Moving is meant for movers others should stay put

May 15, 1994|By MIKE LITTWIN

Our topic for today is moving. I don't mean that it's moving in the sense of, say, "Casablanca."

I mean that it's moving in the sense of taking all the stuff you have accumulated over a lifetime from one house, putting it in boxes and then taking it to a new house, where the boxes loom before you like the Grand Tetons, except much higher.

Moving is, of course, one of the great traumas in life, ranking right up there with divorce, death of a loved one and listening to Michael Bolton mangle "When a Man Loves a Woman."

I've just moved. And as a survivor, I want you to benefit from my experience. Get a pencil and paper and jot this down:

Don't do it. Ever. I don't care how bad the situation, stay put.

Maybe your house is too small. Or Paula Corbin Jones moves next door. Or your house abuts a toxic-waste dump site. Doesn't matter. What's living with a toxic-waste dump site compared to the trauma of handing over your record collection to complete strangers, who will then probably use your "Grassroots' Greatest Hits" album to play Frisbee on the drive to the new house?

According to Larry, the guy who drove the truck and who didn't look like a Grassroots fans to me, Americans move on an average of every 2.78 years. We're nomads, with moving vans for camels.

I understand moving once. You're young. You don't know any better. You don't yet understand the anguish. Veterans can tell somehow who has just moved. He looks exactly like the guy in that Edvard Munch painting "The Scream."

Memory loss is the only possible explanation for all subsequent moves. It's the very same syndrome upon which dentists, obstetricians and Dan Quayle's presidential hopes depend.

Moving is tough on everyone. One spouse wants to keep everything. The other wants to know how my third-grade social studies notebook enhances our lives. Arguments ensue.

Then you arrive at the new place. There are neighbors to meet, video stores and Chinese restaurants to find. (I won't mention unpacking boxes. It's still too painful.) And, of course, there's the dislocation factor -- like how your couch is now positioned so you have to lie down on your left side to see the TV instead of the right side like you have since the invention of remote control.

For me, though, it's worse than for many others. For me, moving becomes a close-up study of my own inadequacy.

We start with the move. This is guy stuff. You pick up heavy things, grunt, flex and get chicks. When you're young, you would never think of hiring anyone. You get four or five buddies, four or five six-packs, rent a truck and, before you can say hangover, you're in there. You're a man. You're tough. You like to think the word "rugged" describes you.

Now, I hire people to do the move. Which means I sit on the sidelines like a weenie, saying things like, "Mr. Mover, sir, can I hold the door for you?" Then I confide, "You know, I'd move this stuff myself except I hurt my back playing ball."

That was one humiliation. There were others. They came before we moved in -- when the redecorating began.

I'll confess that redecorating is not something that particularly interests me. For example, I've never once said, "If I have to look at this kitchen floor one more day, I'll die."

Now, I may be an advanced case. If I spill something on the floor and nobody else is home, I always place my bet on evaporation. You see, I'm a patient person when it comes to disorder.

My wife is not. She likes things fixed, in much the same way she likes boxes unpacked -- immediately. Before we ever moved, she had already hired a carpenter, painter, electrician, rug stretcher and her personal liaison at Home Depot.

And because I have a job that requires virtually no work, I'm the one who has to stay at home to supervise the fixing up. This is where I get humiliated again.

You see, the craftsmen expect you, as a man yourself, to know something about the manly arts of repair work.

They talk, and I nod as if I understand what a J-channel is. I'd have more luck understanding Puccini than a carpenter. I need subtitles. I nod because it's too embarrassing to do anything else.

What am I supposed to say -- the truth? That I had to drop shop in junior high because I was judged mechanically challenged? That a nail file and a bent quarter make up my entire tool collection?

That if I ever move again, it won't be to a house -- it will be to a home?

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