Thursday, June 01, 2006

Moving Can Be Fun

Moving can be fun when you're getting screwed without a kiss

So - the new roommate Steve-o is a pretty shrewd operator. He books a truck online from one of those big interNATIONAL CAR AND TRUCK RENTAL places which I shall leave respectfully unnamed (ahem). Not only does he piggyback on the corporate account of the company we work for but he redeems some coupon or special offer. The result is a double-discount and a final price of $60 for a 24-hour rental. Insurance included. 50KM are free. We'll need about a 100KM. Ultimately a very tidy little $80 deal. A bargoon and a half. And the depot is right around the corner from the apartment to boot. Bravo. According to the web site a live person will call back within one business day to re-confirm the arrangement.

Mr. Live Person calls back the next morning. "Sorry sir. We have no trucks available for you."

"Oh?" says Steve. "How come the web site says you do? I have a confirmation number."

"Oh - the computer wasn't up to date."

Translation: We don't want to rent you a truck for $60 when we can get $120 from another - less shrewd - customer. Sorry about your luck, loser.

Steve-o considers the evidence, goes back online and re-books a truck - same deal - but from another depot not quite so close to us. The internet transaction is successful. He immediately picks up the phone and calls the depot location directly.

Rental Girl answers, reviews the booking and announces that all is in order.

"Yes sir. Your truck is booked! It will be here waiting for you!" Bravo. We're back in business.

The next morning Steve-o gets a mysterious phone call from Mr. Slick at the new depot location. "Sorry sir. We have no trucks available for you!"

And we're back out of business.

"But I think you do," says Steve-o, "Because we've already been given confirmation. I talked to Rental Girl yesterday."

"That's not possible," says Mr. Slick. "We don't operate that way. We don't call back until the next day."

Translation: We also don't wish to rent you a truck for $60 when we can get $120 from another - less shrewd - customer. Sorry about your luck, loser.

"Ah - but I do operate that way." Says Steve-o. "That's why I called your location right away and accepted confirmation from Rental Girl."

"No no. That's not possible," says Mr. Slick. "We don't have any girls working at this location!"

Translation: I've already diddled with the computer and un-confirmed your confirmation so that we can get $120 from another - less shrewd - customer. Sorry about your luck, loser.

"Excuse me," says Steve-o. "It was a guy with a very feminine voice, then. And he already confirmed that you had a truck available and it was assigned to me."

"Well - um - somebody else - a customer that booked prior to you - he called back and needed an additional truck. So there."

"That's not my problem. That's his problem. I booked it first. We have a contract both written and verbal. You're obliged to honor it. Get a truck delivered from another location if you have to."

"Oh - we don't do that here. All our depots are independent."

"Well that's awfully strange," says Steve-o, "Because my friend works for your company. And his job is delivering vehicles from one depot to another! I guess you didn't know about that. But now you do. Go get me a truck. I expect to hear from you by the end of the day. If not - I'll be contacting your head office and inflicting a litany of rage upon them. Goodbye."

End of day. No call from Mr. Slick.

Steve-o calls back the next morning. Rental Girl #2 answers the phone. Apparently they've been on a recent girl-hiring binge behind Mr. Slick's back.

"Mr. Slick please."

"I'm sorry. Mr. Slick is out of the office at the moment," says the girl - or the eunuch - whatever the case may be.

"I presume he's out looking for my truck then. Be sure to inform Mr. Slick that he must contact me by noon or else I shall be settling this affair with your head office and I assure you that encounter shall be far from pleasant. Goodbye."

Noon. No call from Mr. Slick.

Steve-o does some settling with the head office and true to his word, it is far from pleasant.

Mr. Slick comes out of hiding. “We have a truck for you sir. But you won’t get it from 9AM Saturday to 9AM Sunday. You’ll get it from 3PM Saturday to 3PM Sunday. That’s the best we can do.”

Translation: You fucked with me and now I’m fucking with you, you belligerant little snot-nosed prick.

