Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Vanman And Supervanman

Riding that infernal conveyor-belt of serial house-moves, when you tire of asking friends for help, and inevitably, they grow weary of assisting, the time comes to employ professionals.

Removal companies work hard. Loading quickly and efficiently is tough. Civilian-shifters have been hospitalised after moving their own furniture, and are now subject to a lifetime of Deep Heat and osteopathy, and friends to their whining. Even something as simple as lifting stuff is liable to leave you with back ache, sanity related issues and a severe pain just below the lower back.

My first experience was the archetypal man and ubiquitous van. Buying a cheap Transit and transporting goods is casual employment for an unskilled gent who (as here) had been made redundant. This Manvanster was morbidly obese. He wheezed, and ruddily complained about the amount of belongings, despite having been forewarned. He stopped regularly for breathe on the stairs, looking so ill that my new neighbours nearly called an ambulance. His co-worker griped, chucking belongings around, but only broke a few glasses (only...)

During the next move, I accepted the cheapest quote. The company phoned later on to explain they had forgotten to include insurance costs. Something felt wrong, but they collected my worldly goods for storage, hauling them southwards two weeks later. Never have I felt so useless; heavy books floated away like feather pillows. I mentioned four small extra boxes; the chief said it was no problem.

Hours afterwards, the MD called, demanding money for “…heavier than expected boxes,” sounding like a villain from Taggart, rejected for being a cliché.

He said: “Listen girlie, you dinnae know who you’re messing with.”
I said: “Well, you don’t know who you’re messing with do you?”
He seemed quite taken aback. I hate bullies, and anyway, I didn’t have the extra money.

He threatened to dump everything if I didn’t pay. The police agreed this was extortion. They visited the company, who changed tack to holding my goods to ransom. So began a fortnight of daily calls from the MD who cackled down the phone like a pantomime baddie, getting his kicks by trying to frighten a “…silly wee girlie,” like me.

After delicate diplomatic negotiations, i.e. him screeching: “Listen girlie: you’re gonnae lose everything if you dinnae gie us more money!” (Can you guess where’s he’s from? That’s right – Scotland!) and me retaliating in kind (without the accent) the lorry arrived. Concerned local police were on standby. Thankfully, nothing was pissed on, smashed, or sold, as feared. No extra money changed hands.

The embarrassed employees apologised for their deranged boss (whose wife had left him recently, and who keeps a plasma mega-screen telly perpetually running full-blast in every room.) They couldn’t have been more helpful. The inevitable losses were annoying but minimal (irreplaceable screws from my bed-frame.) But I don’t have a bad back, which to me is priceless.

(NB: I told this true story to the latest removal man, who was so distressed he bought me a drink, thereby restoring my faith in their noble occupation.)

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