"There's a bit of magic in everything, and some loss to even things out." -Lou Reed

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Arrivals and Departures

I feel as though I have been on so many journeys in the past few years. The journey to find myself again and stand on my own two feet. The journey in meeting and dating my future husband, and then getting married, something I had given up on happening. Then, the journey into marriage, with all its beauty, pitfalls, daily struggles, and happy surprises. Those were more journeys in hindsight…I can look back and see I was on a path, on a journey. But heading into each of those periods in my life, it seemed just like the next day or week, not necessarily life changing events or plans.
However, as we headed into our move to California, I knew ahead of time that this was going to be a journey. This was an undertaking of big plans, unknown next steps, and plenty of risk. I defined this journey with a mix of hope, excitement, and trepidation. My husband felt the same way, with a lot more fear mixed in for him, as he set out to a place he had never been and knowing only one other person in our destination city. He is changing careers, and is still in transition as to what he wants to do. The level of uncertainty for him is daunting, I know.
But, I had been down this road before, and with such amazing results. I have been so positive about the whole process in spite of some initial setbacks in our plans. Little did I know, those setbacks were just the beginning.
As we scrambled to leave our home in South Carolina on an aggressive time schedule we had created in the hopes of saving money, little things started happening. An unexpected bill would pop up, eating away at our already tight funds saved for the move. After several moving companies couldn’t meet our tight deadline, we realized we hadn’t budgeted enough for the movers and had to pull more money from one budget to another.
My work schedule suddenly got crazy, with me hosting live web events for a client that required me to be a in a quiet environment with dependable internet. We both felt it was too uncertain to plan to host the events from the road, so we delayed our departure a few days. I had to be in California by a certain date to leave for an event I was contracted to manage. The timetable got more squeezed and the plans for driving only 8 hours a day were out the window. We knew we were looking at long days on the road to make up for lost time.
We got through packing our belongings, but it was stressful and our tempers were short. I was worried about so many things, my husband was understandably scared. It was becoming so real so fast. We were also leaving family members behind that had only been a ten minute drive away, and now would be a whole country apart from us. We both cried as we wrapped our things in newsprint.
Finally, thankfully, the movers arrived. We had both slept about two hours the night before, and were just relieved that the day was here. The relief was short lived. Once the truck was loaded completely, the back door closed and locked, the driver walked over to my husband and doubled the amount we owed for the move. I was at the vet with our cats, getting them shots required for air travel, as my husband feverishly texted me in a panic. We were stuck. We had a deadline to be in California, the movers were demanding more money on the spot. Somehow, Shea was able to diffuse the initial situation. We could not give them any more money at that moment. We would have to somehow figure out the rest. Our hope was that we could speak with the initial contact from the movers about the amount. Either way, they had our stuff, and weren’t releasing it without more money. We had to leave the next day to head out on the road for our own drive across the country.
Once we finally got on the road, we were so exhausted that the progress we were making was not enough to get us to the west coast on time. In the following days, we spent 12 or more hours driving each day, calling the movers from hotels across the country, trying to find some middle ground. What we found was that we were dealing with crooks. I have read stories like this before about the nightmare situations people have found themselves in with moving companies that are corrupt. Realizing we were right in the middle of that nightmare was honestly terrifying. They had all of our possessions, and were basically now holding them for ransom. Our already tight budget was impossibly stretched.
Two days after we arrived in our new home, paid our first month’s rent, and inflated the air mattress, I had to leave. I was headed to Las Vegas for work for a week, leaving my stressed husband behind to face a new city, a new life, and corrupt movers alone. The weight I felt leaving him was unbearable. But we had no choice.
Then, on the third night of working in Las Vegas, while holding a microphone and making an announcement to a crowd of 300+ people, I misstepped and tumbled down a small flight of steps. Marble steps. Immediately after falling, I felt the impact of what had just happened. I hurt everywhere. I was almost certain I had broken my wrist. It turned out I was just severely bruised and sprained and my knees and wrists were swollen, but I was OK. Thankfully, I didn’t hit my head or break anything. I was panicked, though, worried the pain would be too much for me to keep working. And I HAD to keep working. With our finances already so strained, I couldn’t afford to leave halfway through and risk the loss of the post-show payments.
