Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The big move weekend

This last weekend Krista and I moved into the new house. We did so on a day where Calgary
received almost two feet of snow in a 24 hour period.

When I awoke Saturday morning the weather was biblical. there was already a foot where there had been no snow - not some - but no snow the night before.

I had rented a U-Haul and we had most of my family, some of Krista’s and some of both of our friends coming to help. Failure was not an option. I put on my best brave face and started out at eight AM to pickup my brother-in-law and the U-Haul.

U-Haul is defiantly proving to me that they are not, and in no way ever will they be, a service company. Most of my week before this weekend was spent both on the computer and phone trying to secure (at least) a 17’ moving truck. I first did this on their website. I entered in when and where I needed it and thought everything was fine. I was even sent an email telling me everything was fine and gave me a link to page that contained the information on where I could pick up my unit.

Later the same day, I think this was Tuesday, I received a phone call from U-Haul headquarters concerning where and when I could pick up my unit. You think this would be redundant but this information bared little to no resemblance to the info I read in the link from earlier. While on the phone I reopened the link and the info was now changed to what I was hearing on the phone.

This wasn’t good as they now had me driving to the Southeast of Calgary Saturday morning to pick up a unit. This was absolutely unacceptable as crossing Calgary to pick-up a U-Haul (an hour trip out of my way) was asymmetrical to the task at hand. My first stop was in Cochrane at my in-laws to pickup all the stuff we had stored in their garage during the staging of the old house. Then I was to be back and forth between the two neighbourhoods all day. This was a 10 minute trip one way without having to even get on a major thoroughfare.

I protested and was told by the voice on the phone she would look into it. About an hour later I received another call from U-Haul and was told the exact same information as the first call. I protested louder and was met with surprise. Apparently this was a different woman from their office and she wasn’t aware of the previous conversation - believable - until she told me it was only her and the other girl in the office. This woman had the diplomatic skills of The Incredible Hulk and developed that “I-don’t-deserve-to-be-talked-to-this-way” tone even before I had attempted to talk to her “that way”. I think she felt a little mad at the other girl or herself for wading into a situation she had no business being in without forewarning and that was going to get taken out on me.

She told me she would have her manager look into it and have her manager phone me back. No one phoned me back and no one was going to phone me back.

It became my task to figure this out as U-Haul headquarters was obviously hanging me out to dry. I phoned a U-Haul depot (I think it was a mechanics shop?) and got a very nice woman on the phone who obviously had dealt with the central office enough times to very quickly start to empathise with my plight. She had, according to her computer, units available for Saturday.

I left her to phone U-Haul headquarters and get it straightened out. She phoned me back sometime later and told me there was nothing she could do. Everything was booked. I believe either one or two things happened.Either she was told everything was booked and it was or this woman in the office decided they were done accommodating me told her that they were letting me twist in the wind.

I then phoned U-Haul in Cochrane to see if they had any units - logical as that’s where my first stop was. I was secretly hoping they would be of a different central office or independent. The guy was nice enough but pretty much ignored the story of my plight thus far and we preceded to make a new reservation - thinking that I would cancel the first one once satisfied with the second.

I’m usually quicker than this but I obviously missed the ball on this one. As he was taking my information I was completely honest with my moving from location and moving to location. To make it clear - those two locations were in Calgary.

Soon after he assured me that my reservation was made, that I could pick up my unit on Saturday morning at nine AM and I hung up - I got a new email from U-haul. This one had my new reservation number and a new link. I followed the link and the order page had nothing to do with what I had just told him. My reservation was at Gas Station in the Northwest of Calgary (where I am) for Saturday (the day I wanted) but for 3:30 in the afternoon (WTF?).

I quickly realized, in the same flood of consciousness that Chazz Palminteri has at the end of movie “The Usual Suspects”, that I was being managed by a computerized booking system. It was pretty rudimentary as it was essentially matching two database (‘customers by Location then by day and then by time’ and ‘units by location then by day then by time’). I had just screwed myself by having this guy enter all the correct information into the system. It took me basically two transactions with U-Haul to figure this out - the guy in Cochrane dealt with them everyday - why hadn’t he caught on?

Anything that we discussed and the fact that I had called in through Cochrane was all null-and-void. I don’t doubt it was entered into the computer but probably into some “comments” column. Even I with my limited database querying background could build a better program than this - I actually can - this is what I do for a living. The fact that I didn’t game such a crappy build is so very embarrassing.

Soon I got a phone call from the guy from the gas station confirming my 3:30 pick up. I very calmly explained that I did not want the the unit at his place at 3:30 but I wanted the unit I requested, where I requested it and when I requested it. I never received another phone call but later that night I went online and saw my order was changed to Cochrane. Obviously after my conversation with gas station guy an actual person reviewed the order.

Insult to injury: Being that my unit was from one town and I was using it in another town, the rental cost me twice what it would have cost me if I would have got one in Calgary -still not a lot of money but maybe I should have kept the one in the Southeast.

My brother-in-law and I secured the fabled U-Haul of lore from an acreage West of Cochrane. Other than the U-Haul trucks park on the property you wouldn’t think this was anything more than an acreage but from the inside of the garage it looks like this fellow runs a viable pet food business from this property also. Other than there was blood on the rental contract (his blood he told us) and the transaction was officiated by a large orange cat - it went very well.

From the get-go it was slick. Like I said, there was a foot of snow on the ground and another foot falling. At the first intersection in Cochrane (at the bottom of a hill) I was made well aware of how slick it was by narrowly avoiding a rear-ending with my own Power Wagon. That settled me down a bit.

We loaded the stuff from Krista’s parents garage rather quickly as we had a few hands on deck - including my brother Neal. It was lucky Neal came along because it was uphill out of my in-laws neighbourhood and uphill from there out of Cochrane. The U-Haul and I made a valiant attempt but soon we were at the end of tow rope behind Neal’s truck(Dad’s Dodge 2500 Diesel of Kansas City fame).

For the rest of the day the U-Haul had to have a support vehicle tag along with it. We towed and pushed lots and eventually we go pretty good at it. Although we got little support from anyone else. Example: one of my neighbours had a children’s birthday party on the same day as the move. This event turned our street into a car-gauntlet. While loading the truck we watched one lady in a sport-ute park right in our turning radius and walk into the party. We were actually all staring at her in disbelief the whole time. We had to move three vehicles to leave another way thanks to her.

On our last trip from the old house we got so slick that as we drove into the close and, predictably, lost traction on the hill - one of us hopped out and guided the truck back, a silver Power Wagon appeared from nowhere back up in front of the U-Haul, a tow rope slung over the tailgate was hooked to the front of the U-Haul and everything disappeared up the hill. That was beautiful. As the truck spun out there was a father and son snow shoveling team on the corner ten feet away watching us. They must of thought they were going to get recruited into pushing. I saw they were still wondering what had just happened as when we drove off I caught them in the rear view mirror.

Saturday, moving day was also my 32nd birthday. After the move we celebrated with everyone that was there. We cooked burgers in the garage as the snow impeded getting the barbecue onto the deck. My garage still smells like smoke this morning.

I had some of my friends/movers stay over and we drank rye and told lies until the wee hours. All and all a very good birthday and I will forever remember the Saturday we moved in as my 32nd birthday and the crazy snow day.

It’s important to note Sunday was beautiful and at least half the snow melted. Welcome to Calgary.

No word from Tony yet.

Stay tuned...

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