American Shithole #18 — Moving and the Traveling Salesman
By Eric Wilson
I’d love to spare some time this week for Trump’s on-again, off-again (just kiss him already!) love affair with Li’l Kim, or the 1,475 missing migrant children or Rosanne's cancellation, but I’ve been distracted by my own triumvirate — a difficult household move, an incompetent painting crew, and a door-to-door salesman whose life must’ve depended on selling just one more security package.
Up until my forties I don’t think I ever paid for movers — at least not in the traditional sense of hiring professionals — I never felt I could afford it; probably because I couldn’t. For many Americans, moving day involves friends and family with trucks, to whom you provide pizza, beer, and your undying fucking gratitude.
Moving meant cuts, scrapes, bruises and broken toes.
Moving meant squeezing every square inch out of every available vehicle, all while scratching, denting and breaking as little of what you and your friends own as possible.
Moving meant telling your friends that you were renting a third-story walk-up after they've already shown up.
This time though, things were going to be different. We were moving into a beautiful new house, in a beautiful neighborhood, with the help of professionals who were going to make the transition so much easier for us — and they did, mostly.
In fact, they were so great — the movers, I mean — we had them come back and help us again, five days later. We had to, seeing as someone hired the world’s worst painting crew in America. Superlatives are usually ill-advised, but fuck me if these guys didn’t suck the worst kind of donkey balls as professional painters.
Yes, there is a worst kind.
I should have known when the owner of the company showed up in a “Team Jesus” t-shirt, with his wife and son as his only crew, that things were not going to go as planned.
Perhaps someone should have told “TJ” and his brood of holy rollers to roll it on back down the driveway, but you see, the new house had popcorn ceilings, and the popcorn ceilings had to go. Besides, at that point, there was precious little time for improvisation.
Unfortunately, “TJ” and family were hired using the time-tested formula of finding the cheapest quote, which they had provided. Note to self: when dealing with home renovation, take the second cheapest quote.
And then we really fucked up.
We asked them if they could paint the walls too (since they were already going to be there, and the tarps and whatnot would already be down) and still be done by Tuesday, before the movers got there.
They lied to us, and said “yes.”
I don’t care how much thought you put into it, how well you organize, or how much money you throw at the problem — moving is a giant pain in the ass, and it always will be.
Changing plans mere days beforehand was just begging for disaster. Our mistake was a monkey wrench that brought the gears of our well-oiled moving machine to a grinding halt.
Come Tuesday, nothing had been painted and the house was still covered in popcorn ceiling dust from nook to cranny. Apparently their cleaning crew had no-called and no-showed, and Team Jesus didn’t have a backup plan (like get junior Jesus to do it?), so they just left it as it was.
The upstairs was completely unavailable, so all of our belongings had to be moved into the living rooms and the garage. Everything we owned was floor to ceiling in these three areas, without a single room in livable condition.
Come Thursday — after we were forced to stay elsewhere for two days — the house was still a disaster, and they had just packed up all their gear and left. As if the homeowners were going to clean the place from top to bottom, and then somehow magically lug a thousand pounds of beds and dressers up a flight of stairs.
I threw my back out leaning over for a pencil last week.
So, a second crew had to be expedited (from the same movers) to come back Saturday (on the busiest moving weekend of the year, Memorial Day Weekend) to get the heavy stuff upstairs — all of this with less than 24 hours before one of us (not me, thankfully) had to leave for Europe.
I mentioned to my partner in crime at some point, that a lifetime of last-second packing — for which I have relentlessly chided her — might actually pay off this weekend. It was 10 o'clock Saturday evening, and we hadn't even located the box that contained all of her underwear, and yet, she still managed to pack her bags like a champion by midnight, for an international flight leaving the following Sunday morning.
So, needless to say, I was a tad bit miffed when the doorbell rang Friday at the crack of dawn, as it was already a race against time to get the household in some sort of functioning order before she left, and we really needed a decent night's rest. We had probably only slept for four hours.
I awoke to the sounds of the new doorbell in the new house, and made my way down the new stairs to the new front door, stubbing my toe and cursing every hobbled step of the way. Remember, I had already spent half a week — a very difficult half a week — dealing with the fallout from a last minute painting change before the move, which had thrown the entire meticulously-planned effort into chaos.
I had cracked the door open ever-so-slightly in an effort to keep the dogs from escaping, and from allowing too much blinding morning light from pouring in, only to discover a tall, smartly-dressed gentleman with a clipboard and a box, smiling at me.
“Yes?” I asked, impatiently.
“Hello, I noticed you had just moved into the neighborhood, and we are offering a special deal on home security, just for you!” he said.
My struggle to keep the dogs from escaping continued with my face and body stuffed between the door and the jamb.
“Who are you?” I asked.
He mentioned who he was, and what company he worked for, and he welcomed me to the neighborhood with all the pleasantries of a politician. What I heard was “I represent the Shady Security Company, and we like to send representatives like me to your door at the crack of dawn, the first day after you’ve moved in — and yes, we suck the worst kind of donkey balls.”
The best I could muster was a disinterested, “Uh-huh.”
“We’d like to offer you a free door camera,” he continued, “Would it be alright if I installed the free door camera for you now?”
He literally took the camera out of the box and started looking for the best location.
“As you can see, we haven’t even settled in yet,” I said, as I feebly gestured to the stacks of boxes behind me.
“Could you come back Monday, perhaps?” I asked, hoping to defer the inconvenience until a later date.
“Are you sure you wouldn’t like to just sign up for this now, this is an amazing offer, just for you. Let me show you some numbers.”
“Um, no. I haven’t even had my coffee yet.”