I can’t remember the last time I have dealt with so much pain. Anyone who has worked in event management knows that events like this are 18 hour days of non-stop walking, working, being on your feet. That in itself is painful and hard on your body, but add in a very recent fall and bruises and sprains and it is nearly crippling. I honestly didn’t know I had it in me to power through that pain and stress. But I did. I didn’t have a choice.
I arrived back home, limping and exhausted after a week away, and we were still in a battle with the movers. To make a long story short, we ended up getting help from a friend to piece together the moving payment we needed ASAP and meeting a ridiculous ransom deadline. Our things arrived yesterday, finally. And in one final note of the move from hell…our mattresses were not on the truck. We had two mattresses- the king one for our bed, and the queen one for the guest bed- both gone. Poof. When I questioned our delivery person, he let us know that we couldn’t file a claim because neither mattress was listed in the inventory (of course). We were billed for two mattress boxes and that showed on our invoice, but it was no matter. They were gone and we were screwed.
Honestly, at that point, we were so exhausted, it almost didn’t matter. Except that all we had been thinking about for several days was being able to sleep in our bed again. Sleeping on an air mattress is fine for a night or two, but a few weeks is pushing it.
I made notes about our missing items on everything I signed, and the truck drove away. (Not before I slipped inside and searched the entire truck for anything else that was ours while the movers were inside our house).
We tried to call our contact with the company who had been just horrible previously, and who also (conveniently) doesn’t have voicemail. He ignored our calls, and I am sure we will never hear from him again.
I will be filing all kinds of complaints in every place possible about this moving company, I just wanted to wait until we had our things. Now that we have (most of) our possessions, I am on it. But, I feel like we have been robbed, violated, and just taken advantage of. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone—except the same people who put us through it.
Worst of all, I began to wonder if we had made a mistake. When I moved out to California in 1998, everything popped into place. My finances were so tight, but everything just clicked. Every time something else worked out, I took it as a sign that I was making the right decision. This time, so many years later, I felt like I had launched us into some nightmare episode of the Twilight Zone. I became afraid to look to the next day, when every single thing seemed to be going wrong.
It’s amazing the difference a day can make. We both woke up this morning in such a better place. First, we have a dear friend who helped us—saved us—and we realize the luck and beauty in that. Having most of our belongings back has also helped immensely. I set up the den last night and turned on the TV (something that helped heal my husband very quickly), and we looked around and felt a little more at home. We LOVE where our new place is, we can walk to trails, the dog park, and the beautiful little downtown area here. I couldn’t have picked a better location.
I also woke up to several emails with some excellent consulting prospects that could happen so quickly and aid our finances so quickly. And I LOVE watching my husband search for jobs in a sea of opportunity, almost overwhelmed at all the directions he could take. In a few weeks, things will be so much better.
The best thing is that today we were able to laugh. The laughter we share is one of my favorite things about our marriage. In some of the toughest times, we have been able to step back and realize that we have what is important—each other. That doesn’t mean that we haven’t spent some days in the last few weeks very stressed and often sharing harsh words and tense moments. But, we have bounced back in the face of non-stop tension and are thankful we have the couch to sleep on instead of the ever-leaking air mattress.
Today, I was also able to relax, knowing that what has happened isn’t foreshadowing our future, it is just life. Right now, so many friends I know are going through so much. Several friends are facing illnesses that are so serious and painful, and watching their daily battles (and strength) humbles me. Other friends are going through their own financial struggles, looking for jobs, worrying about losing their homes. As a friend said to me today: life is just so hard sometimes. It is. Harder than it should be, and at times, so unbelievably unfair.
Tonight, at least, I am going to bed feeling that tomorrow is a new start, and that life is good. Not perfect, not easy, but good. This weekend, I will take my husband to see the Golden Gate Bridge, and help him begin to see all the beautiful things I love in this area. We will take Bear to a dog beach, we will walk around the city, we will discover new places, and of this I am quite sure…we will laugh.
More than ever, I am so thankful for that.


Eva Gallant May 3, 2012 at 3:29 PM  

Wow! What a rotten deal you got from the movers! I hope things get better from here on, and that all your aches and bruises heal!


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