Moving Day, Gallic-style
I met Danger Girl during real estate training. She was in my class. She was thin, red-haired and caustic, and the first time she drove during Wednesday tour I saw my life flash before my eyes several times.
That day, trying to make small talk, I asked her about what her husband does for a living. "It doesn't really matter," she said. "We'll probably get divorced." Later during the tour, she pointed out a bar on Dolores Street. "I got knocked off my bar stool there," she commented.
I knew that this was someone I wanted to hang out with.
Unfortunately for Danger Girl, and for her two young children, she did get divorced, or rather, is presently getting divorced. And it's ugly. So ugly that she was unable to start her real estate career. Through Danger Girl I've learned that getting divorced can be a full-time job, both physically, in terms of time, and mentally, in terms of being knocked so far off the rails that you're virtually unable to function on a day-to-day basis.
She wanted an amicable divorce, and for awhile, thought she might get one. "We're best friends," she told me at first. As time went on, though, it turned out that the divorce would be anything but amicable, as her Prince Charming turned out to have several layers of sneakiness to his personality that he'd been hiding from Danger Girl throughout their marriage.
So now her life is a struggle -- to get enough money from her husband to live, to find a way to start a career while juggling the divorce, the kids and the small new house she bought (with me as her agent) in November.
It is now late March. Recently it became apparent to Danger Girl's husband that he would have to sell his/their enormous house, so as a first step in that process, he asked that Danger Girl complete her move. This is where I come in.
There was a enormously heavy armoire (sp?). Not her favorite, but it could provide much-needed storage space in her new kitchen. No way could she, at less than 100 lbs., move it herself.
Moving people's stuff is something you commonly do in your twenties. Nobody can afford movers, and the sum total of stuff at that time is generally a futon, maybe a bed, a few hand-me-down dressers. You borrow a truck, move stuff, then drink beer.
It's not much different at 40, except for an ironically cruel joke: the stuff weighs more, and you can lift less without hurting yourself.
It was into this scene that I drove to Danger Girl's house on Friday. It was to be me, the suave French guy she is presently dating, and her soon-to-be-ex-husband doing the moving. A situation certain to produce some interesting tension, and as a bonus perhaps a muttered Sacre Bleu! or two
Friday it rained. I was the first to arrive, followed closely by not one but two French guys on a Vespa - the new boyfriend and a colleague from work. Once assembled, we caravaned to the "big house" -- boyfriend and Danger Girl in her BMW, me and the French colleague riding silently in a borrowed Toyota truck.
"Wow," I ventured upon arriving at the big house, "That truck is pretty tough. I think it raised my macho quotient."
Blank stares. I resolved then not to attempt any more region-specific humor.
In this situation, and at my advanced age, and conveniently ignoring the awkward scene facing this very nice, young French guy, I decided that the boyfriend should handle the lion's share of the load. It was fine. There was plenty of heft to go around.
We approached the armoire warily. Our path would take us down some stairs, around a corner, back up some stairs, down a long hallway, then up into the bed of the truck.
Let me pause here to remind you how important communication is when moving large, heavy items. And let me pause again to remind you that I don't speak a word of French.
I was left to interpret our situation based only on tone of voice. In the end, I spent twenty minutes with the bottom of this huge armoire shoved into my face, listening to shouted commands and exhaltations in French. Somehow, we made it to the truck.
Ten things I learned on Friday:
1) I have forgotten how to drive a manual transmission.
2) French people don't really say "Sacre Bleu" unless prompted by some smart-aleck American.
3) They do, however, sometimes wear unusually-cut jeans. And Chuck Taylors.
4) I hadn't noticed that the new French boyfriend is smaller than me until I stood next to him while lifting the armoire. Quite a bit smaller, actually.
5) I babble when faced with uncomfortable quiet, like for example if I'm riding around in a Toyota truck with a guy I've just met whose primary language is French.
6) Danger Girl's soon-to-be-ex-husband's attempt to appear jocular and friendly, even to the point of speaking French with the new French boyfriend and his colleague, struck me not as mature, but disingenuous. Okay, it was downright creepy.
7) And he didn't help us move the armoire, either. He stayed upstairs with the kids.
8) And that beer that he makes? I tried some. It was pretty bad.
9) Poor Danger Girl. I don't see how she could start a career right now. She's got her hands full. Which is too bad, because I think she would have been a good realtor.
10) The last time I moved someone (circa 1995?), my biceps didn't hurt for the next 3 days.
At age 40, you still have the option of having beers after moving someone's stuff. Danger Girl and her posse of Frenchmen offered me the option of sticking around and hanging out, but I chose instead to return home, nurse my ruined biceps and watch my March Madness bracket explode into tiny pieces. There goes $10.