Smile Politely

The People You Meet While Moving: A poorly illustrated guide

As Donald discussed a few weeks ago, Champaign-Urbana is a transient community. I can attest to that because I am one of those transients. I’ve moved three times over the past four years into different rental houses with equally quirky, elusive landlords and have even been homeless for days at a time between leases. A few weeks ago, I moved myself from Urbana to Champaign with the help of my pick-up truck and a few interesting individuals. The following is my poorly illustrated guide to The People You Meet While Moving.

1. The Foreign Exchange Students

For the past four years of college, and most of my life really, I’ve collected stuff and gotten rid of very little. The result verges on hoarding. Before my most recent move, I decided to get rid of at least half of my belongings and become a minimalist.

I put it all on Craigslist.

Because I could also deliver my furniture, I had a lot of interest from foreign exchange graduate students who had just moved into an empty apartment and had no way of moving bulky items.

A lovely couple of PhD students from Turkey came over to look at my table, which they purchased using one hundred dollar bills. They also made offers on nearly everything in the house.

They just started pointing at things and asking, “Is that for sale?” They were even interested in my hookah. They ended up just buying the table and chairs and two of those hydra-headed lamps that can be found in every tween girl’s bedroom across America.

2. The Sketchy Craigslist Buyer 

After many emails from scammers (or possibly mystic internet prophets), I had grown wary of responses to my posts. I had put up an ad for my bulky old Toshiba television for $40 with little hope of selling it, when I received this response:

Do you still have the tv for sell if so I’m in need of one

Obviously, Craigslist isn’t the place to adhere to the rules of grammar, but I couldn’t help but assume that this person was not, in fact, interested in purchasing my television (how could he be), but rather a serial killer who specializes in sellers on Craigslist.

After agonizing over whether to give this stranger my address, my roommate finally persuaded me to do it (“it’s $40!”) and then promptly hid in his room. Within minutes the buyer responded.

Ok. I will b there

I spent the next half hour imagining the different ways I might die, putting together a defense strategy and hiding all of my valuables. When the doorbell rang, I opened the door to find a lanky, young man with a twang in his voice.

“Hi, I’m here for the TV,” he said.

I showed him the technologically outdated beast, and he was delighted.

“This is just like the one that went out on us!” He said. “I was up in a tree today for my job when my dad called and said the TV had just died. My dad is outside in the van; I’ll tell him to pull around.”

The whole family had come along on this sacred errand for a new television. The son lifted the TV single-handedly (definitely underestimating its weight) and struggled with it out the door and into the van.

Apparently, this family could not live without a TV for more than a few hours, and felt the need to buy a new one immediately (calling their son in a state of emergency while he was up in a tree)—to me, they represent everything this country stands for.

3. Hippie Joe

Many of you may have already met the man known as Hippie Joe. He drives around in a van with the word “Love” spray-painted on the side, and tells anyone who will listen the story of his life and all of his wacky conspiracy theories.

It was around 5 p.m. in Urbana, and my roommate and I were eating shawarma sandwiches outside on my couch after a fairly unsuccessful garage sale when Hippie Joe rolled up in his rainbow-colored van to peruse our junk.

After about ten minutes of rifling through my box o’ crap, he purchased a half-can of spray paint and a bike lock. But he did not leave. Oh no. He took the opportunity to tell us about his entire life, including the multiple unjustified arrests, the CIA plots against him, and his daddy issues. For 45 minutes he talked, without pause, as I stared at a squirrel in the yard. He finally left us with this pearl of wisdom:

“Things unravel quickly,” he said. “Remember that.”

He then walked over to his van and outlined the word “love” with my bronze spray paint before driving away and leaving the whole block smelling of paint fumes.

4. The Professional Scavenger

Throughout the month of August, you can’t drive around town without noticing piles of junk on the side of the road. People have so much stuff that they’re begging people to take it away for free. Seriously, never buy firewood—there’s a forest’s worth of it here.

At least one savvy man has turned this phenomenon into a career. I had just finished hauling two broken vacuum cleaners onto the curb when a man rode up on his bike and asked if they were fair game. I nodded “yes,” but before I could add, “but they’re broken,” he took out a pair of scissors, snipped off the vacuum cords, and biked away, saying “thanks.” Apparently he even has business cards; he gave one to my roommate earlier that day.

5. The Helpful Stranger

All of these people helped me during my move in some way, but no one was as selfless as the stranger who helped me move in my couch.

I don’t know who decides how wide to make front doors, but they have an uncanny ability of making them juuust big enough to fit in furniture, and only after considerable maneuvering. 

My friends and I were discussing our strategy for fitting the massive couch into the tiny door at the top of the steps when a man rode up on his bike and asked if we needed a hand. I said we would love one, and the guy, who probably had somewhere to be, jumped off his bike to help us with the unpleasant task. He even hurt his hand in the process. Thanks, kind stranger!

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