I have a grey Toyota Camry that is a little over 14 years old. Both, the car and I, have seen better days. But, despite getting older and a little worse for the wear, over the years, both of us work just fine. I mean, sure, my blood-pressure gets a little high, at times — when someone says something nasty about any of my three cats, for instance. And my car, I just found out, was leaking oil like the Exxon Valdez. But some medicine and some time at the gym pretty much fixed my blood-pressure. And fixing the oil-leak was even easier. I just sat and drank coffee while a team of experts healed my car. But why does any of this matter? There is a very good reason! My car, my cats, and I, are all driving across the country which means, given my starting point and destination, across the widest part of the US. We are going from Hollywood, Florida, to Thousand Oaks, California. The distance, given my penchant for spontaneous scenic drives and getting lost (not necessarily in that order and not even necessarily separate things, always) means that, though the actual distance is just about 2,800 miles (nearly 4,500 kms.) I will probably drive 3,000 miles, at least, and probably more.
The journey began yesterday — both, on time, and three days late. Originally, I was to have left on the first of February. But then I decided to leave on January 29. Packing, however, became an issue (more on that soon) and I only managed to leave at 3:15 p.m. on January 31, which was the (several times) revised plan after the Feb. 01 date was canceled. The amount of change and almost total lack of planning on my part confused me. I am still a little confused but I am beginning to understand, I think. I’ve never had more time, more money, and generally more resources for moving, at any time. And yet, this was my worst, most disorganized move, though, quite possibly, it is among the cheapest.
I have moved many times, in my life, in India, in Bangladesh, and in the US. Daddy’s employers paid for all of the moves before I moved (or shifted, as they say, in India) from India to the US, in 1988. Moving in the US is relatively easy even if you don’t have much money (something I have been used to, since 1988). On the other hand, it requires a great deal more planning than does a move in India. In India, you simply call a bunch of people (10, 50, 100, as many as you need). They will pack your stuff, load it, and put it on a truck (though the word truck has a completely different meaning in India than it does in the US. See here, if you want a very rough but very clear idea of the difference: http://www.truck-photos.net/picture/number2604.asp). When your stuff reaches its destination, you just do the same thing again that you did in the first place — hire a bunch of people and get your stuff unloaded — and by that I mean, of course, taken out of the truck, carefully unpackaged, put neatly, exactly where it is supposed to go, and cleaned and polished, if you need that as well. People have all the time in the world. And a good (or “solid” as we used to say) amount of baksheesh goes a really long way, in India. The US, of course, is a different animal altogether.
I had to pay for the privilege of driving an old, beat-up, heavy, and cumbersome U-Haul. Plus, I had to insure it. Plus, I had to buy boxes and pack everything myself. I’ve paid people to do it but they generally break more than they pack so I’ve given up on that. On the 29th, I rented a storage space (something pretty much unheard of, in India, unless you’re talking about commercial warehouses of 10,000 square feet or more). I need the storage because this move is supposed to be temporary and I’m supposed to be back in a few months or so. Anyway, the U-Haul lady was pretty upset that I was just paying for my truck and driving it myself. She wanted it picked up on time too! I got my truck at 9:00 a.m. instead of 7:00 a.m. and that, of course, is a capital crime! Anyway, so I picked up the truck on the 30th, feeling pretty confident that I had packed just about 99% of my stuff. I put it all in the truck (with a little help from a younger friend and my neighbour and the guy who fixes my apartment whenever something falls apart — and, bear in mind, my apartment is a little over 50 years old). Randy (one of the guys who helped me load the U-Haul) also helped me unload it. And that, I thought, was that. Except, of course, it wasn’t.
I stayed at a motel, the night of the 30th because, of course, there was no furniture at the apartment, any more. My cats, however, didn’t care about the furniture. They liked the extra space. So, they stayed at home while I was basically kicked out and stayed at the motel. At 7:15 a.m. on the 31st, I figured I would just take one last quick look at the place to make sure the place was empty and clean. And that’s when I realized I hadn’t even begun to pack two “little” closets. Take my word for it — closets are the work of the devil. ONE tiny closet, apparently, can hold enough stuff to fill up most of Buckingham Palace. Still, I had no idea how much stuff was in there! I thought I would be done in 10 minutes. Don’t laugh!
By the time I had finished packing, putting it in the storage space, and returning the keys to the apartment, it was 2:30 p.m. It didn’t help that I thought a 5×10 space would be plenty to store everything from my apartment. Again, I thought I would be out of the place in 10 minutes. My cats, however, decided they liked my place too much to leave it without a fight. And so, I had to wrestle one (Ghungroo the Grey) to the ground. The other one decided it would be more effective to hide — even though I could see her pretty easily. But then she had one more option — she could run. The correct word, from a cat perspective, I guess, would be “saunter”. That cute little black ball of fur (Chaklu the Tiny) is greased lightning, compared to me! Melody, the third, the Princess of the house, stuck up her nose at me but cooperated, otherwise. So, finally, I put all of my stuff in the car, including my cats. I forgot things several times and ran back to get them. About a hundred miles down the road, I realized that I had forgotten all of my shaving stuff that I had laid out very neatly on my bathroom sink, so I wouldn’t forget anything. But being brave and adventurous, I decided that I could manage without shaving for a day, perhaps even two, until I bought some disposable shaving stuff.
As I was passing Gainesville, I realized that I had not purchased any kitty litter. So, around 7:00 p.m. I stopped at the Gainesville Publix and bought two disposable kitty litter boxes that contained “free” kitty litter. I paid $.7.00 + tax for those stupid things, so I don’t see how any of it is free. But, despite my better judgement, I decided not to contest the issue with the Publix manager. Finding space for those boxes was a problem, though. At this point, my car was filled with two large suitcases and two small ones, in the trunk, two 30-lb. boxes of cat-food (though one had only 2 lbs of food it), my weekend travel case, my laptop, and a box full of random stuff that I saved from the apartment for no reason that I can think of, at present. But I managed. My cats protested. I told them to deal with it. Yeah, I’m a real bossy guy — no problem shushing three ferocious little cats sitting quietly in their carriers in the back seat.
My first stop was Tallahassee. Since I am driving alone — the lone human, anyway — I decided that I would try to pass the time by figuring out different ways to say “Tallahassee” without messing it up completely. My number one choice is Taslahalee. Tell me if you come up with something better. Surprisingly, I reached my motel in Tallahassee two or three minutes before 11:00 p.m. I tried to see if I could make it to the front desk before 11:00 p.m. (I lost to myself, if you’re keeping track of these things). As it turned out, this was one of the few things I had planned really well!
I picked my favourite motel (La Quinta) for the drive, in December. And I called and asked the guys at the main office to check with each location if they would accept 3 cats. They did — at no charge! So, I was (and am) thrilled! At the end of the day, I was tired, confused, exasperated (with myself) and generally not a very happy camper. Jason and Freddy had nothing on me. The Alien, though would have won easily — but then he’s an alien! Still, I liked my room. I got calls from my parents and some friends before I fell asleep. So, overall, the day went well. But tomorrow is another day.
By the way, just in case anyone decides to follow this blog day by day, keep in mind that this is a 5-day trip. And I deliberately make my entry one day “late”. So, by the time you read an entry, I am already at my next destination.
Feel free to comment, ask questions, etc. I’m looking to get a million hits on my blog by the end of this journey 🙂