Out of Something, Nothing: My Summer as a Professional Mover, part III

III.

My first move, with all of its horrifying racist ignorance and the homeowner’s unusually large collection of appliances, ranked relatively low on the ladder of weirdness. It was definitely weird, but all things considered, it was a pretty average day for a mover.

The most commonly weird thing I encountered as a mover was a gross house. I have firsthand knowledge and experience

  • …going to a fancy neighborhood to move the huge house of a neurosurgeon and a pediatrician. It had never been cleaned. Not once. It wasn’t just messy but a completely unhealthy dump. There was random trash everywhere, animal waste and perishable food under every piece of furniture and grimy bottles of old makeup spilled in every room, to say nothing of the piles of newspaper, stained carpets, and dirty towels that clogged the entirety of the house.
  • …lifting a couch and seeing that my face was six inches away from an entire side of greasy streaks and crunchy brown objects. “Looks like you got the booger side!” the homeowner laughed.
  • …moving the unburned portion of a house that had been damaged by fire and seeing that there were guns and piles of unknown pills laying around every usable room. One mover’s claim that he stole a guns remains thankfully unverified.
  • …going to a house so full of old diapers and insects that the move was cancelled. The boss was called by coworkers, who explained that they didn’t give a fuck’ but they weren’t fuckin’ going in that fuckin’ house.

But your days didn’t have to be unsanitary or totally racist to be weird. Sometimes the days were unusual in the best way possible.

Imagine you are moving a big box up some stairs, muscles straining, a manly pack of cigarettes evident in your shirt pocket. At the top of the stairs is the beautiful homeowner, clad in lingerie, looking at you with undisguised desire.

If movers are to be believed, seduction by homeowner is par for the course. Everyone I worked with had a story about this happening on the job. But nothing about these claims struck me as true, especially since everyone basically had the same story. It felt like an urban legend, but maybe something about men lifting stuff really induced random sex.

I asked one pretty levelheaded guy about it, imagining he’d laugh with me about the ubiquity of the story:

“A lot of guys have been saying that seduction on the job is pretty common. Has this ever really happened?”

“Yeah, it’s definitely happened: they were probably talking about me.”

His response confirmed that this almost never happens, if it ever happened at all.

Sometimes the weirdness quotient was fulfilled by the amount of work a move required. One day a crew was sent to move a law office from one building to another. There was the usual amount of desks and file cabinets and equipment associated with an office, but there were also at least two thousand boxes of documents. Every one of their files had to be moved. As any mover will tell you, moving boxes is the worst. It’s not that they are universally heavy (except boxes of books, which are really heavy) but that are they usually come in such great amount that the tedium of moving them would gladly be exchanged for the challenge of moving a few really heavy things. A normal house move would have at most fifty to seventy-five boxes, and moving even that many takes a surprisingly long time. Moving two thousand boxes meant that the movers were there until 2:30am. They were all scheduled to work the next day at 8.

One move started at a fairly small house. The living room had floor to ceiling bookshelves that, while claustrophobia-inducing and heavy, weren’t unusual or too troublesome. There was some heavy wooden furniture upstairs, which had to be dismantled to move down the narrow staircase. OK, a huge pain but still not that unusual. Then the homeowner took us down to the basement. With a glint in his eye and no small amount of pride in his voice, he showed us his antique computer collection.

Our professional demeanor prevented us from yelling “oh FUCK!” like we wanted to. Everything – everything – in an old NASA reel or an old submarine was present in his basement. He had enormous old monitors, CPUs, radars, cooling units, circuit boards lining his basement walls, all of which were in nuclear-proof housing. The metal shelves that held some of his collection were from an industrial storage building on an Air Force base and proved to be insanely heavy in their own right. The majority of the pieces, however, were not on the shelves but placed around the basement, in front of or on top of things that we had to move to access to other things. In short, it was a tiny house with a tiny basement with a tiny stairwell, filled with bulky, sharped-edged machines that weighed hundreds of pounds each. Laughing, he said that his wife and kids were always telling him to get rid of it. Why don’t you start right now? I wanted to ask. But he wanted to keep it – “I’ll get it all working someday” – so we had to move it. It was already almost dark when we finished loading the truck. We still had to unload everything but fortunately his museum could be offloaded right through the garage into the basement of the new place.

Unloading a truck is a million times easier and faster than loading it, and we took care of business as quickly as possible. This was the job that awarded me a crisp $100 tip. I also had the chance to drink a cold beer with the homeowners, but not knowing if my coworker/crew leader would approve (it was prohibited to drink on the job), I had to decline.

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