This is the story of our summer 2017 military move. It is a pretty typical military moving story, mixed with highs, lows, and a few jags of ugly crying. While this is an accurate accounting of a sometimes frustrating experience, it is written from a place of commiseration and not a place of anger. “Cheers!” to the friends, neighbors, packers, and local transportation people who provided the high points of this experience.
Friday Zero: The Prologue
On a sunny Friday afternoon in Coastal Georgia, I sit and wait for my movers to come for the pre-move inspection they called two weeks ago to schedule. When the movers don’t show up, I call their customer service number, mildly annoyed that I have taken the afternoon off work and they didn’t make their appointment window. The nice lady I speak with informs me that they dropped the appointment because I cancelled our move. I am usually pretty calm when unexpected news comes my way, but not today. Between heaving uncontrollable sobs, I tell her I did not cancel our move and I ask her if she has any other information about the cancellation I can write down. I calm down just enough to contact the move manager and find we’ve been assigned to a different mover. No big deal, the move manager tells me. I beg to differ. Thinking, however briefly, that I was thrown back to square one of trying to sort out a military move with a deployed husband during peak moving season is a pretty big deal to me.
It has been a busy week at work. I had planned to sit down with a margarita and a bag of lime popcorn to celebrate a productive work week and a complete pre-move inspection. Instead, I frantically chat with a friend on the phone about what just went down. Then I sit on the porch to share a glass of wine and commiserate with another friend about all the crazy moving stories going around the neighborhood this move season. I hope that maybe I just got the “craziest thing” out of the way early in the move process.
I decide to start a blog post about this move. I consider this emotional Friday a prologue to a much more positive story, and envision calling the post something like, “The Five Fridays of My Military Move.”
Friday 1: Payday
Direct deposit amount is way off. Like, below basic pay off. The possibilities are endless. Deployment pay disappeared? Double dipped rent? I decide that this is something my husband can handle from afar. I also decide to channel my frustrated “why can’t people just get their sh*t together” energy into packing collectibles into their original boxes in anticipation of the move. Then, I worry that the people who can’t get their sh*t together may be us, and I wonder if there is unfinished paperwork out there somewhere that caused this. I create a color coded moving calendar and make a few calls. I discover that we do have our sh*t together, our move manager thinks I need to be more patient, and our local transportation office representative is funny and kind.
Friday 2: iPads and Hand Sanitizer
I spend the week not worried at all about moving because it is an insanely busy week at the high school. My co-librarian and our fearless library staff spend our week checking in, processing, and organizing the thousand-and-some iPads our students were assigned this school year as part of our district’s 1:1 technology program. I use tons of hand sanitizer (these iPads are grungy!), and then get home Friday afternoon and make my son clean all his electronics. I decide I’d better do something in aid of move preparation, so I take down my curtains and take the pictures off the walls.
Friday 3: The Fourteen Hour Work Day
Graduation on a Friday night makes for a long and emotional workday. I get home and briefly consider using some of our weekend to organize or pre-pack more stuff. Instead, I decide it will be a much better use of our time to take advantage of our close proximity (for now) to awesome friends and we hit the road to hang out with them. I am certain the move manager is thrilled I chose not to check in with him today.
Friday 4: Journey North, First Trip
The Vagabond Teen, our two cats, and I hit the road early. I have invested a few hundred dollars in equipment that I hope will keep the cats happy for the two day car trip north. It sort of works. I am grateful beyond reason that my Vagabond Teen is a calm and easygoing person who does not seem to mind cleaning up cat vomit.
Friday 5: Pack It Up
I’m back in Coastal Georgia after leaving the Vagabond Teen and the cats with longtime friends in Northern New York, and I am having the best packing experience. Ever. Three ladies show up, walk around, and begin to work with a precision and professionalism that I have never seen in a packing crew. When the lead packer tells me they’d like to get the job finished in one day, I am skeptical and ask if she has looked in the kitchen cabinets yet. She says she has, and that they can do it. It is beautiful. They seem to care about my stuff. They move at a steady pace that is awe inspiring.
Sabrina, Caroline, and Delores do our three-day pack out in one day. Thanks to them, I have two bonus days on my color coded moving calendar! Instead of supervising packers for those two bonus days, I spend one day cleaning (with the help of my awesome friend who has come to assist with such things), and one day roaming around Savannah (also with the help of my awesome friend who has come to assist with such things).
