Saturday, August 1, 2009

In which I am "helpful"

Things I "helped" pack at the little old lady's (really, our house, come Monday){Oh, did I not mention how escrow didn't quite close on Friday thanks to a certain public utility company* dragging their feet? Odd.} house today.

  • Multiple fanny packs

  • Gummy bears of mysterious age

  • One very old package of sardines

All these items were in her bedroom. YES. BEDROOM. SARDINES. I KNOW!!

Okay. I'm going to warn you right now. This post might get long. And my little finger might just hit SHIFT an awful lot in the next couple of paragraphs. So if you like the non-complaining, happiness and sunshine Claire, just stop right now. Complaining will begin right after this photo of pugs and bulldogs, gettin' along. Ready?

OKAY. Hi. Thanks for joining me on the crabby side of the blog. You won't be disappointed.
So. Today Dan and I went to the little old lady's house to help pack, or move, or really whatever they needed. We just wanted to be of service. It was simply how we were brought up. Someone needs help? YOU HELP, or drown in guilt forever. Your choice!
Her daughter flew in from Texas the day before. The original plan was to pack everything into storage and fly the little old lady out on Sunday. Well. That plan changed as soon as the daughter came in and saw the unbelievable mass of garbage/our new house. "Oh well, things happen, it seemed to good to be true anyway", we reasoned. HA! Reasoning!
The daughter seemed surprised to see us, though the old lady was expecting us. We were surprised to be the only other ones there. Out of her six children, her daughter from Texas was the only one there to help. No friends. No church members. No neighbors. No one else. We made a grand total of four.
So, we set about to work. Dan helped the daughter to take the truck(already loaded with the daughter's things- long story) to the storage unit. The old lady decided I would keep her company, so keep her company I did.
"Okay! What shall we do?" I asked, bright and cheerful. (I had not yet had the soul beaten out of me.)
"I have a box I'm working on in the bedroom."
"Okay!" (Yes, I was way too cheerful and enthusiastic. But don't worry, they did beat it out of me.) So, there in the bedroom was a three quarter full box. But we weren't packing the hodgepodge of items strewn around the bed. We were packing random objects from all around the bedroom. Items that were exactly the size of the spaces created. Previously packed items were taken out, reexamined, and placed again. When I placed an item in the box as directed by her, she removed said item and placed it in there better. Well, she's older and wiser! I've only been through 14 moves in the past 11 years. What do I know of packing?
It took a solid half hour to "fill" the box this way. She was very insistent that everything be placed right side up, regardless of containing liquid or being fragile. Or, you know, not. But! There were AIR SPACES between some of the objects! Priceless treasures, like the box of sardines. Old expired vitamins. Hair brushes. And more "survival kits" than you could shake a dead hamster at. So we bunched up old magazine pages in twos and threes and crammed them in. "TWOS AND THREES! It gives them enough weight!"
At last! We had finished packing a box! So, I grabbed the tape gun, and noticed it was already jammed. I pulled a little tape to get it working again, and then the yelling started back up. "DON'T WASTE THAT!!!" she cried, ripping the tape out of my hands. "I ONLY HAVE ONE ROLL LEFT!" (We won't mention the two other identical rolls sitting right there on her bed in plain sight. And that, you know, there simply is no more tape in all the world to be had.) "Push the sides together like this! No! Like THIS!" She squeezed the box so it was as close to perfectly square as she could get it. "BE CAREFUL! You don't want those inner pieces to buckle up at all!" Then I readied the tape gun again, now that the sides were held together perfectly, to tape the seam. "NO!! DON'T TAPE THE SEAM! You have to tape the other sides first so it will hold together!!" It was at this point that she just took the tape gun from me and did it her way. "PRESS IT DOWN TIGHT OVER THERE! YOU HAVE TO PRESS IT DOWN, I CAN'T REACH!!" She literally spoke mostly in all caps.
While we were on the floor, the phone rang. Repeatedly. "HOW CAN I ANSWER THE PHONE?? DON'T THEY KNOW I AM ON THE FLOOR?" She turned to me "THIS is why it has taken me so long to pack! I keep gettin' interrupted!" So she walked, slowly to retrieve the cordless phone from the living room. Never mind that there are cordless phones in literally every room of the house. She only answers that ONE. And places it back on the hook every time.
Lo, it was the next door neighbor calling. "Would you like any help? I'd be happy to come over." I could hear all this because the old lady kept the phone on speaker and talked into it, walkie talkie style.
"NO, we don't need any help. I'll call you later if we do."
I wanted to yell "Don't listen to her! WE NEED YOU! Come over, quick!!" But of course I did not, as that is only something a sane person might do. Ask for help. Was she really turning down help? Yes. Yes she was.
At long last, the first box was taped. "Where's my list? And pen? And glasses?" She had me fetch them from the living room table. (HA! A table in the dining room. You're silly! That's where you store milk crates full of pills!) I lifted up the box and placed it in order with a stack of similar boxes, heavy with their burden of expired crap.
"I need a cigarette break," she said, leading the way to the porch. Hey, a break! Great! I sat across from her on a rotting wood bench so as not to be in her direct downdraft. She then proceeded to tell me of the time she rescued a "gay woman" who was in a car accident and it "gave her the willies". I. Have. No. Words. For. This.
"Look at her over there. Working in her yard. How is she supposed to be able to help me if she's doing that?" The previously mentioned neighbor was pointed at with a cigarette. She didn't look particularly untrustworthy to me, BUT WHAT DO I KNOW?
At last, the oh-so-restful break was over, and we attacked another half filled box. And so it went for a few hours. She would hand me something to pack, I would do it, she would redo it. She had a fantastically charming way of packing as well.
There was a desk in the bedroom. Instead of, say, packing one drawer at a time as a "normal" person might do, she examined carefully a few random objects in a drawer, picked perhaps one to place in the box we were working on, and put some other objects atop various piles in the bedroom. AND ON AND ON. AND ON.
In this fashion we packed a grand total of four boxes in three hours...three of which were already mostly packed when I got there. Oh, how she regaled me with stories of ungrateful young punks she'd rescued from the side of the road! And shared helpful tips, such as this gem:
"Never throw out brown sandwich bags! You can pack small framed photos in them. And it's much faster than newspaper. And stronger!"

