This was actually posted on Nov. 1 (the draft was done on October 31st)
As a first time mom, I was particularly concerned about doing everything “right” with my newborn son: from feeding to sleeping, appropriate visual and tactile stimulation to soothing auditory input. Like many first time mothers, I had worried about prenatal vitamins, exercise, and eating healthfully during pregnancy.
Of course I was going to select a moving company with equal concern!
Except I selected you. Clearly I was sleep-deprived, delusional, and desperate. I should have been tipped off by an image your name suggests: ruthless scalping.
Less than two weeks after I gave birth, I learned our newly expanded family of three would be moving across the country.
I made the difficult choice to leave my PhD program in search of more fulfilling calling as a stay-at-home-and-confused-mom. I wanted to be closer to my family. I knew as much as I loved New York City, it wasn’t a place in which we could afford to raise our family, particularly if I was turning my back on scientific research and the years of education that had prepared me for a career I didn’t want.
When Husband got the job offer in California, I was both relieved and terrified. How could we possibly have the energy and resources to move across the country when we weren’t awake enough to figure out which end of the baby to diaper?
When Carlene came to do the estimate, I didn’t realize that perhaps her name should have been “Careen,” as in “careening into debt.” Her estimate seemed reasonable. She looked around the apartment, thoroughly I thought.
She saw our piles of books, and all the baby gear. She recommended that since there was a minimum weight we could go ahead and move the sofa that we weren’t sure we wanted to keep. “You don’t have much stuff. You can move it all and decide what to keep later,” she assured us. She was friendly and sounded competent.
The next few weeks were hell. The boxes we ordered from you were a day late, as was the bubble wrap. We used up the supplies immediately. Careen’s estimate was off. We had to purchase more, delaying our packing. Husband and I packed when we weren’t working or attending to our newborn. We didn’t sleep.
It was the most stressful time of my life. I was in pain from the vacuum-extraction birth, episiotomy, and extensive tearing. My baby cried, I was having nursing troubles, and I was overcome with fear about making such a big change in our lives. I had to squeak out a laugh when my OB told me not to exert myself physically. He applauded that I was already below my pre-pregnancy weight: I wonder how that happened?
When moving day arrived, I was relieved. Your men would take our precious belongings and our journey would nearly be complete. The other end would be easy: unpacking didn’t have a deadline.
Instead, our pilgrimage was just beginning.
Your company was to move us on Saturday. We were flying out Sunday evening. On Saturday late morning, a man arrived. One man.
“You have too much stuff for me to move alone,” he exclaimed. “And our truck is too big to park on your street.”
He left, shrugging his shoulders, mumbling that there was no way he’d do the job by himself, “I’d break my back.”
Husband called your company. Certainly Careen had explained that we lived on a narrow street. Certainly your company knows the layout of New York City. Certainly Careen’s estimate would have provided information about the number of men it would take to move our belongings in a timely fashion.
Why else would there have been an estimate if not to prepare appropriately for moving day? We did our part, but you didn’t do yours.
We had plane tickets for Sunday night. We no longer had a home after Sunday.
You had us bound with your hatchet in hand, ready to strike at our wallet.
More men, sure! But you’ll have to pay them overtime. This is a last minute request and it is on the weekend. To accommodate your narrow street, you’ll need to pay for a shuttle truck. Of course, since you didn’t reserve a shuttle truck, there are none available today…
We had no choice. We had to agree to the extra charges and to the last minute move the morning of the day we were to fly away. We had no recourse.
That next morning was a blur. The men arrived and set into motion a complex handing-off system. Packages were recorded; furniture was transferred into the truck. There was no shuttle truck; the large truck was positioned around the block and the workmen shuttled our belongings on foot.
Were we paying for a shuttle truck anyway? How many extra men were we paying overtime?
Husband ran to the ATM to get enough tips for everyone involved. Smiles all around as the leader asked me to sign off on the manifesto. The document was a bunch of scribbled lines with numbers stuck to them. I had been watching the boxes leave, the stickers placed, but there was no way to know if every box was recorded. I signed.
The flurry was over. We thought our nightmare was over. We were alone in an empty apartment, ready to fly out later that day.
Once in California, we awaited our possessions. The same glitches happened again: Your street has a low-hanging electrical wire, you’ll need to purchase a shuttle truck. We’ll have to delay move-in day to set up that extra truck. Our men need extra compensation for going up the stairs to your condo.
But we’ve seen moving vans on our street! The wire doesn’t hang that low! No Ma’am, we need to be safe, not sorry. Let’s scalp your wallet once more.
Then the next day: Oh, I see you purchased a shuttle truck, but we don’t really need it! We can just use our dolly to move the boxes from the large truck into your condo. It isn’t that far away.
Slightly more awake this time, I watched carefully as our belongings entered: Where is our DVD player, where is my computer?
Are you certain you packed a computer? Everything that was on the manifesto is here right now, except for the DVD player.
Yes, I am certain. (That computer photo had our baby announcements, my Master's thesis, and our wedding photos on it.)
Well, the computer wasn’t on the manifesto. The DVD player is below your deductible.
Yes, funny how that happened.
Oh, and your belongings were too heavy. You’ve incurred extra charges for weight over your allotted amount.
Of course. Had we known, we would have left the sofa behind. Careen was wrong.
Did you think that since we lived on the Upper East Side that we could afford to replace my computer (with monitor, keyboard, and speakers) and DVD player? Did you assume that we were flush with cash, and could therefore pay for all these “extra” men and “extra” trucks and other such things that should have been part of the original estimate?
Instead, we were a family that could no longer afford to live on the Upper East. Our apartment was heavily subsidized by the graduate program for which I was no longer enrolled. We were moving because we didn’t have a dime to spare. Instead of wealthy jet-setters, we were tired and stressed brand-new parents, nervous that our packages and furniture wouldn’t be moved in time for us to fly out.
Careen made a big mistake. Her estimate was wrong. Your original mover who arrived alone was careless to simply leave. The flurry of workers who showed up the next day are probably enjoying watching DVDs and using my computer, smoking Cubans they purchased with their overtime pay and our generous tips.
You took advantage of a sleep-deprived family that wanted to move to find a better life. Weren’t those on the Mayflower searching for a better life?
You failed my family. Yes, many of our belongings were moved, but our spirit was broken.
Karianna’s Lesson Learned: Avoid moving across the country right after giving birth, and don’t use Mayflower Movers!
For those of us who didn't get an instruction manual with our babies and for whom parenting hasn't always gone as planned. On a more serious note this blog is about supporting a woman's ability to make her own choices about parenting including the choice, for whatever reason, to bottle feed her babies formula.