Speaking of which, I would later discover I failed to indicate on my master list of where all things be, which of the 11 kitchen boxes contained the coffee; so I will leave it to you, dear reader, to guess how many boxes I opened before I found the coffee.
No guessing necessary really, it was the 11th box that contained the coffee.
We haggled a bit, the salesman and I, regarding which day would be better for him to return. He had thought that the very next day would be best, while I preferred something closer to never. We compromised and settled on Memorial Day — which I figured he would later realize was indeed a holiday, one that would service him better if he were doing literally anything other than spending it with me.
“Well, all right then, I’ll be back on Monday morning!”
As I closed the door, I remember thinking to myself, “How the hell did he know we were here?”
Then it hit me — home sales are public record. This will not be the last of this. This guy is the vanguard of the new door-to-door sales force. I thought this terribly outdated sales technique had died decades ago, but instead, they just focus on homeowners now.
No wonder I hadn’t encountered any of their species in years. I’d been renting.
I remember a time when as a nation we didn’t seem to mind people just showing up at our door. We politely listened to encyclopedia salesman as if they held the secrets of the entire world in their suitcases. We would look forward to Girl Scout cookies, or maybe just the neighbors dropping by to sell some Tupperware. Ding dong, its Avon calling! We didn’t even mind during election seasons if campaign volunteers made their cases for their candidates on our stoops and porches.
What do I know, I was a kid. We also didn’t have the internet, and our days were spent outside hitting each other with sticks.
Yeah, well that was then, and this is now. If you come to my fucking door in 2018, I better know you, and you better have fucking called, texted, emailed or messaged me first.
Usually, we just hide. When the doorbell would ring at the old apartment, or even at the house we rented for the last few years, we would look at each other and communicate in tactical hand signals. Don’t let them know that anyone is home — that’s the game we all play in America now.
My bleary-eyed face was smooshed between the door and the jamb again, incredulous that this motherfucker came back the next day.
“Hi, again! I wante—”
“Listen up,” I interrupted, “I appreciate that you are trying to make a living — and you are obviously very aggressive about it, seeing as this isn’t the day we agreed on — but we are incredibly busy, and incredibly tired, and this is Saturday, not Monday, so… how about we give you a call if we decide we need your services?”
“There’s no time like the present to secure your new home!”
“Yes there is, and it will be the time of my choosing.”
Sensing my dismissal, his mood changed.
“Well I wish you would have told me that instead of me wasting my time coming over here,” he said, rather curtly.
I paused to consider my options. Did that motherfucker just diss me, on my doorstep, because I dared to be dismissive of his overly-aggressive, hopelessly outdated sales technique?
Now this is where a sane person would say something pleasant and send the overzealous door-to-door salesperson on their way.
“Let me see your ID,” I demanded.
“Your driver’s license, let me see it.”
“I’m taking down you name and address.”
“Um, what for?”
“Well, since you asked so nicely, I plan on showing up to your house, unannounced and uninvited, and I’m going to sell you that couch behind me.”
The tall, well-dressed man peered over my shoulder.
“But… I don’t need a couch.”
“Well, you haven’t heard me sing its praises yet. I figure I could come over — at the time of my choosing — and tell you all about it. That’s fine with you, right? What time do you like to take your morning dump? That’s when I would like to show up. Is it OK if I bring a free pillow from the couch, as an incentive?”
“But… I don’t want you to come to my house.”
“Of course you don’t," I replied, "It’s the 21st century, not 1975. No one wants people to just show up at their door anymore. Look, I don’t even like it when my fucking friends show up at my door unannounced — wait, are we friends?”
“Well, no, but I’d like to be!” he said, as his eyes lit up at the prospect.
“Good, because I’ve got boxes and boxes of useless shit I need to move around for a week because the painters lied to me, so how about you help me do that — I’ll provide the beer and pizza, and then you can try to sell me your finest security package? I super-secret besties promise to listen to every word.”
“Well, I don’t think that…”
“Besties help each other, right? Besides, you need to get a feel for how heavy your new couch is going to be.”
As he turned to leave, I realized I probably didn’t want to put on any more of a show for the new neighbors than I already had — perhaps it was best that playtime was over.
The movers arrived later that morning along with their owner in tow, Chris. They listened to my game plan, knocked it out like champs, and then they were off to three other jobs they had to deliver on before sunset. Damn fine work, with a crew of professionals that knew exactly what they were doing.
Maybe I'm just hopelessly old-school in thinking that giving someone your word that you can get something done, actually still means something. I am definitely not old-school when it comes to traveling salesmen — for fook's sake, we need to finally be rid of that shit.
Saturday afternoon, the new Ring app and doorbell had been installed — one had already been purchased before the move — along with our brand new “no soliciting” sign.
If you haven’t checked out Ring, you might like it. It’s a doorbell, with a tiny camera, speaker, and mic that you can access from your phone. It also alerts you to any motion at your front entrance — which is great, because now I can heckle door-to-door salesman via my iPhone from anywhere in the world.
Author's Note: The heckling has already commenced. I successfully heckled another security salesman with Ring on Wednesday afternoon.
I joked several months ago that we would need a school shooting every day before the NRA would release their stranglehold on congress, allowing for sensible gun laws to be legislated. I worry the joke is on us. We just may find out if that’s true, or if even then, they will do nothing. This year we are suffering through 1.1 school shootings per week, and even with fresh wind in our sails and mounting evidence that the NRA funneled Russian money to aid the Trump campaign — we still get no substantive change.
We may have witnessed a moment of humanity from Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Wednesday — she was visibly shaken — as she attempted to respond to a young boy's concerns about school shootings in America. She managed to tremble her way through a few lies, which I suppose is progress.
The free world watches us in horror.