Monday, November 05, 2007

From the mouths of movers

Death, divorce and moving are said to be the three most stressful things in life.

Whoever came up with that list has obviously never met Denis. Denis was one of the men who helped me move into my new apartment last weekend. Thanks to Denis, moving day was far from stressful. In fact, it was downright entertaining.

I didn’t have high hopes at first. I’ve never had good luck with movers. So I decided to hire a moving company based on a recommendation from the place where my stuff had been sitting in storage for the past 15 months. The moving company said they’d meet me there with a truck and two men at 8:30 on Saturday morning.

I showed up on time and waited. Ten minutes went by. Fifteen minutes went by. Twenty minutes went by. The movers were nowhere in sight. I phoned the company to complain. The guy who answered the phone said one of the movers simply didn’t show up for work that morning and he was frantically trying to find someone else to fill in.

He warned that we might have to reschedule the move. The chances of finding a mover at the last minute on a Saturday morning were pretty slim. Movers tend to party hard, he explained. Finding a guy who wasn’t half baked might be impossible.

“There’s only one guy I can think of who could do it,” he said. “Let me try him and I’ll call you right back.”

He called back immediately.

“Denis is in. We’ll have a truck there in half an hour.”

Exactly 30 minutes later, the truck pulled up to the storage facility and two men jumped out. One was short, stocky and built like a miniature Atlas. The other was tall and thin with a salt-and-pepper ponytail curling out from under his baseball cap. The former was John. The latter was Denis.

Denis strode over to where I was standing, shook my hand and introduced himself. Within five minutes of meeting him, I knew his life story. He was born and raised in a town across the river from Quebec City, moved to Vancouver five years ago, rents a bachelor pad in Gastown for $400 a month, thinks people here are cold and unfriendly, smokes like a chimney, plays the lottery every week.

I took Denis and John up to my storage locker.

“This is everything in your apartment?” Denis asked, eying the boxes stacked to the ceiling. “This is peanuts!”

And so began two hours of running commentary on my stuff. Every time Denis passed me on his way to the truck, he felt compelled to critique my possessions.

On my futon couch: “Are you a student?”

On my beat-up coffee table: “You need to find a rich man.”

On my racing bike: “At least you have one nice thing.”

On my cross country skis: “You’re from back East, aren’t you?”

On my lack of stuff: “You’re not a complicated girl, are you?”

I couldn’t believe this guy was telling me everything I owned was crap. Didn’t this violate the boundaries of the mover-movee relationship?

“I’m not a student,” I told him. “I’m just poor.”

I thought this might make him feel bad about critiquing my stuff but it had the opposite effect. Denis now saw me as an ally. A fellow traveler. A coconspirator.

“You and me,” he said with a sympathetic nod. “We’re the working poor, eh.”

This set him off on a 10-minute rant about how tough it was to make a buck, how people like us had to work hard, how we’re just good people trying to make an honest living. I felt like I was listening to a Nickleback song.

Now it was my turn to feel bad. Clearly this man was a member of the working poor. Me? Not so much. But it was too late to take it back so I just went with it. The fact that I lived in New Brunswick and prefer Tim Hortons over Starbucks gave me instant street cred.

When they had finally loaded the contents of my apartment into the truck, I asked Denis if I could ride in the truck with them.

“I don’t own a car and it would cost a lot of money to take a cab, so . . .”

Denis insisted that I join them in the truck. On the drive to my apartment, Denis kept telling me how much I was going to hate my new neighbourhood.

“The people are so snobby,” he said. “They’ll never talk to you. They all have their noses up in the air. They think they’re better than you.”

I wasn’t sure how much longer I could keep the facade going. We were only a few blocks away from my new apartment, a lovely, oceanfront heritage building in Kitsilano. Wouldn’t Denis think it was strange for me to be moving in there? I liked that Denis thought of me as an equal. I didn’t want him to think I had lied about being a member of the working poor. So I made up another lie. I told him that my rent was $500 a month.

I’m not sure if he believed me. When he walked into my new place, he whistled under his breath.

“This is really nice,” he said. He explored the whole place, opening up the cabinets, looking into the closets, peeking into the bathroom.

And then he asked me if I wanted to go in on some lottery tickets with him.

It took Denis and John less than half an hour to cart all my stuff into my apartment. Just before they left, Denis gave me some final words of wisdom.

“You need to find a rich man.”

Who knew moving could be so much fun?

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