Jul. 14, 2008
Being a furniture loader tests our reporter's brawn
A patio bench from Target is winning the war it's waging on my attempt to remove it from the customer's house. And, just for kicks, it has pinned me to a door.
"What are you doing?" asks Puliz Moving & Storage mover Matt Ruedas. "It takes two men to move that piece!"
I tried working as a team with Ruedas, Dustin Rodriguez and Tim Talbot. But every time I lined up beside my latest co-workers around an impossibly heavy object, the position I chose proved unsustainable because of oncoming walls, banisters and door frames. (Ceilings were never a problem.)
"That's OK," Ruedas said, more than once, as the object inevitably floated past me, showing no discernible change in weight without my help.
"This needs to be done by professionals."
So I snuck off to one of the house's three balconies, where I spotted the patio furniture that would soon attack me in what I can only estimate to be karmic payback for every time a friend told me he was moving and I pretended to be away on vacation.
"Hold it, don't push!" Ruedas shouts as he tries extracting me from a different kind of bench press. "You're pushing the door in!"
According to the Employee Relocation Council, moving is the third most stressful experience to cope with after death and divorce. Add 112-degree weather, and me, to that equation, and death has a run for its money.
Oh, and I forgot to mention that Lisa Belt, who is relocating from Centennial Hills to Providence, decided that Puliz would take twice as many of her possessions (three 300-pound big-screen TVs, four bedroom sets, a washer and dryer, assorted desks and a dining table heavier than Elvis in 1977) than she originally told the company's moving coordinator.
The job, budgeted at eight hours and $800, would end up taking 12 hours and costing $1,666.
Ruedas began by removing the front door from its hinges, lining the stairwells and walls with moving pads, and calculating the precise order to load stuff into our International 4300 DT 466 flatbed truck.
"Gentleman, I'm telling you right now, we've got a job," he said. "This is what we call a bear."
At least there was welcome news on the second floor, where a kitchen is dominated by a double-wide refrigerator so bulky that the house may very well have been built around it.
"Nothing in the kitchen's going," Belt said. "So that's good."
"Oh, I'm sorry," Belt added. "The refrigerator's going."
Ruedas, Rodriguez and Talbot are among the 83 movers (81 male and two female) who report to Puliz at 7 a.m. every weekday hoping for assignments easier than this.
"I enjoy my job," said Ruedas, a 49-year-old retired Marine from Oakland, Calif. "It's an experience dealing with people on a daily basis. You don't know what you're going to do from one day to the other."
Ruedas said the housing slump has cut deeply into the number of residential moves Puliz performs.
"But we're making up for it with commercial and office moves," he said.
Starting pay is about $10 an hour with health benefits, which come in handy when your living consists of a ceaseless series of heaves.
"It's taxing on your body," Ruedas said, "But you just learn to deal with it. That's the way I've always been taught."
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that Americans suffered more than 270,000 back injuries on the job in 2005. Ruedas said he's not a statistic.
"I guess I've been lucky," he said.
So have I. Ruedas finally extricates me from the Target bench in one unbroken piece.
"You're not a mover," he says. (The jury is still out on my credentials as a shaker.)
Belt admits harboring suspicion about me the entire morning -- particularly after I inquired how important her 65-inch Mitsubishi projection TV was to her.
"I was wondering," she says. "You weren't sweating or doing things the other guys were doing."
She says she assumed I was "the owner's son or something."
"I didn't want to say anything," she says. "You were just too cute."
She adds: "Do you have to print that my patio furniture is from Target?"
Fear and Loafing appears every Monday in the Living section. Levitan's previous adventures can be found at www.fearandloafing.com.