The “Love, Recorded” Guide to Staying Sane (and Married) While Moving, in 25 Points.
1. I read somewhere that moving is as stressful as spousal death, divorce, unemployment. The Top Four Life Stressors. It could be a good band name. I have spent weeks in preparation for our move from Boston to Houston: finding a mover; researching new cars, and car loans; renting an apartment from afar; comparing insurance companies for health, car, apartment; scrounging up/borrowing money; choosing utility companies; stopping utility companies; making ends meet beginnings.
2. I have been watching a Korean drama in which a man time travels from the Joseon Dynasty to present day Seoul. This time travel saved his life. It is supposed to help him solve a murder, but it is also a big source of conflict. At first, a question in the drama is: will he adjust to his new life? Then it becomes: which is the life he is meant for?
3. I chose the movers based on the lowest estimate. Moving is a learning experience; the problem, perhaps, is that you don’t do it often enough for the lessons to really take. Also, the money is so large, saving a little becomes saving a thousand dollars. Yet by the time we get our furniture in Houston, 23 days will have passed. The movers will have fleeced us out of $1500 more than their (guaranteed) estimate. Much of our furniture will be damaged, much of the china–irreplaceable heirlooms, my father says–cracked.
4. The movers covered their scent on Google by naming themselves Cross Country Movers. If you search for cross country movers, you get plenty of options, very few of which are specific to this company. Still, if you know where to look, you can find a company’s true face. I didn’t know where to look. I trusted a voice that, as soon I put down the deposit, disappeared, supposedly on vacation, and then later, supposedly, quit.
5. As we pack, Cathreen and I almost kill each other. In the course of this move, I will be unemployed for a month. The Top Four Life Stressors, side 1, track 1: “Divorce or Spousal Death, What Is Next?” The Top Four Life Stressors, side 1, track 2. “Divorce or Spousal Death, Cause or Effect?”
6. We have to fly the cats with us on the plane. One cat for each of us. Then there’s the baby, to boot. The obvious solution: drug someone. It turns out you can’t drug your cats all the way to sleep anymore, though–the vets don’t look fondly on that. At multiple points during the move, I think, how nice moving might be if someone were to put you out for a while, and when you woke up, everything was done. There could be a company for this in the future. It would be like the company in Vanilla Sky, though: you would still be running from your real self and in danger from your dreams.
7. In the Korean drama, the male lead is a Joseon prince who time travels to a present with no money or servants. But after a few episodes, he becomes the heir to a home shopping network. Is that something like karma? It is the hardship, though, of course, that does him the most good. The transition is when he falls in love.
8. My brother, who has lived in Korea for the past year, returns for a month and helps us pack a few things. He has never seen Cathreen and me fight so much. He watches the baby, who is stressing out from our stress, and from the stress of new people, and from the stress of all of her things being boxed up. We have been told by the movers that our stuff will arrive in eight days, so we only plan for eight days of nothing to play with.
9. Try living for three weeks with a kid who believes everything she once had is now gone, and no matter how hard she tries she can’t get back home.
11. The movers come and act like movers. They negotiate by saying our things take up far more space than in the estimate. They try to charge us double. We have to negotiate down to a grand more than the guarantee, which feels like grabbing onto a rock in a black hole. They say seven to 10 days. They say the truck needs to be loaded with one more family’s things and then they will drive that truck to Texas.
12. Moving is putting one’s belief into a many great mysteries. And then paying for your misspent belief with misspent money.
13. We’ve come a long way since we were monkeys. But, hey, we’ve come a long way since we were monkeys.
14. Our apartment in Boston was sold a month before our move. Days before we leave, the new owner tries to charge us to fill up the oil tank for the next tenants. He is holding our security deposit. We have to threaten legal action. I have never thought more seriously that I should have become a lawyer. How nice to be able to threaten people directly and be taken seriously, rather than have to make up a lawyer friend. When we get to Houston, there is a bitchy email waiting. Yet add that one to the “win” column.
15. The cat Xanax the vet gives us doesn’t work in our test run, and we’ve waited until the last minute, of course, two days before our flight. We have to get the vet to change the meds, and then up the dosage again, which she does when she remembers our cats are the ones they had to hold down with the big leather gloves. At least we don’t have to drug the baby.
16. Houston is a dot outside the window and then we are a dot inside of it, like one of those trick shots in a movie where the camera seems to go through some third wall. Our relative place in the world is clearest when we don’t have the internet for a week and it is like we have ceased to exist. Like that is the way that moving puts you out–you go under by getting the worst of reality while the online dream passes you by. By the time the internet finally does get set up, we have to call a technician to come out and fix our wires, because the wrong ones are connected inside the wall. More misfires.
17. We must buy a car–the first new car I have ever owned. I get some advice from a friend’s brother who used to be a car salesman. He says they will try to shock you first with a super high payment, which will cause your brain to freeze up so that you come back at them with the max you can afford. I realize as he is talking what exactly the movers did to me. I think the problem is that we still allow things in this world that don’t have a clear price. A lot is wrong with the fact that some things cost more for certain people than for others.
18. We buy a car at the first place we step foot in, which we had meant to try as a test run. We see behind the curtain, but it doesn’t matter. I am clearly not cut out to get more from people than the least they are willing to give.
19. There they are: the adoptee feelings coming up again, as always in times of stress. Where is being adopted on that list of stressors? And where is it when it never ends, when you don’t eventually get your stuff back, or marry someone else, or go back to your single life?
20. In Houston, we swim every day. We eat out too much, since we have no kitchen things. The hidden hidden moving costs: stress-eating, sleeplessness, blame-gaming, childhood trauma.
21. Then we find cockroaches. “Nothing goes easy for you,” Cathreen says often throughout the move. When I was born, there was something wrong with my stars. Cockroaches, along with mice and flies, are the things my wife hates most in the world.
22. We contact the movers again and again, trying to figure out where our stuff is. 10 days pass, then 15, then 20. They often say someone will call us back, and no one does. This seems like an extremely childish way to make money. Money no see. Money no hear.
23. When I try to switch my driver’s license, the DMV says I need a proof of sale from the dealer, which we never got. I have to drive back and get it, then wait through another two-hour line first thing the next morning. The car has some tire pressure light on that needs to be fixed. I get back to the DMV and they say that the government can’t confirm my citizenship, even with my Naturalization form (I stupidly let my passport expire, not knowing how many times I would need it). Oh, there you are again, adoption. When I applied for financial aid, I had to prove my citizenship as well, since the government wouldn’t claim me. Things other citizens don’t have to deal with. I have to wait, says the DMV, until the State sends me a form that says I am indeed who I am, and then I have to wait in line again. My wife gets her license in the meantime, though all she has is a Korean license and she has to switch it over from Korea. How is it easier for her?
24. On the highway back from the DMV, we pass sign after sign for gun sales, where little proof of anything is required. “This is Texas,” is all I can say.
25. Eventually, the movers will arrive. They will charge us an extra $450 because they have arrived in a 18-wheeler, not the truck they said would come, and they can’t make the turn into our apartment complex. They have to put the stuff in a smaller truck, and then drive that truck in, and then take the stuff from that truck to our house. We ask my parents for advice, but the only thing we can do, it seems to most everyone, is to eat the money. A friend on Twitter says her brother had the same problem. He had to get his gun, and then call the police, at which point the movers caved. With our movers has come a small girl, who lets herself into our house and whom we have to watch with our daughter while her father brings our things in. We have to babysit for the people who kidnapped our things. This is America, where a big country is made small and even the small snags are big.