Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Moving: Never a Stree-free Event

This must be deja vu because I swear I've written this same post before. Moving, for me, is often a comedy of errors. Usually, if something can go wrong, it does.

Six days days before my move, I busted a toe pretty badly. Let's just say it hurt like you-know-what. Four days before my move, the worst winter storm to hit Atlanta in decades arrived. Needless to say, no one in the city raised a shovel, and the half foot of snow on the ground morphed into four inches of solid, immovable ice. Two days before my move, I strained my back (just from general moving tasks like lifting heavy dish pack boxes).

Then on Friday, I moved. That part went OK, despite the ice. I did a ton of the work myself (plus had my brother Dave's help) the day before, but for the big stuff I hired Buckhead Movers. I actually got an excellent moving crew and am still thanking God for that huge favor. It ended up costing me less than I expected because the work (@$170/hour) got done quickly. That rarely happens, I swear.

My new apartment was recently renovated. Before moving in, I didn't understand why the bathroom had this big, long, beautiful cabinet but no drawers. There was space for drawers, with cover plates over the drawer openings, but no drawers. The apartment manager-slash-caretaker—a fantastic guy by the name of Justin—looked at the old construction contract and, sure enough, the contractor had taken a shortcut. Consequently, he was called back out and installed the drawers before I moved in. Yay.

By Friday night I realized I had no hot water in my kitchen. I checked all the valves under the sink; everything was wide open. All weekend I had no hot water in that faucet. On Monday morning while I was talking to Justin about it on the phone, I tested it, and sure enough, water came out of the hot water side and heated up. This morning, I got up and there was no hot water again.

Also by Friday night I discovered that the toilet in my master bath had stopped flushing. I knew it had worked once before and just assumed one of my movers had clogged it. Justin came out Monday, plunged it a few times, and it worked. He left; an hour later it stopped flushing. . . again.

Yesterday I went in to the office for the first time in eleven days. (We were told to work remotely during the inclement weather, due to icy road conditions.) I lasted five hours sitting at my computer before I had to come home. My back couldn't handle all that sitting. It was (and still is) truly 'out.' I haven't had this kind of incapacitating back pain in five years.

Meanwhile, Justin had called his favorite plumbers; but, after 30 minutes of effort, they were unable to fix the non-flushing toilet. They replaced it with a brand new one. By the end of their two-hour visit, the hot water was working in the kitchen sink again. I couldn't wait for them to leave so I could lie down. But guess what? I woke up today, barely hobbled out of bed to feed the kitties, and there was no hot water in the kitchen again. Obviously, it's time for a new hot water heater.

Deja vu! My last apartment needed a new hot water heater too. But the difference is that the manager over at Brookhaven Condos made me suffer through three weeks of cold showers before lifting a finger to fix it.

Here's another funny story. I'd purchased a new washer/dryer at Brandsmart to be delivered on Saturday. I specifically told the salesman that I needed an 8-foot dryer hose because there is a hot water heater in the middle of my utility room. So he sells me a cheapo "expandable to 8 feet" aluminum hose, along with a 4' electrical cable. When the delivery and installation folks arrived, they couldn't install my W/D because the 8' hose is a piece of crap (once it is stretched out, it just bends and breaks), and the 4' cord was too short. We couldn't swap the washer and dryer locations because the drain hose for the washer was too short.

The delivery guy was beyond unprofessional, carrying on in quasi-English about how those stupid salesmen at the store don't know what they're doing and how "Dey only want yo' money!" I called the store and got more grief from the sales manager. He had the gall to tell me that that hose is the only kind they sell. When I informed him that I had told the sales guy specifically how much clearance I needed, he argued and said, "I can't help it if he doesn't understand English," in reference to the sales guy (who has an African accent). Note that I'd actually been pleasantly surprised at the excellent sales experience at Brandsmart—I truly liked my African American sales guy.

That racist comment really set me off.

After the sales manager argued with me some more on the phone, I said, "Take it back. Take it all back." Only then did he become nice and stop arguing. He claimed he'd refund me the lousy $25 for the dryer kit and said that if I went out and bought the necessary parts, he'd send an installation team out Monday. So, over the weekend, I went to Lowes and Home Depot. I spent nearly $50 on a better ("slinky") hose, an aluminum elbow and connector, and a 6' electrical cord.

Because the delivery guys had failed to bring product manuals, I downloaded the dryer installation guide from the Internet, and I hooked up the appliances myself. Now I need to call that sales manager back and ask to have my delivery/installation fee refunded.

Another thing I noticed and pointed out to Justin yesterday was that there are no lights underneath my kitchen cabinets. Lots of space, but no lighting. Guess what? Turns out, that work was outlined in the contract too, but the contractor (despite putting cabinet lighting in all the other renovated units) just forgot.

The plumbers were great. Before putting the toilet paper on its holder, one of them asked me, "By preference, are you under or over?" Too funny.

I said, "You're the only man to ever ask me that!" Talk about attention to detail. Needless to say, these aren't the same guys who were contracted during the renovation. As one of them said, "Contractors give me most my work." Ain't that the truth!

Last night I was in bed by 5:45PM, nursing my back. Today I stayed in bed till 11AM, and I'm on my way back to bed now. I can barely sit at all. I certainly can't get in the car and drive. Looks like I'll be working on my next day off to make up for missed work this week. And then some.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Southern Snow Shovel

I currently live in an in-city high-rise on Peachtree Road that houses hundreds of Brookhaven residents. This is one of the worst places I've ever lived. The elevators are broken much of the time—way too often. The plumbing is old and not well-maintained. Pipes burst, flooding apartments or the downstairs storage area, on a regular basis. Worse, the front office staff response to incidents like that is, "Well, it's a high-rise; water is going to flow down!" In other words, flooding is to be expected, and I should have known that before I stored all my valuables in my assigned storage bin in the basement.

