Thursday, June 30, 2005

Death By Pottery Barn Sofabed and Other Moving Hazards...

Never did I think I'd live to see the day where I'd witness the near-crushing death of a strapping young man by a harmless-looking pastel yellow Pottery Barn sofabed, but this rather unfortunate event very nearly came to pass on my staircase last week.

It was 3PM and the move-in had been going badly. More badly in fact, than even I--consummate worrier, inveterate planner, and unparalled master of logistics--could have ever imagined. It hadn't been a good sign when, an hour into the move (which naturally started four hours later than scheduled due to the moving truck being stuck in traffic: British code for a tea break that went on longer than expected), the movers had asked me to please let them know in advance when we planned on moving out so they could book their vacations during that time.

This comment had me particularly rattled because so many friends had quelled my pre-move jitters by providing gushing testimonials as to the incomparable fortitude and cleverness of British movers, who were by all accounts entirely accustomed to lugging heavy and cumbersome objects up multiple flights of stairs and wedging them into narrow spaces using their innate gifts of moving savoir faire, and failing that, a crane.

I became increasingly disconcerted when the movers soon made the pessimistic pronouncement that it was unlikely any of our furniture items were getting past the first floor due to the narrowness and sharp right angles of our staircase (the crane option was out because our turn of-the-century windows were equally narrow) I'm envisioning an entire life lived in the confines of our kitchen and living room, they threw out a kernel of hope: "But if you remove all three floors of that bannister railing, we might be able to get some of it up there."

Fortunately (due to one of my eerily accurate premonitions of doom), my husband Steve had taken the day off and was thus busily put to work in the piece-by-piece dismantlement of our bannister, containing approximately 250 individual spires. Some of his handiwork is on display below. (The right pole was the result of an especially brutal pounding it took for having the gall to refuse to come out.)

With each large furniture item that was brought in and up the first flight of stairs, I'd usually be forced to make the grim and ill-received announcement that it was destined for the 2nd or worse, 3rd floor. By now, the movers had come to develop a visceral dislike of our large, American-sized possessions and our narrow, multi-story house, pronouncing this by far the most difficult move-in they'd ever done. (Mind you, this was before the 'sofa incident', as we now euphemistically refer to it around here.)

This was all the more disheartening since I'd entered into battle perhaps more prepared than Patton himself, having obsessively measured and re-measured the dimensions of every furniture item beforehand and having had Steve construct an Autocad-worthy scale map of our entire house, including stairwells, windows, door frames, etc., in addition to conducting some basic geometric calculations regarding furniture placement. (Who knew there really were applications for the Pythagorean Theorem in real life?) I really, really wanted to avoid the use of the aforementioned crane, and moreso, the tragic fate that would befall an item if it didn't fit thru the doors or windows: its relegation to the the UK furniture graveyard (unless of course you wanted to pay to have it shipped back to the States at a cost probably equalling that of the item).

But all of this preparation prepared me not for the guttural and inhuman cry emanating from the area of the 90-degree hairpin turn of our third floor staircase. As I raced to the scene, I arrived to see a man laid nearly flat with the weight of 1/2 the sofa on his back. Paralyzed in shock, visions of the Jaws of Life coming to mind (do they have that here?), the movers' screams of "Where's your husband?!" startled me into action. Thankfully, Steve arrived moments later and crawled under the sofa to relieve some of the weight off the crushed mover who, less than gratefully, gasped out "For God's sake lady, is this a sofabed? You're supposed to take out the bed part before it's packed so it doesn't weigh 1,000 pounds."

Oh. Didn't know that helpful little fact, but it certainly added to my guilt that my utter chutzpah of wanting the sofabed in the guestroom had nearly killed a man. Trying to put this harrowing incident behind us, we reconvened at the top of the third floor stairs, only to discover...the sofa wouldn't fit thru the guestroom door. Not only would it not fit thru the door, but after an hour of various manueverings, it remained firmly stuck half-in, half-out of the room. Pythagoras himself could not have devised a theorem to get it in there.

It's at this critical stage that the movers decided to abandon ship: "Right then, well, we've got to get on with another job (British code for: Time to hit the pub, it's 5:00), but I'm sure if you just take off one of the arms and remove the bed frame, you'll be able to get it in there no problem 'tall. Cheerio!"

Two hours and four sawed-off sofa legs later (the arm proved too difficult a task for even Steve's aggressive tool-wielding abilities), we wrestled the sofa into the room. Then it was on to the 6-foot tall IKEA armoire that, after the sofabed incident, I hadn't had the heart to tell the movers belonged on the 3rd floor. Thus it had to be unassembled, carried piece by piece upstairs, and reassembled, which--as anyone who has ever put together so much as an IKEA folding chair will know--is no simple task.

3AM had now come and gone, and while Steve is attempting reassembly of the stairwell bannister, I'm unpacking the very last of our boxes, which surely must contain my extensive cashmere sweater and leather boot collection, heretofore missing in action. Wearily wielding my boxcutter with a now practiced air, I open the box to find...(in what was surely the movers' karmic revenge for the sofabed)...Steve's underwear.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Peace at last...

And The Raven Quoth No More...

Thanks to all who have offered their varied and inspired suggestions on how to handle the pigeon "situation" as well as to those who have shared their own travails with these tenacious beasts of burden.

Greatly appreciated were offers to send over Southern BB-gun toting friends, or to export a posse of NYC-based pigeons that could exert some New York City-style pigeon justice. Other thought-provoking ideas proffered up included suggestions for locating an owl (the only natural predator of the pigeon) and advice on the black market purchase of the controlled-substance Avitrol--which apparently packs a punch of avian amnesia, causing nesting birds to take up residence elsewhere. And in the "didn't need to know" category was the little-known fact that over 150,000 people a year in the U.S. develop the flu-like symptoms of "histoplasmosis", stemming directly from contact with pigeon droppings.

Before further alarm could set in (and those persistent allergies I've had since moving to England started to take on an altogether sinisiter new meaning), the buzzer rang yesterday and it was two work overalls...with tools!

This father and son Pigeon Swat Team told me they were re-routed from a very important pigeon mission they'd left half-completed after receiving a frantic call from our property manager, who apparently finally took my latest threat for withheld rent monies seriously now that it's nearing the 1st of the month. Charles & son (who it turns out were actually "expert scalers" who'd recently returned from a trip to Everest) spent the day constructing a vast and beautific sight for weary eyes: a giant trampoline-like roof enclosure that would finally restore some nocturnal sanity to our household.

When in giddy excitment, I emailed our property manager, wanting to share my elation about the marvels of the new pigeon defense system, he responded back by "respectfully suggesting that I get out more." Sure, easy for him to say, living his no-doubt pigeon-free existence, getting his solid eight hours of pigeon-free sleep somewhere in what is obviously a pigeon-free utopia.