“The Big Move…or, Now I Understand Why There’s a Liquor Store Right across the Street from U-Haul”


As some of you know, I recently moved from my beloved Pacific Northwest to my beloved in Texas. My move has closely coincided with the release of my new book Wingspan, and I’m celebrating both this month. I’m excited to be in a beautiful home with a huge state to explore, new friends to make, and new experiences to…well, to experience. But (again, as most of you probably know), I have a difficult time with change, even positive change. Moving was stressful, made more so by the continual fiascoes along the way.

Over the course of several weeks, I made the drive from Washington to Texas, back to Washington, and back to Texas. If you’re interested in hearing more about those trips, including the, um, interesting story of the night I spent in a hotel room with two goats, please visit my blog: http://kariswalsh.wordpress.com/ For now, though, let me tell you about the fun I had getting my belongings to my new home. The process of packing, decluttering, donating, and transporting was a good lesson in what stuff means to me. What could I part with? What few precious things did I pack in my car instead of shipping? What really mattered to me?

I—rather foolishly—thought it would be easier to ship my things in a U-Haul crate instead of driving a moving van and towing my car. I should have been warned when the moving men had to go to three different U-Haul locations before they were able to pick up the crate I had reserved weeks before. But, no. I thought that was an isolated incident. Hmm…

With the crate loaded, I packed my dad and my favorite, couldn’t-bear-to-lose items in my car and drove to Texas. With only a suitcase full of clothes and a travel case of toiletries, I figured I’d live like a hobo for a few days before the rest of my things arrived. But it was a couple of weeks before an e-mail informed me that my crate was in town and that I would receive a call from the local U-Haul w/in 24 hours to set up delivery to my house. No call. So I called them, twice. No return call. (I never did find a telephone number that went directly to the location where my crate was—I always had to go through a non-local dispatch center. These people are as protected as the president during an international crisis.) I finally was told they wouldn’t deliver it as planned—I would have to rent a truck and do it myself. Here’s what followed when I arrived:

ME (at 9 a.m.): Hello, I reserved a truck and trailer to haul my U-box.

The clerk (after clicking away on his keyboard for ten minutes, in sloooow motion) found my reservation, told me the truck was due back at 2:30, and quoted me what sounded like a very low price.

ME: Does that include the trailer for hauling my U-box?

CLERK: You need a U-box? Let me make sure we have a trailer for that. (He goes outside and walks around the building before coming back and clicking some more). Yes, we have a U-box and trailer ready to go.

ME: Is it my U-box?

CLERK: No, it’s an empty one.

ME: I’d rather have the one with my belongings in it.

CLERK: Oh, you already have one filled? (Some more clicks, some paperwork to sign, and he hands me a key.) Do you mind bringing the truck back here at 2 to pick up your U-box?

ME: What?

CLERK: That’s when the manager will be here. He’s the only one who can drive the forklift and put your crate on a trailer.

ME: (sigh) Why would I want to rent a truck for the day if I can’t get my crate until this afternoon?

Let’s zoom ahead here. Past me leaving in my own car and returning in the afternoon to learn (from the four people working there, none of whom was qualified to drive a forklift) that the manager had something else to do and wasn’t coming to work that day. Past me asking how difficult it was to become qualified to drive the forklift (one button for up, one for down. How long does it take to master that?). Past them telling me that to come back at nine the next morning, and that my crate would be ready to go.

"…except to my house."

“…except to my house.”

So, we arrived at nine. And sat on the car bumper to watch the manager (in flip-flops and pajama bottoms—were they recommended in his forklift safety course?) spend—no lie—two hours getting my crate. He set out cones in a small square, moved EVERY U-box in the warehouse because mine was on the bottom in the back, hauled an empty crate off a trailer, and loaded mine on the trailer. Then—as a crowning touch—he spent fifteen minutes using the forklift to put a bright orange drapery over the crate so I’d be a moving advertisement for the company. It said, in huge letters, “Making your move easier…” Really? It took us less time to drive the crate home, unpack everything and move it into the house, and drive truck and trailer back to the store.

All told, my belongings were held hostage in my new town for almost two weeks. After the first few days, I was expecting to start receiving ransom notes, the words pieced together from what I’d written on my boxes. “Send cash, or we’re getting out the box cutter!” I felt like a hostage as well. I felt transient, unsettled, not quite myself without my things.