I kid you not.

My hot water heater was 25 years old (at least ten years past its normal 'life'), and it took three weeks of cold showers last February and excessive coaxing to get management to replace it. They'd told me it was only about 10 years old, but the serial number displayed a manufacture date of 9/85. My icemaker didn't work when I first moved in, but the maintenance guy didn't believe me. Despite no ice falling at all in the 24 hours since I'd lowered the lever, he said it takes "days" for it to fill the bucket. A week later, they replaced the ice maker. And the kitchen faucet.

There have been dozens of other issues. Needless to say, the building management and staff here is a tad inept. I didn't expect any differently when the snow started to fall after 8PM on Sunday. A basic rule of thumb for winter storm safety is this: remove the snow while it is still snow. Later, it becomes slush; then it turns into thick, lumpy, solid ice that is impossible to drive or walk on.

As the snow fell Sunday night, as clearly predicted several days in advance, building staff didn't lift a single finger to remove the snow. Consequently, by Tuesday a solid moat of ice had formed around the building. The driveway was impassable, leaving hundreds of residents imprisoned here in the building for days.

On Day 3, I was worried. I am scheduled to begin moving today, and the movers are due here tomorrow. I finally ventured downstairs yesterday to see how the driveway looked. As I exited, I bumped into the non-English speaking groundskeeper on his way into the building. My first thought was, "Oh good, they are finally out working on the problem." That was when I looked down and realized that what he was carrying was not a snow shovel but rather a garden hoe. "Oh my god," I thought to myself sarcastically, "He thinks that's a snow shovel."

Needless to say, the 4" thick ice moat was still 100% intact.

Yes, this is the South. No, it doesn't normally snow this much. And, usually, if it does snow a significant amount, it doesn't stick (or stick around). Typically, it's gone in a day. But this was different. The weatherman clearly advised us that the storm would start Sunday night, dumping up to six inches of snow on Atlanta. We were also forewarned that the storm would continue on Monday, in the form of sleet, freezing rain, and ice, and that temperatures would remain below freezing for several days.

We all heard the news, well in advance. If I was still in NY, or even D.C., building maintenance crews would have stayed up all night shoveling snow, and residents would have awakened to a clear driveway and clear sidewalks.

My apartment building management and maintenance staff chose not to respond. This does not surprise me. God forbid there ever be a real emergency in this decrepit building. They will be sadly unprepared.

Today, I pray for sunshine and temperatures above freezing. I just want to move tomorrow and get the heck out of this broken-down place!

On a side note: I haven't been in my car since Sunday. One reason not to get on the road this week is because your less intelligent breed of southerner thinks that he can drive on this treacherous ice at normal speeds (which in Atlanta is 20mph over the limit). Take this moron, for example, who spun his tires on the ice so long that he killed his BMW in flames. See You Tube for the (illegally recorded) newscast.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

The Hazards of Moving

Last night I was watching the Seattle-New Orleans playoff game when I got up to go do something and ran right smack dab into an Oreck hand vac situated on the floor of my dark bedroom in a place previously unoccupied by any objects. . . until I'd started the moving process, that is. One of the hazards of moving is objects not being in their usual places, lying in wait to stub a toe or bruise a limb.

And I am the queen of moving bruises. I still have a bruise on my left arm from my last move—11 months ago!—a dark purple mark that my dad mistook for a tattoo this past summer.

Yesterday, it was my pinky toe that took the brunt of the hit. I yelled out in pain, and went straight to the floor to hug my toe. Both my kitties came running mmediately to see if I was OK. Baby proceeded to bite me in the back to ensure I was still alive (and able to feed her going forward). She does this whenever I yell out in sudden pain.

I suspected the toe was broken, but since the skin hadn't changed colors, I wasn't sure. So I got back in my chair to watch the game. Later, I got up to get an ice pack from the freezer. Suddenly, from the kitchen, I could hear the Seattle fans going ballistic. I turned back toward the TV to see a Seattle running back making his way down field as if in slow motion, flicking off tacklers like fleas as he completed an astounding 67-yard touchdown. It was one of the greatest plays I'd ever seen in football.

I was jumping up and down and hollering, "Go Hawks! Woo-hoo!" It was an amazing run that made me forget (momentarily) about my toe, until I realized that jumping up and down on it was probably not a good idea.

I was glad to see the Hawks win that game. Don't get me wrong, being a Cajun at heart, I am a Saints fan. But Seattle is closer to the heart for me.

I went to bed and just knew that my little toe was broken because it hurt to touch the sheets. This stinks! This is moving week for me. I have a ton of work to do. Fortunately, I started packing the week before Christmas and moving boxes and small furniture items into two storage units ten flights down from my apartment. This reduces the amount of time the movers have to spend treking back and forth on the elevator next Thursday. These guys get paid by the hour, and I'm so sick of moving that I want it over as quickly as possible.

Hence, I always end up doing half the work myself.

To make matters worse, we are expecting a huge winter storm (and potentially six inches of snow) to hit the area tonight and tomorrow. I keep moving further south, but that doesn't seem to reduce the amount of snowfall I endure every winter. This is Atlanta, for Pete's sake. It's not supposed to snow that much here.

I'm waiting for the emergency clinic to open at noon so that I can get my toe X-rayed and splinted. I debated going at all, and instead treating it at home, but the last time I did that with a significant injury (torn hamstring), I only made it worse. That was 2.5 years ago, and my hamstring still hasn't healed. Don't think I'll risk it with a toe. Not on moving week.