting at an acute angle as I drive.
With the dispatcher now on the running board he proceeded to give me the once through about how to operate the truck.
"These are your lights," he said, as he pulled out a knob. "This is your AC," he said as he blasted the air conditioner, at least that worked, " and "this is your radio." Honest to Jesus, I have rented trucks multiple times in my life, they always make sure to tell me how to work the radio.
"Now this is a big boy so you're going to want to leave a lot of room when you break and when you turn," he said. Got it. I was suitably nervous about the whole enterprise, I didn't think speeding and tailgating were going to be my problems. Then he handed me the keys and I slowly crept out of the U-Haul parking lot onto the street. As I did so I drove by the small army of Latino day laborers who loitered right next to the "no loitering" sign, as they all wondered whether I needed some help moving? I waved, meaning I don't know what, and drove carefully on.
I drove slowly, very slowly as I got used to the size of the truck. Actually, it didn't handle too badly, and the breaks worked well, thank god. Still, it was bare bones. It had the radio, the AC, a couple of drink holders, some kind of massive plastic pit in the center console and that was it. I put the blue receipt in the pit as I watched for traffic.
I made it back to our apartment without too much other ado, and even found a spot on our side of the street close to our door, a lucky break.
Then I locked up the truck and went back inside to the apartment. The movers were to come relatively soon now, and I wanted to double check and make sure everything was set up. There never is enough time, it seems, to lock everything down before they get there. Unless you're really, really organized.
The first order of business? The cats, of course. I filled a Tupperware container with litter and duct taped it down in the back of the travel kennel. Then I did the same with their food bowl saving their water for later. (Here's a nifty trick I learned from David: freeze the water the night before so it doesn't slosh around so much.)
Then I walked through the apartment, trying to put everything I had heretofore forgotten into yet another in an endless series of black plastic bags. Our apartment was practically lined with them. I also took apart our long, black kitchen table and carefully placed all the bolts and various other small metal parts in ziploc bags and put those in our tool chest. I may not be the most organized person in the world but I know how to compensate for this. I wrapped the legs of the table in bubble wrap. I then put some of our paintings in black plastic garbage bags too, which may not be ideal, but it's how we've moved with them now two other times, and they always seem to do okay.
Being so busy kept me from ruminating over the larger issues that would otherwise occupy my mind: that I would miss it here, that I would miss my old life, my friends, my family, the city in summer, the city in autumn, the free summer concerts (Public Enemy's playing a free show on August 15 in Central Park!), the things I never got to do, the beach. I knew that if I lingered too long over these feelings I would feel saddened for all the ways that New York remained the only place I could ever have a chance of doing some of the things, professionally, that I had long aspired to. I still dreamed that somehow, someday, I might find a way to get a package to someone at a comedy show, have them actually read it, and like it. Then I could write for them, this had been the long-time, hardcore, serious dream. It had never happened, and I had sent out various packages, and bothered what few contacts I had in that world on many different occasions. But the hope never dies, and that is sometimes the problem.
Still, thankfully, I didn't have time for such reminiscences just then. It was time for action, not self-defeating, and depressing, reflection. Thank the lord.
Soon it was 11:00 a.m., time to herd up the cats, literally. They always know when something's up, so I looked upon this with some annoyance. I grabbed our black cat Cromwell first. He was fairly passive until we got within two feet of the carrier and then he started to fight me. Still, it was nice having such a large door to shove him through, and that is exactly what I did.
Now our other cat, a black and white guy named Talisker, would know what's up. They always alert one another somehow. He was, as suspected, under our bed, a relatively easy find, given the hundreds of places he could have hid, especially with the apartment in such disarray. He fought a little more, which is slightly ironic, as he's usually such a purr machine. All the same, I shoved him too into the carrier. Then I somehow managed to put in their water dish and tape it down without their escaping. Right away they started to meow like a jukebox that does nothing except play meowing songs, and they stayed that way for the next two days.
Soon it was tie for the actual movers to show up. And, at noon two of them did, already a half hour late. The other two? Not so much.
Tomorrow: Moving, and driving. I swear!