Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Journaling, 40 Years After the Fact

Good Morning

Some time ago, I wrote an article mentioning all the different jobs I’ve had over the years. There were indeed quite a few. The post mentions 81 jobs that I’ve held. Some I did one day, some I did for years. Working for wages is what we do to support ourselves and our families.
Some of the jobs I have had were certainly more glamorous than others. When the subject comes up and the conversation goes over to what we do for work, the motion picture production business gets mentioned. So many people find that it is a big deal to have worked with the movie stars.
I guess the conversation sort of flitters out when I mention sorting tomatoes for minimum wage at a day labor facility. Yeah, really. I sorted tomatoes. They were in cardboard fruit boxes and came down a conveyor. I’d grab a box and pull it off the rollers and put it in front of me. I’d open the lid and pick up a tomato. If it was red, it went in this box. Green, and it goes to the other one. Small, large, small red, small green, large red, large green, medium red… and so on and so forth.
The thing about working, no matter if you have had one job or eighty one like I’ve had, is that every day you may do the same thing, but you do experience different people, different weather, different things in every aspect of a job that differ from day to day.
I have held many jobs a a furniture mover for a few different companies over the years, mostly when I was a lot younger and stronger. Furniture moving is unique in that when you do household moving or furniture delivery, you go into peoples homes. Different people, every day.
Not only are you in their homes, but we see the rooms in those homes. The bedrooms, the closets, all the rooms. I’m sure I’ve used the bathroom in a large percentage of the homes I went into to deliver furniture or move someone from one place to another. By the way, in Chicago, no one that lived in a first floor apartment and was moving to a first floor apartment ever called the movers. People on the third floor moving to another third floor called the movers.
So, different people everyday. Think about it. People of every ilk. People with all sorts of personalities and all kinds of furniture. Old heavy steamer trunks, spindly legged tables, large items, small items, over packed boxes, under packed boxes. One lady handed me a light bulb once as I was carrying an armload of boxes out the door, and another man didn’t pay attention to anything we moved except one very ugly frail piece of crap wooden breakfront that he called his Welsh cabinet!
The large van lines that I worked for in Chicago, Allied Van Lines, was run by a company called Jackson Storage and Van Company. They had six offices in and around Chicago. I worked at all six at one time or another. Chicago, LaGrange, Oak Park, West Chicago, Naperville and Maywood.
The office and warehouse for Jackson Storage and Van on Madison Street in Chicago. We called this Number 7. I don't know why. The piano moving division worked out of this office.

The company would do local and long distance moving. We had some of our own long distance trucks that worked out of the company’s offices and other long distance drivers would come to our warehouses to deliver a customers belongings or put them in storage.
We did all kinds of moving. We moved single items, like a piano, or a whole household. We did commercial jobs where 40 and 50 men would move an entire corporate office in the course of a weekend.
One time we had to move an entire apartment complex out to other places and to storage. A water main had broken and they had a central boiler. No heat in the middle of a cold damp Chicago winter. It was going to be a long term fix to get heat back into the building and pipes were freezing and bursting, then that water would freeze in the hallways and stairwells.
We moved them all. Came in, hauled boxes in and packed everything, then loaded onto trucks and moved people to hotels, apartments and some folks had their belongings put into storage until they found a place to live.
I actually have bad dreams about having to do all this work and I just arrived at the apartment complex when I wake up. That is such a miserable feeling.
I remember having to do evictions. The Sheriff would be waiting for us and when we arrived, he’d knock on the door and walk in and serve the eviction papers to the tenant. We’d go in and get everything out of the house or apartment and put it on the front lawn.
I’m sorry to say we were sometimes disrespectful and would throw stuff down the stairs instead of the usual care we would take with the property of a paying customer. The deputy sheriff didn’t care, he just wanted the place empty so the owner can come and take possession.
One time, this drugged out hooker was on the bed naked and begging us not to take her bed as she makes her living there. Honest!
I’ve moved sports figures in Chicago. Jackson had the contract for the Chicago Black Hawks Hockey team. I moved several hockey players over the years. Baseball players too from time to time, but there was no one at the house. The star was gone and the family in a fancy hotel in another city. We’d just go in and do our job, and all we’d see was their furniture.
People always were worried about us breaking stuff or if it will be safe in the truck. When we packed up boxes, we used a lot of newsprint to wrap stuff.The boxes were packed tightly so nothing moved. It was safe all right.
One of our tricks was to put an egg in a dresser drawer and pick up the dresser and take it out to the truck. When we got to the new home and delivered the dresser, we’d show the customer the unbroken egg. We earned a lot of tips for being safe with their personal belongings, and for those local moves where people pay by the hour, we moved fast and got tips for being below the estimate.
Some folks never got it and never tipped. They thought tips were for doormen, waitresses and cab drivers. Furniture moving companies were charging big bucks, so they thought we made a lot of money. It’s just like it is today. The company owners made the big bucks, we got paid an hourly wage for our labor.

Couldn't find an old photo I had of one of the Jackson Storage trucks I actually drover, but I did find this one. No relation to me, there are a lot mod guys named Joey

I’ll leave you with a story about one of the guys that drove the trucks over-the-road for Allied Van Lines. He worked out of our Chicago office. His name is Sam Carson.
Sam was a character. Many of the workers at Jackson were characters, but Sam was a cut above. A large man, over 6’ 2” tall, big, round and strong. Sam’s sense of humor was notorious, and his stories would have us riveted to his words.
One day, we were in an apartment on the third floor. These people had an upright piano. Upright pianos weigh in the neighborhood of 700 to 1000 pounds. The people that owned the piano didn’t want it to be moved and just assumed that the movers would take it out of the apartment that they were to vacate.
If it wasn’t part of the move, we weren’t going to take it. We would move it out of the house, but if it didn’t go into the truck to be delivered somewhere, all we could do is put it on the street.
Well, Sam got wind of this heavy piano that had to come down out of the tight winding third floor stairway, but wasn’t going to the new place with the rest of the furniture. He came up with an idea to save us all a lot of time and a lot of work.
First, he made sure the people didn’t want the piano any longer. They said they just wanted to get rid of it any way they could. That was Sam’s opening.
He nodded towards us labor types to lift one end of the piano and slide a 4-wheel dolly under its midsection. Now, it was on wheels and we rolled it out of the apartment and down the hall in the opposite direction of the stairwell.
Sam kicked open the huge steel fire door that went out to a fire escape and waved his arm underhand across his belly in a gesture that usually means, “After you.”
We rolled the piano to the edge of the building and lifted one end, slid the dolly out from underneath of it and let ‘er go end over end to the alley. Looked like slow motion for that piano to fall three stories.
It made a thunderous crash and held this awful sounding chord for what seemed like an eternity.
Now, this thing was scattered in the middle of the alley all broken into small pieces. Sam said, “See, now it’s easier to move!”
We went to the alley and sort of just pushed the remnants to the side so a car could drive through and left it there. I’m sure we missed a few keys, but the kids in the neighborhood were picking them up to keep as souvenirs.
Next time, I’ll tell you about the rat that Sam speared with a pointed edged spade shovel as it shimmied across the priceless antique baroque dining room table that was sitting in the truck.



Jeannie said...

I don't envyanyone who has to move for a living. That would be a tough job - not just the lifting but dealing with people and their "treasures".

Mel said...

I pulled rocks from fields in my teens.
Never had the honour of professionally moving anyone--unprofessionally, yes.... THOUGHT about giving a heave-ho to the piano of one friend...didn't..... So I found great joy in the visual you painted for me when you got to be a part of that one.
I can joyously imagine the ending bit. :-)