Embroider that on a pillow, ladies and gents! WORDS TO LIVE BY. And you know what? The brown bags were faster! Why, she only had to walk slowly to the dining room, dig around in the buffet for a few minutes, and return to the room she was currently packing! MUCH FASTER THAN HAVING YOUR PACKING SUPPLIES HANDY. And how wonderful to have these things clutter up said buffet when you move so very often! My, have you only lived here for the past 14 years? BECAUSE IT SEEMS LIKE LONGER.
*deep breath*
Later during a truck packing break, I spoke with the daughter, who seemed to be a really nice person. "I kept asking, but Mom didn't even let me know for sure that she wanted help until Monday. And then plane tickets were so expensive! At least I have a friend who can help me get standby." YES. THAT IS CORRECT. She was refusing help from her daughter, too. INDEPENDENCE, YO.
Now, look. I'm a fairly independent person. I get it. I don't like to ask for help from anyone for anything. But moving is hard! Especially when you've been in a place for a very, very long time and your health isn't the greatest. Sooner or later, someone has to help you lift things. Isn't that what family is for?
It was at this point that I realized that we'll probably have a crazy, expired things hoarding, stubborn, help refusing old lady live in our house forever. And ever and ever and ever.
So, how was your Saturday? Because mine ROCKED.**

*G.D.P.U.D. Uh huh. Yes, I called them out. You want me to explain those letters baby? Cause I will! Don't cross me, Georgetown.

**Special mention to a special lady, Miss C, who will soon be our new neighbor! She came over without being specifically asked to help! And help she did, allllll day long. C is a gem! We heart C! C, if you are reading this, there is a giant Falker Satherhood cake coming your way. With extra sprinkles.


susarto said...

i don't even know what to say.
i did, however, feel a bit guilty about giggling at some of the stuff you said here...but only because you said it funny...not because i think it's funny to see you suffer.

oh boy....

it can only get better, right?

Heather - - said...

I guess we know why her kids & church family weren't there to help her!

Kerry said...

Speechless. That sounds like packing moving hell (times 10). Whatever my packrat people leave behind, I get to keep (lucky me?).

I can only hope that this is the worst of it for you, and that this lady gets her knickers folded all the right ways and gets the heck out of there come Monday.

Dawno said...

Oh dear, my sides hurt! I had to come read this after your tweet about the unexpected sardines...I know you're probably not finding this experience very funny right now, but I hope you'll look back with mirth someday.

Plushroom Soup said...

Oh god, Claire. Oh my FREAKING GOD! I feel so bad for you. There's no way I'd be in possession of my sanity right now if I'd had the day you had. I can only second what the others have said: I hope it gets better from here.

And, hoarding has never been so funny. Truly. Thanks for the laugh! (but certainly not at your expense)

star*munki said...

omahgawd, claire...

i do NOT envy you...
but i am SO enjoying your house buying adventure.
you're quite the storyteller.
i giggled til i cried...
and then read this blog post to my hubby...
whilst giggling til i cried some more.

still sending hurry up thoughts your way.

talk to you soon.

Absolutely Small said...

Thank you for all the sweet comments, everyone! And yes, please LAUGH! If I couldn't laugh about all this crazyness I would have to cry. And that would be much less fun. Getting people to laugh with me is even better! Thank you!

Cindy said...

Geez, what a miserable old lady! I'm so sorry you had to deal with all that. Hopefully things will get better soon. :)

On a side note... that was one of the funniest stories I have ever read. Thank you for making me laugh.

Krissi said...

Claire - we're doing a late (like first in several years) spring clean on our house today and I was already leaning toward going through my cabinets and boxes with a trash bag in one hand.

After reading the best sentence EVER, "more 'survival kits' than you could shake a dead hamster at" I am now firmly dedicated to doing it.

Thank you?

Christina Ward said...

Just think of the great story you'll have.

We moved a friend who had similar tendencies...we ended up calling a couple of Polish guys with shovels and a dumpster to help...gotta any of them out in cali?

siansburys said...

Holy crapola. She's returning the favour by helping you move out of your old place, right? *runs off*

Absolutely Small said...

Thanks for the wonderful comments!I'm so glad this is making people laugh. ^-^ That's my favorite thing to do! (Besides make cute things.)
Christina: We've got Mexicans here. It's California, after all. :P
Sians: IF ONLY. Actually, no, wait- PLEASE NOT THAT. Ugh, can you imagine? I am a packing NINJA. That would be torture!!

Jewels said...

This did indeed leave me in stitches. I don't know how you managed not to tape HER in the process of packing, just so you could bet more done... Ah well, we too shall get old one day, and you can relish in the fact that some day, you just might return the favor to some poor unsuspecting young'en. ;p

And I cured my pack rat tendencies by moving into our first house last year. And hope to never go back to THAT!

Art Kitten said...

whoo boy. Thats bad, I am so sorry and I am hoping that she is out by this time! Wow, I really hope I am not that stubborn when I am an old woman.

Absolutely Small said...

Thanks for the sweet comments!
Jewels, I so wish I could have taped her. Then we could have actually gotten her packed!
Art Kitten: You and me both. Starting to have nightmares about it now. Also warning my parents that they are NOT ALLOWED to get this crazy.


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