I helped a friend and his wife load their stuff into a big U-Haul some days ago. They were moving to southern California. Some people think a move from this part of the world to that part is sort of like trading a gentle scalp massage for a whack on the head with a garden rake. That’s a bit of an exaggeration. A small shovel would be more like it.
The good news is that the loading of the furniture, appliances, clothing etc. went really well the other day. Nothing got broken, scuffed, soiled, defaced, warped, squashed or wrinkled. Nobody either. It was a smooth move — up to that point anyway.
Sure, there may be a world of horrors awaiting that couple when they finally roll that U-Haul door open again a thousand miles from now. But by then, I’m not responsible. Like they say in the TV transmission business: “Everything looked fine when it left this end.” They also say that in the meat-grinding business.
Everyday in this country, there must be hundreds and hundreds of such moves — where good friends are helped by better friends to load or unload their worldly goods. It can also be one of the most harrowing tests of any friendship. After all, I read a statistic one time that moving is one of the most stressful of life experiences — right behind divorce, losing a job and getting a bikini wax. And the same holds true for women.
As I watched my friends pull out of the driveway and head off on their “Adventure in Moving,” I heard a mournful cat-like wail coming from the cab. The reason the wail sounded cat-like is because it was coming from a cat — theirs — wailing at the top of its lungs from within its carrier: “ME-OW! ME-OW! ME-OW!” In cat language that translates to: “Let ME-OUT! Let ME-OUT! Let ME-OUT!” The cat’s owners figured the feline would quiet down by the time they reached Redding.
Since I have helped dozens of friends move over the years — and been the recipient of such kindness on other occasions — let me pass along a few basic, hard-learned tips:
1) Sometimes, people wishing to cajole their friends into helping them move will say: “We’ll supply plenty of beer.” Big mistake. The last thing you need is a staggering, beer-soaked guy trying to carry a box of your best crystal up a wobbly moving van ramp. In other words, the beer shouldn’t be offered at the starting gate. Save it for the finish line.
2) If you are helping friends move, never — ever — make a negative comment about any of their possessions. You will only hurt their feelings. No matter what you may privately think, say only nice things out loud: “A bean-bag chair like this never goes out of style, Bert.” Or, “I can’t believe this isn’t an actual Red Skelton clown painting — it looks that good.” And, “This sure a nice shrunken head collection, Carl.”
3) After an object has been placed into the moving van, NEVER say: “Well, that baby (object) isn’t going anywhere (is securely in place).” That remark is a guarantee that not only WILL that baby go somewhere — but it will probably fall over and break three other babies as soon as the van pulls out.
4) Put the things you will want to get at FIRST (upon arrival at the final destination) into the van LAST. In other words: your TV set, telephones, dishware and clean underwear.
As for those friends heading to California, I got a call yesterday. They’ve been traveling for three days. They’re doing just fine, but frankly aren’t making very good time. They called from just outside of Vancouver. British Columbia. They’d had the map upside-down.
At their current pace, they figure to make their destination sometime in mid-August.
And that cat will need a throat lozenge in the worst way.
Pat Cashman is a writer, actor and public speaker.