We’re back in business. Little does he know - the new time zone will work for us just fine. I call up my friend, Porn King and apologize for the change in plans. ‘Can you help me tomorrow evening instead of tomorrow morning?’, I ask him. He says he can. He’s a good guy. The best. He doesn’t even watch porn as far as I know.

I call up the bro and leave a message. I know he's golfing on Saturday and he offered to help out on Sunday if applicable.

"Dude, we're gonna be doing some unloading on Sunday after all. Meet us at the apartment whenever you're able. Thanks!"

I call up Maritime Kevin, our buddy from the office.

"Dude, I know you have to baby-sit Saturday during the day but we're gonna be doing some unloading Saturday evening starting at 7 or so. You mentioned you'd be free after 6."

"Yeah," says Maritime Kevin. "Sounds good."

"Thanks!" I say.

"I'll let you know," he says.

Huh? Wha? He'll let me know? I thought he just said it sounded good? What the heck's up with young people these days? You can't get any kind of commitment out of them. There's no honor. There's no such thing as solid plans for them. Everything's contingent on a last-minute analysis of all offers on the table.

"Youth these days - they're all hormones and cell phones," said Candy Man once. He comes out with some dandy quotes now and then but this is one of my favorites. He's an Englishman with a thick accent and about 35 years experience in the chocolate business. He's also a historian by hobby and my favorite fish-and-chips dining companion.

I think he's on to something there. Cell phones have eliminated the necessity of advance planning.

"Frank! It's Bill! What up!"

"On my way to Paul's party. Sounds like the place to be tonight."

"Not so, dude. Paul cancelled out. Changed his plans. Got a better offer."

"Shit. Now what?"

"Obviously - Peter's party. I'm on my way. See you there."

"No way. That gig's off. Peter got a better offer."

"Shit. That leaves the bar."

"See you at the bar." Click.

I think that bars invented cell phones in order to get more business. Think about it. Cell phones combined with the absence of integrity have created a permanent uncertainty within the world of youth culture in which bars are the only constant - the last resort. Voila! Another conspiracy revealed.

Moving can be fun when you're sitting around on your ass

Saturday. 3 PM. Pick-up time.

Steve-o and I have our asses parked in two of the dozen or so chairs that fill half of the Rental office. In hindsight I should have been suspicious that half of their real estate is devoted to a waiting room.

The two customers at the counter have been there for the hour that we’ve been present. How long they were here before that - who knows. There’s some kind of quiet dispute going on. The counter agent - the only employee on site - trades a few quiet brief words with the customers between 15 minute sessions of uninterupted keyboard clacking. I start to wonder if this man is actually writing a novel while on the job. I look around for employment applications but see none.

Finally we’re up to bat. It takes another half hour to settle the transaction and get the keys in our hot little hands. Counter Agent informs us that the truck is due back by 9 o’clock this evening.

“But we were told 3PM tomorrow!” we cry.

“No sir. We rent this particular size truck on a shift basis.”

“Fine,” we say. “Be that way.” We suspect that Mr. Slick is behind this.

Now we have to get all the unloading done tonight. And there will only be four of us to do the job. Actually six if you include Proffesor Plonk and Captain Vino but they’re getting up there in years and have not the sturdiest of backs. I don’t want them participating in the heavy stuff.

We take the truck and fly. The Streetsville apartment is on the way to the Hamilton storage unit so we stop to pick up a stack of old blankets to protect the furniture with.

Moving can be fun you meet a couple of hillbillies visiting the city

I park the truck strategically in the parking lot so that it’s only blocking 2 vehicles. We exit and rush up the exterior stairs to the great shared balcony and enter our apartment. I gather the blankets and a roll of tape while Steve-o grabs a case of bottled water. We hear a car honking repeatedly below us. Over and over and over again.

Christ! What timing! We only parked 60 seconds ago!

