A little cinephile wordplay, there, riffing on this:
The yarn I’m about to spin is neither excellent nor exciting.
Extraordinary? I certainly hope so. If this shit is par for the course, there is no hope for humanity.
As described in Musing #8, I moved out of my old apartment on August 1st, but could not move into my new place – a mere two blocks east of the former – until August 8th. Thus, what should have been the easiest move of all time ended up an ass pain of the Edward II variety. (You really need to follow that link. Trust the Ass Man’s daughter!)
Originally, this post was going to be about the homeless seven days I spent couch-surfing across Manhattan and Brooklyn. Blessed be those who sheltered me, but it was a terrible week.
Princess Leia: It could be worse.
(Garbage creature growls.)
Han Solo: It’s worse.
We struggling-class New Yorkers tend to move a lot, forever chasing (relatively) reasonable rent. And because most of us do not have cars, we tend to hire craigslist “Man & Van” entities to move us. My roommate – let’s call him “Winston” – was justifiably pissed at the craigslisters we hired for our first of two moves (from old abode into storage). They billed by the hour, and – after arriving a full two hours late – they made sure to take their sweet damn time.
That dear, longtime roommate (who may be referenced frequently in coming posts, but only ever as Winston), refused to rehire the loiterers for our second move (from storage into new abode). I enthusiastically concurred.
Lollygaggers though those first movers may have been, ultimately, they were decent people (who loved my singing to them whilst they toiled). Their successors? Not so much.
For our August 8th schlep, I booked the movers offering the cheapest rate I found on craigslist. Screencapped below is a version of the ad to which I responded:
The version that caught my eye on August 7th was identical, save that the phone number listed was 347-927-5415, and the rate listed was $50/hour. Both the 347 and 212 numbers reach a landline. A brusque, heavily-accented Eastern European named Milos answers, happy to book you and then cease responding once the scam has been pulled off.
Consider yourselves warned, struggling-class New Yorkers.
Alas, Winston and I were seduced by mutual delight at the estimated price. The movers showed at our storage facility 40 minutes late (of course), but they were not driving a van. They rolled up in a veritable moving truck. Winston and I were thrilled, knowing our entire two-bedroom apartment could be moved in a single haul.
I escorted the two mover dudes – one in his early 40s, the other in his late 30s – up to our fourth-floor storage unit. As I unlocked and opened the door, older dude snickered and remarked to younger dude:
“Look like Russian prison cell, eh?”
Younger dude enthusiastically concurred.
Winston accompanied the dudes on their second run from unit to truck. Riding up in the freight elevator, older dude apparently made another comment about how much the place resembled Russian jail. Winston shared this with me, and I explained that I’d already heard it. That’s when I fired off the following Tweet:
I then slyly Googled “Russian prison cell” on my phone, coming up with this:
Mover dudes weren’t kidding. NYC storage and Russian gulag facilities do, indeed, bear a striking resemblance. And I tend to withhold judgment when it comes to Russians who have spent time incarcerated. You can be jailed for mere gayness in that scary-ass country.
Three hours later, I blasted a Facebook plea from a phone by then three percentage points from comatose:
OK, the Russian prison thing? No joke. We just got scammed by the Russian mob. Our entire apartment was left in the street, and it’s raining. We need some SERIOUS help.
IS THERE ANYONE AROUND IN EAST VILLAGE RIGHT NOW? I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t an emergency!
What follows is the Facebook-demanded explanation as to what transpired in the interim…
Preface: I obviously have no proof that the dudes were mobbed-up (nor any, frankly, that they weren’t). Forgive me the (arguable) hyperbole. I was in true distress, and the adrenalin was pumpin’ like the Deepwater Horizon.
So, back to the storage facility…
Once the truck was fully loaded, Winston and I walked the eight blocks to our new apartment as the movers drove. It had been raining all afternoon, but it stopped just long enough for us to get home dry. When we reached our destination, I went upstairs to unlock the apartment door.
A troubled Winston joined me minutes later. He said the dudes demanded payment before they would unload. He said they threatened to drive off with our entire apartment if he didn’t hand over the cash immediately. So a wincing Winston had handed over the agreed-upon fee – minus tip – and the ex-cons had begun unloading.
By now, it was raining again.
Winston and I sat in the apartment awaiting our shit and quietly bitching about the threat. We soon realized there was no reason for whispers, because there wasn’t a peep coming from the stairwell. We figured the dudes were unloading everything into the building before carrying it up to the third floor. It was, after all, raining. That made sense.
But after 20 minutes of silence, a wave of apprehension began to bathe us both. Then, wincing Winston turned to me and asked:
“You don’t think they’d actually just drive away, do you?”
I fancy myself a tough, savvy, seasoned New Yorker. But I admit that the possibility hadn’t occurred to me. Not even after the threat!
Oh, the pangs of 20/20 hindsight!!!
Unsure as to what I was in for, I went downstairs to investigate.
(Sudden loss of breath.)
No amount of bracing could have prevented the panic attack that engulfed me as I descended. Step by step, the horror was gradually unveiled. And it got exponentially worse as I progressed.
My bed was on one landing, Winston’s on another. Some of our shit was clogging the narrow building entrance and barricading the residents of #1A into their home. Being tiny, I was able to squeeze through a labyrinth of my belongings to get outside…only to find the majority of them strewn along Avenue C in what was now torrential rain.
But I found neither truck nor dudes.
And people were stealing my hangers! (All plastic, of course, à la Joan Crawford.) Someone tore open a garbage bag full of them, stole a bunch and left the rest tangled in the soupy street.
‘Cause here’s the thing about NYC. If your shit is in the street unguarded, the assumption is that it’s open season on your shit. We don’t bother trekking to Salvation Army in my hood. We give to the needy by leaving shit in the street. And it’s always gone in minutes, whatever the hell it happens to be.
It soon became painfully clear that Winston and I needed at least one other person to help us. Immediately. That’s the point at which I blasted the Facebook plea, and Winston got on the phone to everyone he could think of. It takes at least two people (preferably not of Stacy size) to move furniture, and we needed one to stand outside in the monsoon shouting:
“This shit is NOT free!!!”
Take a wild guess who ended up in the rain. Here I am, drenched, with my surviving hangers:
Eventually, two of Winston’s good friends (and, henceforth, my personal twin knights in shining armor) came to our rescue. As each knight arrived, I ran straight to him and threw my arms around him; showering him with gratitude and taking a few breaths in his embrace.
The four of us then hauled serious, sopping-wet ass.
Yes, even tiny little me. I quite surprised myself with my own adrenalin-fueled, super-tiny-human strength.
And thus, Winston and I finally completed the move from hell that just wouldn’t end. (But not before we futilely involved the cops.)
Funny that this tale of wretched luck should be my ninth post. Like John Lennon, nine is my lucky number. (Unlike John Lennon, that’s because I was born on 9/9/1979.)
Next week, I’ll tell a funny story. Enough with the doom and gloom for a spell! Come for the shits and stay for the giggles of Musing #10: The Misadventure of Me, My Contacts and MISS JULIE.
Until then, “Damn the torpedoes (and wire hangers), full speed ahead!”
The Ghost of Joan Crawford