Jay and I moved nine times in the last 18 years. We’d only been married for a few months when we made our first move from Georgia to North Carolina. We packed up our two room apartment (yes, you read that correctly – two rooms.) into the smallest U-haul truck you can rent. I spent all day scrubbing those two rooms in hopes of getting the deposit back. It was my first apartment, and I assumed the place needed to be pristine, especially considering it was newly renovated when I moved in. I was so young and inexperienced that I took a toothbrush and scrubbed all the grout in the shower and went around with a pencil eraser erasing marks off the walls. Needless to say, I was extremely disappointed when the manager only spent about five minutes inspecting the apartment, deeming it “passable” and telling me my deposit check would be mailed to my new address. We could’ve gotten on the road hours earlier if I’d known she was only looking for a basic cleaning. Oh well, we got the deposit back, and I learned a valuable life lesson. Being in the Army, Jay hadn’t known any better either, accustomed as he was to weekly white glove inspections of his barracks room.
We only owned three heavy pieces of furniture back then; but it was a second floor apartment, and Jay needed some help. His buddies were in the field doing training; so, Jay posted a sign in the barracks reading “Free Beer” and listed our phone number. Trouble was, Jay neglected to tell me of his plan for enlisting movers. The first time the phone rang and the guy on the other end said, “yeah, I’m calling about the ‘free beer,'” I told him he had the wrong number and hung up. A few minutes later it rang again. A different guy said approximately the same thing, and I started to smell a rat.
“What are you talking about?” I demanded.
“The sign you posted,” the guy answered, exasperated. “It says, ‘Free Beer’ and has this number.”
“Look, dude, I’m sorry, but someone is obviously playing a prank,” I said, annoyed.
“Fine,” was the reply, and he hung up. I was fuming. Who would play a joke like this on us when we were trying to move? A couple of more calls came in, and I again told the guys it had to be a prank. I guess one of them finally ripped down the sign because the calls stopped. An hour or so later, Jay returned ,and the first thing out of his mouth was, “Did anyone call about the beer?”
“You did that?!” I asked, shocked. “Why would you do that?!” I still didn’t get it.
Jay was equally surprised. “Because I need help loading the couch,the chest of drawers, and the entertainment center, and most of those guys will do anything for beer. What did you say when they called?”
“I told them it was a joke! You should’ve told me. It never occurred to me that you put up that sign,” I almost shouted.
Jay glared at me for a minute. Then, he turned around and walked out the door. I don’t remember exactly how the stuff got loaded. I remember Jay taking all the drawers out of the chest and carrying it down the stairs on his back. I guess I helped as best I could. At any rate, we got everything in the truck and left town about 8 o’clock that night. We’d made it about two hours into South Carolina with Jay driving the U-haul and towing his Nissan pick-up. I was following behind in my car. The U-haul had dual tires at the rear, and suddenly the inside tire on the passenger’s side blew. The deflated rubber flung around, reached up, grabbed the exhaust pipe and yanked it away from the undercarriage of the truck. I don’t know how in the world Jay kept that truck on the road, but he held it in his lane and managed to get it to the side. After surveying the damage, we pulled out the rental agreement and found the roadside assistance number. I hopped back in my car and headed up to the next exit to find a pay phone. This is before cell phones were a common commodity.
I was on hold forever, but I finally got a person on the line who said they had a repair service in the area that was currently closed, but he would call the after hours number. I gave him the number on the pay phone and waited for a call back. When he called back, he said we had to get the truck to the gas station where the pay phone was, and the mechanic would call us back. I went back to Jay and explained what they wanted us to do. Somehow we got the truck back on the road and limped it up to the gas station. We sat on the curb next to the pay phone and waited. It finally rang two hours later. The mechanic had been out but got the call from U-haul on his machine and called us to find out where we were. He met us at the gas station half an hour later and towed the truck back to his repair shop. I sat in my car waiting, while Jay helped with the repairs. I eventually fell asleep and awoke to Jay knocking on the car window at about 3 o’clock in the morning to tell me the truck was fixed, and we could get back on the road. I mutinied. Jay, thanks to his training, can go for days on virtually no sleep, but me, not so much.
At first Jay flatly refused to get a hotel room on the grounds that we had neither the time nor money to waste, but I started crying and won the argument. He rented a cheap room for what remained of the night, and I happily went back to sleep while Jay sat at the window guarding our U-haul, which I considered asinine. We got back on the road about 10 the next morning after a Waffle House breakfast, another luxury Jay grudgingly conceded to after I stubbornly refused to drive on an empty stomach. I was a bit of a brat back then, and four hours later, we finally rolled up to our new apartment. Every subsequent move has had its adventure or mishap, and we finally figured out it’s better to let the Army send “professionals” for the heavy lifting. We’ve survived them all still married and with only minor scratches, dents, and losses. As much as I hate moving, I think one day, when it’s all said and done, I will look back on our gypsy days with fondness and perhaps a little longing.