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W. Bruce Cameron


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Moving Out


Editor's Note: The following column was originally published in 2007.

I read recently that moving from one home to another is the second-most stressful activity that a human being can undertake, so I decided to try it.

The first most stressful thing is death, which I think I'll put off for a while. With death, though, there's a definite end to the whole ordeal, whereas with moving there's a sense that it won't be over until you've experienced the first most stressful thing.

I made the decision to move the way women make the decision to have a second child: They forget how bad it was the first time. I had actually gotten to the point where I remembered my last move rather fondly - wasn't it fun to open boxes to discover what was inside? Like Christmas! (Except that, at Christmas, you don't open up a box containing what was, a week ago, frozen chicken breasts, but is now a salmonella farm.)

There are Websites and consumer publications to help people organize their moves, but I thought it would be better if I re-invented everything myself. I elected to start packing way in advance - several hours, in fact - giving me ample time to run out of boxes. I began by carefully packing up my most valuable possessions, which turned out to be my wallet. Everything else I shoved into boxes marked "Junk," which means that at least when it comes to cardboard, I write the truth.

There are professional moving companies that charge a reasonable price, are skilled at wrapping and stowing your belongings, and are both bonded and insured, so I decided to move myself. I went to a U-Wreck and rented a truck that had last been used to carry Hungarian refugees. The black exhaust that fired out of the tailpipe was so heavy with greenhouse gasses it had Al Gore rolling over in his grave pronouncements.

I picked up three day-laborers who were hanging out at the U-Wreck, figuring that they could do all the heavy lifting while I concentrated on the really important stuff, like management and goofing off.

They each wanted $15 an hour, though I want to state for the record that I carefully completed the required IRS forms reporting the transaction and thus am qualified to serve on the U.S.

Supreme Court.

They were burly guys, the kind who at football practice can bench-press fullbacks. They suspiciously eyed my packing job, which I have to admit relied an awful lot on tape, the same way my gift-wrapping does. (See what I said? Like Christmas!) The spokesman for the group, John, stopped dead when he saw my piano, which I plan to learn how to play as soon as I figure out where I packed the manual.

"It's a piano," I said helpfully.

John told me that he and his friends hadn't realized how difficult the job was going to be and would need $20 an hour. I recognized this as the strong-arm tactic it was, and refused to negotiate. "OK," I said.

John and his buddies began helping me move the piano, grunting far more than necessary, or so it sounded from my position on the couch. They got to the front door and stopped, staring at the stairs.

"Those are the front steps," I said helpfully.

John told me he and his friends hadn't realized there would be steps - and would need $30 an hour! "OK," I said.

About 15 minutes later, John came in to where I was packing boxes in my living room, woke me up, and told me he and his friends hadn't realized the stairs would be so narrow - and would need $40 an hour. Well, I'd had it this time. "OK," I said.

The truck was farther down the walkway than they had realized ($50 an hour), and the ramp to the truck was steeper than anticipated ($75 an hour), and they needed money for lunch - but eventually they got the piano loaded.

In next week's column, I'll reveal what happened when we arrived at the new place ... assuming I can find where I packed the computer. Otherwise, I may have to write it on cardboard.

To write Bruce Cameron, visit his website at To find out more about Bruce Cameron and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at



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