Friday 6: Journey North, Second Trip
I rock the housing “final out” inspection, and am on the road in record time. I’m thankful to the neighbors on either side of me who are willing to take my last few bags of trash and the bucket of fish tank gravel that won’t fit anywhere in my overloaded pickup truck. I am beyond jazzed when I find that Sirius has a Tom Petty channel, and I only take a break from belting out Tom Petty songs to fret about the low tire pressure light that comes on about a hundred miles from my destination. I stop at every opportunity to check the tires, which seem fine. I use my mad library skills to find reliable information online about low tire pressure sensors and decide to just keep moving forward, stopping as often as I can, and believing that the sensor probably just got bumped while I was on the patches of I-77 that are rough and under construction. I get to my hotel three hours later than anticipated, but with all four tires full of air, a breathtaking view of the mountains, and a decent movie playing on HBO. Score!
Friday 7: The Unpack, First Load
I unpack, trying not to dwell on the fact that the driver showed up with our stuff a day after he was scheduled to come, without checking in with me, the moving company, or transportation to let anyone know what was going on. I try to focus on how great it is to be back in familiar territory, with wonderful friends and neighbors. I decide to relax, get my list together to sort out the overflow on Monday. I check out a military spouse Facebook group on which people are sharing moving stories, and decide I may be frustrated, but it could be worse. Thanks to my amazing packers, everything I’m unpacking is in great condition.
Friday 8: Same Song, Different Verse…
After much inquiring, I finally receive word that our overflow shipment has still not left Georgia. The moving company can’t find a driver, so I am advised to be patient and wait until I hear from someone.
I about come unglued when I get an email from the move manager asking me to fill out a satisfaction survey so that they can close out our move. I can’t even respond to that today.
The pay that got fixed last time is somehow un-fixed. And, to add insult to injury, the amount that was previously fixed got taken back. I leverage the situation to remind my husband he is lucky he married someone who is great at saving money.
Friday 9: A Little Bit Louder, A Little Bit Worse…
It is now two weeks after our “No Later Than” delivery date. I receive another email from our move manager in reply to my latest inquiries to let me know they still haven’t found a driver to bring our overflow shipment, and he will get back to me when they hear something from dispatch. He cannot give me any sort of expected delivery window, which is all I really want…just a window so that I don’t feel powerless, with my schedule held hostage by the unknown. He hopes I have a great weekend. I hope he does not enjoy his weekend at all (but I don’t tell him that). I hope he is sorry for my inconvenience (and I do tell him that), but I doubt that he is because he has never once said so. I want to break up with this dude, but he seems to hold the key to getting my stuff back.
I get an email from my husband, forwarded from finance. They have the problem figured out, have done the necessary paperwork to fix it, and expect we’ll see it sorted by the end of next month.
Friday 10: My Birthday
At this point in the story, I feel a little non-Friday detail will add context, and will be helpful for my fellow problem-solving military spouses. Those spouses who I know and love that are no doubt by now screaming from the sidelines like rabid sports fans, “You need to call your move manager and hold them accountable,” or “Go to your local transportation office, girl!” I’m doing those things, they are just not happening on Fridays. My original intent was to stick to just the Friday stuff, but if I were reading this, I would really need to know that the author wasn’t just passively waiting for this stuff to solve itself.
I’m on a first-name, direct line basis with my local transportation representatives on both ends of this equation, I’ve spoken with the moving company directly and have gotten to know the warehouse dispatcher so well that I feel like I’m going to owe her a Christmas card. I still haven’t been able to break up completely with the move manager dude, but I’ve moved on and got someone else to speak with at that company now. My husband has taken the time to speak with my move managers, too…which I think is crazy for him to have to step in and do. I appreciate him providing cover fire for me, but I strongly suspect he has one or two more important things to be concerned with on his deployment than whether my mother’s dishes, our bicycles, and the lawnmower are sitting unsecured in the corner of a warehouse.
Friday 11: Second Load: ETA Tomorrow
I have spoken to everyone except the driver. We just passed the one month mark beyond our “No Later Than” deliver date, and I have taken to correcting everyone who refers to this shipment as “overflow,” reminding them that what they were viewing as excess cargo are my household goods–my toaster, my kitchen chairs, my silverware.
The truck should be here tomorrow morning.
I wonder whether this move seems more stressful because my husband is not here to share the phone call and email stress or whether the process really is less efficient, more stressful, and more disorganized than in past moves.
I am having coffee and browsing blog drafts after a brisk autumn walk with an old friend. I realized that this draft has been sitting here, waiting to be wrapped up and shared, or deleted and let go. I’m sharing.
My toaster arrived that eleventh Saturday, along with all the other “overflow.” Who knew I’d become so obsessed with such a simple appliance?
I’ve tried and failed numerous times to submit the moving satisfaction survey, so I’ve instead just written them a letter about my experience.
Finance got us sorted out exactly when they said they would.
My husband sent me an email this morning about potential duty stations next summer. Dude.