A CAUTIONARY TALE
I was visiting my sister in St. Louis when her housekeeper arrived.
I’d never met this girl, a friendly, 40ish white woman. (I only mention that the maid is white for the novelty of it all. I live in California.) She plunked her tackle box of cleaning supplies down on the kitchen counter and sighed.
“It’s my last day,” she said. “We’re moving to Tampa.”
“Oh, nice!” I said by way of scintillating conversation. “Florida is pretty.” (I mean, really, what do you say about Florida? “Lucky you! You can bring your semi-automatic to church.”)
“Too bad,” she continued with a sigh, “we won’t have anything when we get there.”
I wasn’t sure how to interpret this. No friends to welcome them? No family within driving distance? Are they on the lam?
“Oh,” I said, “are your relatives afraid to cross the thin red line?”
She looked confused. “I don’t know what that means.” She popped the latch on her tackle box. “We had a mover pick up all our stuff a month ago. And they disappeared.”
Now it was my turn to be confused.
“Yeah, they took everything we owned and just made off with it. It’s this scam that movers pull. They take your stuff, then sell it, I guess, and throw out whatever they can’t sell.”
This didn’t seem like the kind of service Mayflower advertised.
“Oh my GOD!” I hollered, much louder than necessary. “So, you have NOTHING??!!”
My helpful recap was probably somewhat unnecessary, but come on, who’s ever heard of such a thing?
“Well, we have one of our cars,” she replied. “So, at least we can get to Florida.”
“It’s like your house burned down!” I said, continuing my fairly impressive display of tactlessness. “Did you try to get hold of the company? Did you call the police?”
At this point, she stopped pulling cleaning solutions out of her box and turned to try to gauge if I was actually brain damaged.
“Ummm, yeah,” she replied. “I guess the company never actually had a real office. People like this just change their phone number. And there’s not much the police can do,” she replied. “By the time you realize your stuff isn’t coming back, it’s all been sold. Plus, it’s crossed state lines.”
“Does your homeowner’s insurance cover the loss?”
“No,” she replied.
I was dumbfounded. “Well, who’s gonna pay to replace your stuff?”
She shrugged with defeat. “We probably should have bought mover’s insurance. But we’ve moved a bunch of times without any problems.”
When everything you own is being trucked 1,200 miles, I said to myself, it might be a good idea to buy insurance. Thoughtfully, this I didn’t say out loud.
“Where did you find these guys?” I asked.
Okay. I realize that we are all of different means. And that often, people have to cut major corners in life. But hiring a mover off Craigslist and NOT getting insurance is a little like being diabetic and eating a box of Ding Dongs every day. You’re just begging the universe to punch you in the face.
“Wow,”I said softly, afraid that at this point she might raise her fists to the heavens and start shrieking, “WHY, GOD, WHY??!!” (Not that I would blame her. But, you know, we just met.)
This was a really stupid scenario, given that it was fairly unavoidable. But I didn’t know her life situation. So I didn’t want to judge her, even if it’s a sport in which I’m David Beckham-like in my virtuosity.
“Okay, here’s what you need to do,” I said, just as my sister walked in, ready for us to leave. “You know those Kickstarter and GoFundMe pages that people set up for heroes or victims of disasters or cancer and stuff? You need to get one of your friends to start one of those.”
“Oh, uh-huh,” she replied, a bit disinterestedly.
“No, really,” I insisted heatedly, nonplussed at her dismissal.
Sure, this was her own damn fault, but there could be entirely justifiable financial circumstances that would make someone take such a gamble. What if one of her kids was handicapped and the family was barely able to put food on the table? What if she cared for an ailing parent, and just cleaned the occasional house when she could fit it in in order to keep a roof over their heads?
“Okay, well, nice to meet you,” she said as Val hustled me out the door.
“What’s with the bum rush?” I said to my sister as we got into her SUV. “Did you know about this whole movers-stealing-all-her-stuff thing?”
My sister is about the kindest, most compassionate person I’ve ever met. She’s supermom to her severely handicapped son. I half-expected her to turn to me, shocked, and burst into tears.
“Oh, yeah,” she replied nonchalantly, as she roared out of her driveway like the Indy 500 starter gun had just gone off.
“Well, you don’t sound very upset about it.”
“Eric,” she said, “this is what she does. I suspect she wasn’t interested in the GoFundMe idea because she’s always getting herself into these kind of problems. Her friends probably wouldn’t do it.” She took the corner at 60 miles an hour on two wheels. “Some people have to learn the hard way.”
It reminds me of a term my friend Steve once coined for a mutual friend of ours who created all kinds of problems for herself: “She’s a shit vortex”.
And this, my friends, is the moral of the story. If you’re gonna hire a mover with a burner phone and not get insurance, try not to be a shit vortex.