Why must people move? I don’t mean “move” in the sense of being in motion. Obviously some movement is necessary in the course of one’s daily activities. I mean “move” in the sense of packing your belongings into boxes and transporting them to a new dwelling place and making your friends help you do it. Actually, I guess it’s really only the last part that distresses me. So let me rephrase my original question: Why must people make me do stuff?
My friend Luscious Malone (names have been changed) is living with her parents and brother while she goes to grad school (or maybe forever; I don’t know), and the whole family recently moved from their townhouse to a regular house, one of the non-town variety. And though Luscious is one of my dearest friends, and though the Malones have been a surrogate family to me here in Portland, and though the court has ordered that I do more community service, I hate hate HATE moving.
I hate every aspect of moving. I hate the packing. I hate the lifting. It goes without saying I hate the carrying. I hate U-Haul trucks, where the cabs always smell like sweat and cigarettes and where the cargo bays are haunted by the filthy ghosts of a thousand mattresses. I hate remembering new addresses. I hate the fine, dusty residue that cardboard boxes leave behind after you tear them down.
Luckily, the Malones are active church-goers, which means that on the day of the move, a dozen or so large Christian men would be on hand to assist them. I knew this, and I knew Luscious knew how much I hated moving, so I figured she’d let me off the hook. The conversation went as follows:
ME: So you’ll have a bunch of guys from the ward helping out, right?
HER: Yes. From both wards, in fact, because we’re moving into a new one.
ME: Oh, super. So … lots of help, then.
ME: So, you won’t really need me, right?
HER: Won’t we?
ME: Well, with all those guys helping….
HER: Well, many hands do make light work, so the more hands we have….
ME: But you don’t NEED me!!
HER: It’s up to you. If you don’t want to give of your time and services, that’s fine. It will be remembered.
At this point, obviously, the negotiations were over. The message was clear: I could either help the Malones move, or I could let Luscious hold this over my head for the rest of my life. I looked ahead to the next 40 years and didn’t like what I saw, never enjoying a moment’s peace, tormented all the remainder of my days by a woman with a grudge. It wasn’t that Luscious needed my help; she just wanted to demonstrate that she can make me do whatever she wants. She’s kind of a bastard like that.
They moved on a Saturday. It was a) 9 a.m. and b) raining and c) did I mention it was a SATURDAY when it was 9 a.m.? And that it was also d) raining? Well, it e) was. As predicted, there were 15 men there, plus a few teenage boys whose fathers had cruelly conscripted them into helping. The project was moving along at a good clip, and my assistance was clearly not needed. Neither was Luscious’, apparently, as she had taken on a “supervisory” role and was merely watching the men work, often pointing at something or giving an order of some kind but never lifting or carrying anything herself.
I was impressed by Luscious’ ability to give the appearance of working without actually doing anything. Having worked in retail, I was certainly familiar with the concept. So I dusted off my old “look busy” skills and began striding purposefully back and forth from the house to the moving van, always empty-handed but always with a look on my face that gave bystanders the impression I was on my way to pick something up. I would occasionally pause from my labors to enjoy one of the many doughnuts the Malones had provided, or to chat with Luscious’ brother, who was engaged in a campaign of non-busyness similar to mine. The move was accomplished, and everyone went home happy.
Not a week later, my friends Rob and Curtis moved from their suburban home to a condo in downtown Portland. Like Luscious Malone, Rob knows how much I hate to move. However, unlike Luscious Malone, Rob realizes that in all other areas of friendship, I am stellar, and that he needn’t make me prove it by helping him move. He knows I’m a terrific friend. Wherever possible, I help, aid, console, uplift, and support. I’m like a brassiere. Why, I would give you the shirt off my back if you needed it, as long as it wasn’t the pale yellow one with the blue pin stripes, because that one’s my favorite. It has long sleeves, so it can be worn in the winter, but it’s good for summertime, too, if you wear it unbuttoned with a T-shirt underneath and roll up the sleeves a bit. It’s quite versatile. Truly, I do love you, but I’d rather you didn’t take that shirt. Any other shirt is fine. (Note: Luscious would take that shirt.)
The point is, Rob didn’t ask me to help him move — BUT I OFFERED ANYWAY. You see, while the Malones didn’t need my help because they had all the guys from church, Rob and Curtis did need my help because they don’t have any friends. Seriously, they’re a couple of recluses. So knowing I was needed, and appreciating not being cajoled into it, I called Rob and offered my help. He did the whole “What?! Who is this? What have you done with Eric?!” thing, hardy-har-har, and then he told me when to come help, and I did. The nice thing was, I had earned so many points by offering to help, they didn’t even notice how little work I actually did.
The full story of Rob and Curtis' move was too complicated and unwieldy to include in the column. The time got moved up suddenly, and I was unavailable. By the time I got there, most of the work was done. But rest assured, of what work there was left, I did very little.
I notice that in the case of both of these moves, the people now live closer to me. Their motives are soooo transparent.