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Moving right with Delancey Street Foundation

2008-01-17 10 min read marco

{moszoomimglink:delancey_restaurant}Well, usually a move would not warrant yet another blog post – I guess everybody goes through them, and many of us have gotten used to the whole process. I wanted to highlight, though, the movers I used this and the last time, and recommend them to everybody that cares about their stuff.

Preparing for the Move

First things first: anyone who moves has to take care of the process. Take a calendar and mark your desired move date, choose the movers and get a confirmed date. Try to get the first appointment in the day, since you don’t want to be waiting in case something goes wrong with the move before you, and let that be a priority over the date.

Next, mark the period before and after the move on your calendar. If you have little to move, then a week is enough. Add 3 days for each child, 1 day for each hobby, and 2 days for each room. Not that you’ll need to time full-time, but you really want to go about this without stress.

Now comes the culling, which will take most of the prep time: take the days you marked off, and decide what you want to take with you and what not. Sell, donate, trash the stuff you don’t need any more, and move on. It was time, you knew it. Remember: everything that you carry with you that you don’t need is going to be more time moving!

An important thing to do is to realize how your furniture can be moved, and where it will go in the new place. Make sure you understand whether something can get dirty easily, or if it needs to be disassembled (in which case you are better off doing it yourself). You can write all of this down, or you can keep it in your head. Just make sure you are not dealing with shrieking kids, angry dogs, sweaty movers, and the question of where to put the new couch at the same time.

Time for utilities: you need to transfer service to the new place, and you need to choose providers. Take the time to ensure your current cell phone provider has good coverage in your new dwellings, and think about the different options for cable and phone, if you can. In particular, if you can combine the three data services in one, you might get a rebate (that’s TV, Internet, phone, in descending order of importance Innocent).

Pack all your belonging now, starting with the least urgent thing. Whatever you do, stick to putting only things of one kind in a box, and don’t mix. Then make sure each box is labeled and numbered. It helps if all the boxes are the same size (then the movers can just build walls and cubes of them in the truck). Personally, I found that filing boxes (as you can find at office stores) give you the biggest bang for the buck: they are small enough that even the heaviest content (books and magazines) is acceptable, and big enough that only major things like kitchen items don’t fit.

The reason you start packing with the least urgent thing is that you’ll start not having access to stuff once it’s packed. If you put the cell phone charger in a box a month before the move, you’ll have to open the box to get it out. To make things worse, you might not have labeled the box with the charger, and maybe you put it in the box with the National Geographic…

Make sure everything you need the day after the move is kept separate. Here you can mix and match. Think about the clothes you are going to wear the day(s) after the move, think of the toothbrushes, lunch boxes, etc. You do not want to spend the first morning after the move rifling through boxes to find that stuff!

When the movers come, have a complete count of your things, especially the boxes! That helps them a lot, because if your stuff is mixed in a truck with someone else’s, you can immediately say that something’s missing – and while a couch is hard to miss, if you don’t have the photos of your wedding, you probably won’t be able to tell.

If you are moving in town, make sure parking for the truck is available both at the start and destination addresses. Cities hate double-parked moving trucks, especially on busier streets, and will fine accordingly (the city of San Francisco, for instance, threatens you with something like $700 for double parking – which is insane, considering that running a red light is $271).

The Move – Loading

Now, time to talk about Delancey Street Movers. Delancey Street Foundation is a non-profit that tries to give people a chance when society has given up on them. They take on people with a history of homelessness, drug abuse, and criminal record, and see if they want another chance. Then they put them in shared housing, force them through a detox program, and train them in at least one, but ideally three marketable skills in the time those folks spend at Delancey. Their shared housing is on Delancey Street in San Francisco (similar projects are under way in a number of cities). The street, I read, was named after the project, and not the other way around.

One of the jobs they train for is mover. So they have a moving company, licensed US-wide, that you can use to move your stuff. And if you do, chances are you’ll be impressed.

In both the moves I did with them, there were three movers: a foreman, that will do all the talking, and two apprentices that will do the moving. Well, all three work, but the foreman spends a lot of time explaining to you what’s going on.

You go through the usual paperwork, which includes (in California, at least) a highest cost estimate: the movers can’t go above this. My foreman, David, gave me a really low highest cost that seemed reasonable, if there were adverse circumstances.

