Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Moving Experience

In both July and September, I helped friends move their earthly belongings, huffing and puffing large pieces of furniture from old homes to new ones. As I was assisting the transfer of an antique two-thousand pound television set from a third-floor apartment to a U-Haul truck, it struck me that the act of moving from one place to another is one of the last communal events where friends are relied upon to gather and lend a hand. It’s a form of barn-raising which has all but vanished in our urban setting.

Moving people fosters trust and new friendships—or at least that’s been my experience. When you’re on the bottom end of a refrigerator going down a flight of stairs and the guy at the top end is someone you met fifteen minutes ago, a sense of immediate trust is necessary. One stumble by the new guy and you’re apple sauce. You’re thankful when that doesn’t happen; the shared labor and sense of accomplishment—that was one heavy mother, and you congratulate each other for a job well-done—create instant kinship.  You start talking, you relate because you’ve just done a manly thing together without injury, and that’s worth celebrating! As the day progresses, you discover that the new guy and the new guy’s wife are OK people. You have things in common with them aside from the sweat and bruises. You listen to the same music, have read the same books, and remember a concert you all saw though not together.

Moving has important traditions involved.

The movee must provide a truck, unless the friends have a collection of pick-ups, vans and Toyotas with empty trunks. It’s assumed that the movee has already done a lot of work by him/herself.  It’s considered bad form to have to move boxes of books, clothing or shoes. We gather to handle heavy items: sofas and broken Lazy Boy chairs, curved Art Deco dressers made of impenetrable wood, bookshelves from a century ago and mattresses and box springs and disassembled beds made of thick and solid metals.

Gender differences are not necessarily celebrated. I have seen tiny women lifting dining room tables and strong men carrying embroidered pillows. I have never, though, seen a woman moving a piano single-handedly.  

And then there’s the food. Several years I went to a catered move. The movees had gone to a local deli and ordered a feast of cold cuts, cheeses, breads and pickled vegetables. It was all wrong. Moving calls for pizza.  It is de rigeur, as are bottled waters, cheap sodas, and beer if drinkers are involved. Drugs are not recommended for obvious reasons.

All told, moving can be a memorable experience for all involved.  We should do it more often.

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