Steve runs out to the balcony to get a look at the action. Incredibly - the occupants of both cars are wanting to leave!

The folks in the red S.U.V. have gone off the deep end for losing 30 seconds of their life and are not prepared to lose another 30. They drive over the parking stones and into the next parking lot in order to escape. They fuck up the bottom of the truck’s body en route. Scrape it up real good. Steve-o has a good howl over that. The two men waiting to leave in the other car are out of the vehicle, standing beside it.

As I pass Steve-o, my arms loaded with blankets and the truck keys, he says:

“Hey! Do this!” He begins speaking in a debilitated voice - imitating one who is entirely deaf. “Thanks for honking so much! I’m hard of hearing!”

I don’t act on this advice. I just descend the stairs and head for the truck. The motorists have words for me.

“Hey - you’ve just started a war you know!”

“Really,” I reply, clearly disinterested.

“Some guy just drove over a cliff to get away!”

A cliff, he says. I kid you not. It was just a stupid parking stone.

Ignoring him, I thrust the stack of blankets into the back of the truck.

“You moving out?” asks the other guy, another real bright spark obviously.

“No,” I mutter. “I’m running a shipment of guns.” ‘…to service all the wars I’ve started, you stupid pea-brained cow-fuckers,’ I add under my breath. I hop in the truck and move it aside. The hillbillies take off. Steve-o appears in the passenger seat with the case of H2O and we split - Hamilton bound.

I call Porn King on the cell phone to change the plans on him yet again. I tell him to meet us around 5:30 at the storage unit. To the best of my knowledge Vino and Plonk are already aiming for those specifics. Just to be sure, I give Vino’s cell phone a jingle.

‘Hi you’ve reached Captain Vino’s voice mail on the crappy Fido network. My crappy Fido phone is probably sitting right beside me refusing to ring. If you leave me a message maybe I’ll get it in a day or three.’

I leave a brief message. “Don’t come until 5:30,” I say. Immediately upon hanging up I get a voice mail notification. We were trading messages simultaneously. He and Plonk are already waiting for us at the storage unit building. Now they’ll go for coffee and return to meet us there.

Steve-o’s cell phone rings. He talks. Trades some laughs. Hangs up.

“Was that Maritime Kevin?” I ask.


“Is he coming tonight?”

“No. He has to baby-sit tonight too.”

“FUCKER!!” I cry. “Remind me to dust his cubicle with anthrax!”

“Okay, but save some for the truck. We want to fill the vents with it before we return it tonight.”

Upon arrival at “The Hold” storage facility we find Plonk and Vino have returned and are waiting for us.

“You’ve got a key, right?” asks Vino - very seriously. Too seriously. I suspect he’s setting me up for some gag.

“To the unit,” I say. “Not the building.”

“So how do you get into the building?”

“Through the main office. I sign in, show ID. They let me in.”

“But there’s no one in the office. They left. The ‘Open’ sign is turned off.”

“You’re fucking kidding me.”

“I’m not.”

He isn’t. They’re closed for the night. We’re fucked.

Moving can be fun when you’ve got great friends

Too make a long story short -- things improved from that point on. I got a hold of Porn King who had almost arrived when I warned him to turn around. Incredibly he was not put out and was more than happy to come back Sunday morning to help out. This guy is the bomb, I tell you. You gotta love him.

We left the truck in their parking lot in order to avoid extra mileage expense. Plonk and Vino drove us home to Streetsville and together we dined at the local Pickle Barrel - purveyors of decent food and wine, big servings, water-walls and light-emanating floors. It felt just a little bit Star-Trekkish. Ten thumbs up for the California Spring Rolls. Mm-mm good!

Vino and PK helped us load up in the morning. PK and the bro helped us unload.

We got the truck back to the depot at about ten-after-three Sunday afternoon.

Miraculously Counter Agent was easily swayed and we escaped with only an $80 bill! We traded very cool glances and a half smirk on the way out.

All’s well that ends well…


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