It was not the Move From Hell (that was the last two). It wasn't even the Move From Heck. But it did have its moments.
As planned, after work Friday I packed up the cats and their food, water, litterbox and took them to the new apartment. I set up the downstairs bathroom with all their stuff plus their favorite carpet and sheepskin rug. I had to pour Pumpkin out of his carrier - he is as difficult to get out as he is to get in. Domino is a lot more curious, she stepped out with a minimum of encouragement.
They both went around the place meowing loudly, checking out all the windows and doors and new surroundings. Then they discovered the stairs. I hear loud hissing noises and territorial fighting while I'm filling their feeder. Going to investigate, Pumpkin is on the top landing, mouth in a confused "O", looking down at Domino, who has laid claim to the top step. She is sprawled across it. Any attempt by Pumpkin to go downstairs is met with a rude nose and a mean swipe. After a while Pumpkin decided there wasn't anything downstairs he hadn't already seen, and took off for the bedrooms. Domino followed, of course.
When they had mostly stopped with the meows, I closed up and let them have sole possession. Went back to the soon-to-be-old apartment and spent a sleepless night waiting for it to be time to get up. One reason for being nervous was the weather for the past couple of days had been colder and I was afraid we might get rained on. That would have been a Truly Bad Thing™. As it turned out, we had perfect weather for moving. Grey and cool in the morning, clearing in the afternoon.
They told me to expect the movers between 8 and 10 am, and at a couple of minutes after 8 an Enterprise rent-a-truck pulled into the carport like I told them not to, and the driver ignored my waving and shouted admonitions to park out front, where it's a LOT closer, and he wouldn't be blocking people's cars.
After about five minutes, three scrawny looking guys in old jeans and non-descript jackets come walking down the path from the carport, looking at apartment numbers and saying the numbers out loud -- in Hebrew.
I was only mildly surprised at the language - though the company is Northstar Moving, their web site says they are the west coast affiliate of Moishe's Movers in NYC. What did surprise me is that the three of them combined might have weighed what I did. I expected bigger.
But they did okay. There were no feats of superhuman strength, and some things which I could have carried by myself they used two guys for, but they worked steadily for two hours, took a short break, and then finished the move out in another hour and a half. They worked hard, but not smart. I'd stacked all the small boxes in such a way that all they would have to do was shove a hand truck under them and go. But they mostly carried all the boxes outside, then put them on furniture dollies (just a board with 4 wheels and some carpeting on top) and pushed them awkwardly on the not very even pavement.
They did park the truck out front, when they saw (a) it was close and (b) there was plenty of room, but they parked in front of a stretch of dense ground cover, when they could have easily driven a few feet down the way and set up the loading dock in front of a regular sidewalk.
Then it came time to move the piano. I should post a photo of the beast. This is a HUGE carved rosewood "Cabinet Grand" made in 1896 by Schiller in Chicago, for use in theaters. It is very heavy, and fairly awkward to move. It has no wheels - the original casters were wooden, and disintegrated during the first move back in 1973. I tried putting replacements into the holes in the legs which seemed to have been drilled for that purpose, but they flopped around and didn't work. Real wheels made the piano too high to play comfortably. You have to stand on the "soft" pedal to keep from breaking windows, and I'm not that tall.
I won't go into detail, but suffice to say I would bet cold hard cash that this was the first piano they had moved. I've seen it done right a couple of times - two guys lift it up, another guy slides a doly under it, then two people push while the third steers from the front. Going down the two steps at my front door would have been very easy with a ramp or just a couple of boards, or even a pile of boxes. But these guys did a daisy chain of dollies, and showed no concept of levarage.
But they were very careful, and they never even came close to putting the piano in any danger, which is more than I can say about the last two moves I made.