David then started going through the house and recorded all prior damage to both the structure and the furniture. He told me about every nick and scratch (and there’s plenty of that).

We talked about different insurance options (I took the $76 for $20,000 coverage and $250 deductible, but next time, I’ll probably go without). Then it was time to move.

Since I was well-prepared, we started moving quickly. The boxes flew into the truck, and soon there was a wall six feet tall, two boxes deep, and the truck wide. Then it was time for the bigger furniture, and in the end we got the really big and really heavy stuff in. Now, as a mathematician, I would have probably started the other way around, trying to maximize the room unused in-between pieces of furniture, but they sure knew what they were doing.

The Move – Unloading

I left off for the new place, where I couldn’t find any parking in an hour (the guys, concerned about the parking situation, decided to have lunch in Westwood Highlands instead of risking it at the destination). So we agreed on rushing it double-parked, hoping there wouldn’t be anyone coming by.

Despite multiple cops and a single parking drone, nothing happened to bother us. Maybe it’s because the street is a minor street next to a major thoroughfare (Folsom). Police came by several times, but didn’t take any notice. Once, a squad car turned on the flashing lights, turned around in the street, and then proceeded to turn right (against traffic), presumably on the chase for something.

We rushed, and got everything into the apartment. Some things helped: the apartment was next to the elevator and on the first floor, so there wasn’t much distance to cover. But mostly, the deserving party are the three guys that did the move.

Once inside, David had the truck reparked so that it wouldn’t cause trouble, then put together the furniture that needed to be put together (the bed, I believe). Finally we sat down, he went over what had been damaged in the new unit (nothing, and no damage to furniture), and then he took my money (cash) + donation, shook my hands, and left.

Of course, I compare this with the atrocious experience I had with other movers. Typically low cost dudes, families that move all together. Stuff would go missing, get broken without repayment, delays were mounting. I’d have the case of a guy that got lost trying to find my place his way (I had provided written direction), who wanted to charge me for the time (double time for driving, by the way). A friend of mine moved with this guy that first said there was a two hour minimum, then after the move claimed there was a three hour minimum.

I say: if you deal with anyone less reputable than Delancey, you stand to lose a lot: money, stuff, and sanity.

One Last Word

I had an interesting trio coming in for work, a microcosm of racial stereotypes.

David, the foreman, was a white guy. He looked incredibly nice, the kind of person you’d expect in a butcher’s shop, with a wife and five kids waiting at home, all Church and family. He was downright mortified when I noticed that my backpack was gone from the bedroom and I got upset – I wonder whether he thought they had done something untoward with it. Instead, I had just tried to make sure we know where the backpack was, because it contained the cash with which I’d pay them: no backpack (or backpack in the old place), no pay. That would have been quite annoying.

But that gives you an idea of the guy. Solid, hard worker, good organizer, excellent communicator.

The next guy, whose name I won’t mention because it’s so rare, was a skinny, bespectacled black guy that I’d have expected to come out of a classroom at Princeton or Harvard – either as student or teacher. He seemed like the complete overachiever: cheerful, communicative without being chatty, and working all the time. He just wouldn’t stop: as long as there was something to do, he’d be right at it.

The third guy, again with a fairly recognizable name, was Latino. He was the least enthusiastic of the three, mostly worked on things that didn’t require a ton of physical labor (like sorting out the stuff in the truck). His arms were covered – both of them – with a panoply of tattoos, mostly weathered Chinese symbols. At the same time, he was a really nice guy, did his job as instructed, and clearly got along with the other two just fine.

So, with this said, I am wondering what on Earth these three guys could have done to get into a program with Delancey Street Foundation? Same, by the way, goes with the three other movers that showed up two years ago.

You know, Delancey Street proudly states they accept only people that have hit the rock bottom of their lives. And I wonder what kind of rock bottom these upstanding, honest people could have hit.

A friend of mine said just one word: “drugs.” As if that explained everything. Admittedly, aside from the Latino’s tattoos, none of them wore the external signs of a criminal career. And of course I have met enough people that overcame substance abuse, and know that you can move from rock bottom to the heights of a career in no time.

I don’t know. But I am sure happy there is something like the Delancey Street Foundation.