Sunday, April 23, 2006

Moving Day

February 9, 2006
Sorry for the long pause...between birthdays, moving, unpacking, FH shipping out and the inevitable military paperwork stuff to deal with, I just haven't had time to write. So, rather than give you a day-by-day journal, I'll just sum up the various events, adventures and interesting stuff.

Moving Day:

Before the day arrived, the smiling Japanese gentleman in the Personal Property office gave us a map (in Japanese) with a highlighted route. He pointed out our house, then showed us the highlighted area...they'd made arrangements for us to park near our house, since our car would have been entirely in the way. Parking is a serious consideration in a country with twisty, narrow streets and limited space! Things were nuts enough that we decided not to worry about checking out of the Navy Lodge, so at the end of the moving day, we'd have somewhere to crash with sheets and pillows (I had no idea where the sheets were packed) and wouldn't have to deal with packing up and checking out until Saturday morning. We were told to be at the House on the Hill from 8am to 5pm, as the movers could show up at any time during that window. In America, that has meant somewhere between 10am and 4pm.

Nope, at 7:59 Friday morning, five small, wiry men with blue coveralls, beaming smiles and shaggy haircuts were busy laying tarps on the ground between their truck and our front door. Watching them was really incredible. Not only were they organized, polite and amazingly strong, each man took of his shoes before stepping up into the house each and every time they entered the door...even when carrying a fully-packed and very heavy chest of drawers or box of books (and yes, we had a lot of boxes of books!) Not one shoe touched our floors the entire time. Each man also seemed to enjoy calling out the number on each box or piece of English. They were proud of their English knowledge (MUCH better than my knowledge of Japanese, of course!) but two of the men had such heavy accents that I had a really hard time understanding what they were saying, and had to do some serious dodging to try to read some of the numbers myself, without letting the men know I couldn't understand what they'd said.

We'd been told not to tip the movers (or waitresses, or taxi drivers, or anyone else in Japan except on the military base) as they might take offense. These men obviously took great pride in doing a good job--and were'nt performing just to get a tip at the end. But of course, as Americans, we're used to doing SOMETHING for good FH walked up to one of the vending machines on the corner and bought hot cans of coffee for each man. They were surprised and pleased, as it was pretty chilly, and of course there was a session of bowing and a chorus of "arigato gozaimus". About 9:00, a new truck arrived, and with some quick and polite shifting, the movers made room for two appliance guys, who had come to deliver and install the government-issued heater-A/C units (2), gas stove, refrigerator, kerosene heaters (2), washer (tiny), dryer (even tinier), smoke alarms and CO2 alarms.

Then the gas man showed up (straight from Central Casting, I think, complete with glasses, clipboard, skinny arms and teenage-geek face!) He walked up the street, and I guess he knew from experience that there would be no parking available. All eight men continued to go about their business, dodging one another as if choreographed. By 2pm, close to 7,000 pounds of household goods had been delivered (quite a bit of it, including all the books, up the narrow stairs!), all the appliances had been delivered, the gas had been turned on, and I'd been through a pretty intense game of charades with the gas man as he tried to explain the various alarms, gas cut-off valves, etc. The movers told me twice, very seriously, to call them when I was finished unpacking, as they would come collect the boxes and wrapping paper. They wanted me to truly understand that they wanted to recycle the materials, and I should not throw them away. Turns out garbage and recycling are issues the Japanese take VERY seriously.

1 comment:

Mary Witzl said...

Great post. I could so easily picture your geeky gas man with his clipboard, and I liked the part about your husband buying the men canned coffees. When we left Japan, we bought our moving men a couple of six-packs of beer, and I'll never forget their pleased laughter when my husband handed it over.

I am sorry to say that their British counterparts could have learned a lot just watching our moving guys. Like your men, ours took off their shoes each and every time they came into our house (which we'd told them was most likely going to be torn down in the near future) and their organization and commitment to their work was laudable. Their breaks were pretty rigidly timed, and they gave every appearance of enjoying what they did. You couldn't ask for more.