At about the 3 hour or maybe 3:30 point, they were ready to close up the truck and go to the new apartment. I did a tour of the apartment and saw they had left a lot of things behind, such as rugs, the shelves for the CD rack and the kitchen whiteboard, to name a few. But heck, this was costing me $96 an hour, and I have two weeks to be out of the place, so the only thing I had them come back for was the TV in the bedroom, and my old (p3/400) spare computer in the linen closet.
The new apartment is only a few minutes from the old one, and it's easy to get to after you've been there once, but almost impossible to find the first time, so when they asked to follow me there, I said fine. Plan A had been to leave before them so I could put the cats in their "safe room", but it dawned on me that it would take at least 5 minutes for them to get the truck ready for unloading.
The route was simple. Shoreline to Middlefield, turn right and go past Moffet and over the 85 freeway, take the first right (Easy Street), then a few blocks and left on Gladys, then take the next right (Ada) and go to the end of the block and turn left into the complex. Mine is the first unit on the left.
Once again they parked stupid, blocking my neighbors' cars when they could have pulled 10 feet forward and had the dock right in front of my door without blocking anyone. Luckily none of the neighbors came out to complain.
Unloading was much more amusing than loading because this is a 2-level apartment, and about 60% of the stuff needed to go upstairs. This is where the movers' size factor really showed. Once again these guys worked steadily and hard, but not smart. The box spring and matress could have been set on the stairs and pushed up by one person, but they had two guys carry it, which was amusing because the stairs are too steep and the ceiling too low to carry it more than about a foot above the steps. A couple of wardrobes got carried upstairs upside-down, with the bottom guy keeping the hanger in place with his chin. One of my very heavily loaded file cabinets went upstairs upside-down too, but they made it all the way to the top before one of the drawers slid open. They caught it before anything spilled.
But like I said, they worked hard and they worked steadily, and while their skills were not professional level, their attitude was.
The move-in only took an hour and a half, which is pretty amazing, and my bill ended up being two hours less than I'd budgeted. But they cut a lot of corners to do it. Anything they had disassembled for the move stayed that way. The bed's headboard is propped up against the bedroom wall, I found the bolts for it downstairs next to the stereo cabinet, which had its glass door propped against a wall, the pivot brackets on backwards. The computer desk was moved upstairs, legs still braced with poly tape, but the keyboard drawer was downstairs by the dining room. And so on.
But again, nothing to scream about at $96/hr.
About half an hour after they had gone, I was in the livingroom where I'd closed the blinds because my suspenders had managed to come undone in the back, and I needed to take off my pants to snap them back on again. Which is when I heard a kind of rustling sound coming from the kitchen. I thought the cats might have gotten into something, but they were right there on the window sill. So I walked to the kitchen and saw that a box of glassware which had been sitting on the electric range had burst into flames, about 1/4 of it was on fire. Talk about being caught with my pants down! I quickly put on my pants, and realized than everything I had which could throw water on the fire was in boxes. So I took the box off the stove and put the flaming end into the sink, and turned on the water. The box was filled with glasses which were wrapped in foam, and smoke was pouring out of the thing like crazy. I grabbed the cat's water dispenser and between that and just splashing water with my hands from the faucet, got the fire out.
Which is when the smoke alarms all went off.
They were not very loud, but they were annoying and would have woken me up if I'd been asleep.
Like I said before, the apartment has lots of big windows, and a sliding patio door, and they all open wide and have screens so the cats wouldn't be getting out. I opened all of them, then turned the downstairs air conditioner on full blast and set up fans upstairs and downstairs to help blow the smoke away. It was quite a funny sight to see smoke blowing out of the air conditioner into the parking lot.
One of the neighbor couples passed by just as the alarms started to go off, but they just looked around with a "what is that sound?" kind of expression, got in their car and drove away.
The whole thing only lasted a couple of minutes, but parts of the apartment still have that lovely burned paper smell.
After that adventure I went back to the old apartment to get some of the left-behind stuff, and was amazed at how dirty the place was. There were the cat fur equivalent of dust bunnies galore, enough to make a whole new cat. I'd had them leave the vacuum, and I was able to make the place almost presentable. Still lots of stains on the carpet, but I'll have professionals come in next week and deep clean the whole place.