Kendall Pearson, one of the characters in Wingspan,Wingspan is held hostage, too, but by her desire to fit in. A painful past keeps her from being able to be openly and completely herself. She hides behind a safe job, conventional clothes, and carefully controlled speech. But the things she can’t resist—like her classic Corvette, her secret architectural drawings, and the wild piece of land she buys—scream who she is even though she tries to stifle her personality. She has to learn to embrace these outward reflections of her inner character and desires.

So…I have my belongings around me again. I still haven’t completed the chore of unpacking boxes, but my things are here, and it feels good. Am I defined by them? No. Could I survive intact even if they were gone? Of course. But my stuff—my books, my instruments and music, my kitchen gadgets, my stacks of sticky notes—reveals who I am. I got rid of a lot of the excess and kept what mattered, what was really me. Finally, I can feel settled.

25 Responses to ““The Big Move…or, Now I Understand Why There’s a Liquor Store Right across the Street from U-Haul””

  1. 1 Connie January 28, 2014 at 10:17 AM

    Terrible event, great story Karis. Glad you are here!!! 🙂 So did the liquor store get much business to unload your boxes?


  2. 3 crowsheart January 28, 2014 at 10:19 AM

    I don’t believe I’ll ever use a U-Haul other than locally after reading this…it’s way more than an OMG moment…or is it just Texas? The fact that you’re still standing is a testament to your strength…or maybe your attitude toward “things”…good, good blog …C.P.


    • 4 Sheri Campbell January 28, 2014 at 11:44 AM

      Was not laughing so much with this moving story,like I did with the goat story. I just got mad again. I had a similar experience with Sears.com. False advertising comes to mind. Thanks for a informative blog. U-Haul is not what it used to be…neither is Sears.


    • 6 kariswalsh January 28, 2014 at 12:14 PM

      Thank you, C.P. 🙂 It was frustrating during the process, but all of my things arrived safely (and eventually). it’s fun to laugh about it now 🙂


  3. 7 Beth January 28, 2014 at 11:34 AM

    You must have the patience of a saint! Sorry for the horrifying delay in getting your “stuff” but glad you’re settling into your new hometown.


  4. 9 S.A. January 28, 2014 at 1:06 PM

    Ugh! Your post here is quite humorous, but I know that the hassles were anything but at the time. 😉 Sorry to see a fellow-Washingtonian depart the PNW, but best wishes in your new town!


  5. 11 Yvonne Heidt January 28, 2014 at 1:26 PM

    We have also left our beloved Puget Sound – detoured to Alabama, and are now in Texas! Let us know how you like it 🙂


  6. 14 petra January 28, 2014 at 4:17 PM

    Gotta love the adventure of moving :0 looking forward to reading Wingspan soon.


  7. 16 Lee Lynch January 28, 2014 at 6:19 PM

    We are Never. Moving. Again.


  8. 18 Carol P. January 28, 2014 at 6:53 PM

    Wow. That is quite a story. I’m glad you are settling in. Unpacking will happen when you’re ready. I look forward to reading one of your works with a character who is a U-Haul employee.

    Enjoy your new state.


  9. 20 Jo January 28, 2014 at 8:36 PM

    Great story and I hope all goes well in Texas- you will get use to the heat-


  10. 22 Devlyn January 29, 2014 at 2:36 AM

    Sorry to hear about your moving nightmares. Being in the Army for so long I have moved all over Australia and I can tell you that even with the best removal companies there are horrid stories. One of the worse ones I had packed the plugs, cutlery draw insert and even the smoke detector from a rental property. It took me months to get the stuff unpacked and return them to the owner before he released my bond. Another removalist packed bins with rubbish in them and even a garbage bag of rubbish into a box and taped it up. Obviously this one was getting payed by the number of boxes.
    Enjoy your new home in Texas.


    • 23 kariswalsh January 29, 2014 at 9:00 AM

      Too funny, Devlyn — your stories made me laugh, but I’m guessing they weren’t so amusing at the time 🙂 I love how sharing horror stories often brings out the humor in them.


  11. 24 Kim January 29, 2014 at 1:58 PM

    Sorry for the experience but enjoyed the retelling almost as much as I do your books. Looking forward to reading Wingspan.


  12. 25 Guillermo Luna February 5, 2014 at 11:53 AM

    Good story. I enjoyed reading it. You have more patience than me. Steam would have been coming out of my ears.


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