Sunday, November 26, 2017

Communication Conundrum Resolved

The moving day communication conundrum began when the Russian movers arrived. Expository interlude ahead (possible spoiler alert). My son and his wife decided to move from SoCal to NorCal. (My son has a portable profession.) They sold their townhouse in SoCal and asked if they could move in with us while they explore communities, schools, housing prices, etc. in NorCal. My son wants to bring my five-month-old baby grandson to live with me; and he asks me if that’s OK? Seriously? How long has he had a Jewish mom? The answer was written in the Talmud hundreds of years ago. We have a win-win situation here. They get a landing pad while they regroup, and my husband and I get a baby. They had commitments in SoCal to finish up before making the exodus. Hence the moving van, with their belongings to stash in storage, would arrive in NorCal before them. Ron and I agreed to meet the movers at the storage unit to unlock it and keep track of the inventory during the load in. We recalled loading stage scenery on and off of trucks and in and out of theaters during our salad days as theater techies, and Ron went off in search of his adjustable crescent wrench.

Moving day dawned dark and stormy with sheets of rain pouring down. The movers, scheduled to arrive at the storage unit early in the morning, would call from the road one hour before anticipated arrival to give us a heads up. We roused ourselves at a demonically early hour on a morning made for lolling around in bed reading and listening to the tap-tap of raindrops, and stood by for the call, like Neo in The Matrix. Except when the call came, we did not get transported from one reality to another, like Neo. It only seemed like it.

We met the movers, Vladi and Andrei, at the storage facility. I told them right away that I’m hard of hearing, that I wear hearing aids, which help but aren’t all that, and so I would probably need to ask them to repeat what they said through a megaphone. Vladi, the lead mover, told us right away that he and his coworker Andrei are Russian and that he could speak English but Andrei was still learning. These guys were not throw-the-election-and-sabotage-America-so-it-loses-all-credibility-and-influence-on-the-world-stage Russians. They were simply your garden variety of hardworking Russian immigrants. Vladi walked us through the paperwork, which, fortunately, was in English. We and the movers each had a numbered inventory of every item on the truck. Each item had a magic green sticker with a corresponding number on it. Andrei lowered the elevator-tailgate and prepared to unload in the drenching rain. Luckily, only a few feet separated the truck from the hallway leading to the storage unit and the green number stickers seemed waterproof.

The storage unit did not have any lighting; but Vladi produced an excellent flashlight that Ron held up so we could see into the depths of the 10x10 unit. Ron has less than 20/20 vision, especially in dim light, so it was a good thing for him to control the flashlight so he could sidle up close to any object and look at it from three inches away to make sure it didn’t bite. The situation was shaping up as a potential comedy sketch in my imagination:  the woman who can’t hear, the man who can’t see, and the Russian movers unload a truck full of mystery objects in the pouring rain and stash them in a dark 10x10 space guided only by numbered green dots.

“I didn’t load the truck,” Vladi informed us worriedly, “so I don’t know how much I have here. I hope it will fit in that storage.” Our children’s belongings were not the only items on the truck. After unloading for us, the Russians would drive another 100 miles to unload the rest of the stuff for someone else. I tried to reassure them that my son knows what he’s doing and everything would fit. Vladi still looked skeptical in both Russian and English.

Necessity breeds invention, and we figured out a system for unloading and inventorying. Vladi remained on the truck and moved items to the tailgate (marking them off on his inventory list) while Andrei carried them into the storage. Vladi got to do this because he was the boss. Andrei did most of the heavy lifting. Ron said he felt like a supervisor (he even started to swagger a little). I looked for the green numbered sticker-dots while Andrei called out the numbers as he carried objects in. He had a Russian accent and didn’t always speak up so sometimes I understood him and sometimes I didn’t. If I didn’t hear him, and missed seeing the number, then the failsafe was Supervisor Ron, who made use of the flashlight to spot the numbers (often from two inches away) and repeat them to me or point them out to me. I marked off each number as it went by, which was a super-satisfying task for a Virgo, and I had to restrain myself from humming.

Andrei did his best to stack things sensibly to get the most out of the space, but in no time at all Supervisor Ron was moving things around and restacking them more efficiently when Andrei was out at the truck. Andrei didn’t seem to mind, or perhaps he didn’t notice the rearrangements. It’s interesting watching someone else’s possessions get stacked in a storage unit. I’m not judging, mind you; but I have to wonder why the kids have so many snowboards. The one I bought for my son was stolen from his room at the frat house when he was in college, so maybe he’s overcompensating.

When they had unloaded about half the items, Vladi came off the truck, looked into the storage unit, and panicked (in Russian and English). He didn’t think it would all fit. I talked him down off the ceiling (in English) and convinced him to keep unloading. I had faith in my son’s judgment. If he said it would fit, it would fit; and as we neared the end of the inventory, sure enough, it became apparent to Vladi that it would indeed fit. When he declared the inventory unloaded, Vladi and I compared notes about which items we had checked off our inventory lists. I had two things still missing and he swore he had unloaded them. One of them was identified as “framed pictures.” We had no framed pictures in the storage unit. Because the customer is always right, Vladi went back to look in the truck and he found both of the missing items. One of them was the framed pictures (camouflaged because they were wrapped in a protective pad). We almost wound up with a small plastic tub belonging to someone else, but Andrei caught it at the last minute and took it back to the truck. It didn’t look like something my children owned since we could see that it contained a mess of photos (of people we didn’t recognize), small tools, cat food (they don’t have cats), papers, and rubber bands randomly thrown into it. I could not imagine my well-organized daughter-in-law “packing” that disorderly box. Besides, it had no snowboards in it.

As the movers removed the padding from the last few pieces of furniture, I noticed that Andrei had a small, bleeding cut on his hand. I ducked into a nearby phone booth and emerged wearing my Jewish Supermom outfit and wielding antibiotic ointment and a bandaid, which I happened to have in my handbag, because that’s how Jewish moms roll. I ran an X-ray on the wound, tested it for mercury, reset the bone, doused the hand in antibiotic ointment, and bandaged him up. He was astonished. As I recall, Russia threw out all the Jews, so he probably had not yet experienced the awesome energy of a Jewish mom.

Before hopping on their truck and riding off into the pouring rain, Vladi showed me photos of his beautiful multiculti children on his phone. His wife is Korean/Russian. He has a little girl and a two-month-old son. Although he was supposed to remove the moving company pads from all the items and take them with him, he said he was leaving my children’s crib wrapped in the pads to protect it because he has a baby too. How sweet. I asked the Russians to teach me how to say “thank you” in Russian. Spasibo. Diversity rocks. I remain ever grateful for the goodness and kindness that I find everywhere around me in the many different people who touch my life.

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