Got back to the new place, the cats continued to explore but now they had stuff that smelled familiar. Used the washer/dryer to clean the sofa cover and matress pad, unloaded some of the computer stuff and hooked up coax to the TV for the cable installer the next morning. I tried to get online, but time was running out - I needed to leave by 6:30 to get to a concert in San Jose - Reilly & Maloney, a folk duo I have been a fan of since high school. More about that another time.
Back home, I tried to get online one last time, but my wireless card seemed to have died and while I had all green lights on my DSL modem, it wouldn't let me online. When I ran the setup it told me to call support. But by this time it was getting late, and since the cable guy was supposed to be coming at 9, I hit the sack.
The Comcast folks said I had to be there for the installation, and that the window was 9-11. By 11 nobody had shown up, there was no signal on the cable line and nobody had called. So I called them, and they said I would hear from the installer in 15 minutes. So then I called SBC to find out about my DSL and this totally clueless person said my service would be turned on on the 7th. She said there was nothing anyone could do because "it was all done by The System." I haven't heard that kind of idiot line from a customer service person in years. All they need to do is make an entry in a database, since I have a signal, I just can't get past their firewall. It should take 10 seconds. But I didn't want to tie up the line, so I dropped it. I'll have to yell at a supervisor tomorrow.
An hour later a Comcast dispatcher called to say they were running way late, they would be there in an hour and a half to 2 hours.
So I hopped in the car, went to WalMart, and did some surgical strike shopping. Shower curtain and rings (the last place had a sliding glass door), dishwasher soap (old place didn't have a dishwasher), spray adapter for the kitchen faucet (could have used that to fight the fire - and the one I brought from the old place didn't fit), and a replacement for the charred silver thingie which fits under the burner on the range.
And a pair of Hershey's chocolate bars with almonds for lunch.
Got back to the apartment in an hour, and 30 minutes later the cable guys showed up. They did the connection outside, but nothing happened on the TV. One of them had done this before, he took a ladder upstairs and removed a faceplate by the top shelf of the linen closet - the apartment folks had shown this to me as a junction for a wireless router, but it also had two cable connectors, four phone jacks and a CAT5 connector. Plus an AC outlet. Very nice. After 10 minutes of fiddling and only making different patterns in the snow on the screen, the cable guy hit the jackpot and a NASCAR came roaring across the screen in vivid color. Turns out that the previous tenant had completely disconnected the cable feed from inside the jack. The cable guys crimped on a couple of new connectors, put the face plate back, and all was well.
What really amazed me is how sharp the picture is. The old apartment's wiring was about 30 years old, and poorly maintained, and the picture was lousy on the lower channels and not very good on the rest.
Went back to the old apartment and did the last of the housekeeping chores. Took down the drapes and traverse rods, removed the multi-plug power outlets and put the original faceplates back on, gathered up all the propane, acetone, bleach and such which the movers are not allowed to move, grabbed hangers from the closet, and packages of paper towels, bathroom paper cups & Kleenex which had been left behind. Packed up the mini carpet cleaner machine, step ladder, two brooms and put it all in the car. For verisimilitude I left a plastic net package of cherry tomatoes and a head of garlic in the refrigerator's crisper. And in the livingroom one large moving box, unused.
It's going to take me a couple of weeks to get out of the boxes, but my stereo rack is fully functional, and I watched the 49ers get whomped in surround sound. The computer is online via modem on my Earthlink account, which I usually only use for travel. I think my SBC account comes with that too, but it isn't set up.
And now to bed. There's an all-hands meeting all day at work tomorrow, then advanced Java class, where I will complain that it only took me 5 minutes to make the code work which he'd assigned, but 6 hours to learn how to set up and log into a database. It's not what I enrolled in a Java class to learn.
More on the concert some other time.