the loneliness of the long-haul mover
September 21, 2017 12:56 PM   Subscribe

My destination is the ultrarich haven called Aspen, Colorado. This makes perfect sense because I’m a long-haul mover at the pinnacle of the game, a specialist. I can make $250,000 a year doing what is called high-end executive relocation. No U-Hauls for me, thank you very much. I’ll take the movie stars, the ambassadors, the corporate bigwigs. At the office in Connecticut they call me the Great White Mover. This Aspen load, insured for $3 million, belongs to a former investment banker from a former investment bank who apparently escaped the toppled citadel with his personal loot intact.

My cargo consists of a dozen or so crated modern art canvases, eight 600-pound granite gravestones of Qing Dynasty emperors, half a dozen king-size pillow-top beds I’ll never figure out how to assemble, and an assortment of Edwardian antiques. The man I’m moving, known in the trade as the shipper, has purchased a $25 million starter castle in a hypersecure Aspen subdivision. He figures, no doubt accurately, he’ll be safe behind the security booth from the impecunious widows and mendacious foreign creditors he ripped off, but I digress.

I’m looking downhill for brake lights. I can probably slow down, but there’s no chance of coming to a quick stop. If I slam on the brakes I’ll either crash through the vehicle in front of me or go over the side.
posted by the man of twists and turns (35 comments total) 67 users marked this as a favorite
Now I'm deciding what in my household counts as "chowder."
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:16 PM on September 21 [12 favorites]

God I hate moving, I've done it 9 times in the past 10 years. We self move, load boxes, load trucks, and I drive the rental across country with my car towed behind it. It's miserable and honestly somewhat insane that they let people with zero truck experience run a 26 foot uhaul with tow trailer. Those fuckers are big, unwieldy and god help you if you have to back up. First time I hauled a car behind I managed to get stuck in a hotel parking lot and caught the tow trailer fender on another uhauls bumper. Damn near ripped it off. Took it to a place in Topeka to get repaired and watched the guy fixing it brace a piece of metal he was drilling through with his hand right behind where he was drilling. You can imagine how that went.

Other good times were when the tow dolly brakes didn't work heading west out on 70 on a long downhill stretch in Utah with some mild switch backs; stuff that would have been fine in a car, but hauling a massive truck with a trailer that wasn't braking sucked big time. Doesn't help that the governors on the engines on those trucks keep you from even effectively engine braking.

Hopefully this last move we did will be our last long haul. I don't want to have to deal with that mess ever again.
posted by Ferreous at 1:20 PM on September 21 [5 favorites]

This is great! To me, someone who is good at something and good at writing about the thing they are good at is better than porn and thrillers combined.
posted by mumimor at 1:30 PM on September 21 [39 favorites]

My wife's uncle does this. He's gotten to where he only works about 4 months a year. He could work more, but the house is paid off, and he works just enough to keep himself in Windsor Canadian and a new harley every few years.

He's got 7 kids from 3 ex-wives and he's basically a professional rightwing internet commenter when he's not hunting or working.

He's moved some really high dollar people though - movie stars and such. He works his ass off when he's working though, and I'm dead certain that those logbooks are as forged as a 3 dollar bill.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 1:32 PM on September 21 [9 favorites]

I’m not from the South and don’t talk as if I were. Most telling, and the other guys can sense this somehow, I do not for a moment think I’m a symbol of some bygone ideal of Wild West American freedom or any other half-mythic, half-menacing nugget of folk nonsense.

I like that, yes I do.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:33 PM on September 21 [7 favorites]

Fascinating. Putting this book on the to-read list.
posted by Sweet Dee Kat at 1:43 PM on September 21

The man I’m moving, known in the trade as the shipper

Just to note - this is general transportation terminology, not specific to house moves (technically known as household goods). The shipper is the person who is sending stuff somewhere, the carrier is the person who physically moves it, the consignee is the person it is going to. There might be other parties involved, but you always have those three.
posted by Chrysostom at 1:43 PM on September 21 [4 favorites]

Moving someone else is hard work but just work, not that emotional ringing out of the soul. And they have heavy duty dollies, and floor covering that allows the dollies to roll, AND helpers that are not dangerous idjits on the other end of the dolly! Not eager to be doing manual labor again but this does seem like one of the few acceptable.
posted by sammyo at 1:49 PM on September 21

There might be other parties involved, but you always have those three.

and I ship them all. I'm a shipper/carrier/consignee shipper. please visit my profile for links to my steamy shipper shipping shipfic
posted by prize bull octorok at 1:52 PM on September 21 [63 favorites]

I drove semis short hauling ag products from the fields to the processors for a few summers in college, but we were pretty much the lowest of the low in the truck driving world. I worked it enough to know I didn't want to make a career out of it.

That said, the driving skills I picked up held me in good stead when I had to self-move three times in the span of one year.
posted by Badgermann at 1:55 PM on September 21 [1 favorite]

Excellent read, thank you.
posted by frobozz at 1:57 PM on September 21

This is good.
The story about how easy it is to crash on the mountain side reminded me of the world's worst road, from La Paz, Bolivia, down into the beginning of the jungle in Coroico, which is a 0.8 lane two-way road with frequent waterfalls behind, over and through the road, such that they'd eaten away at it in parts and you had to get out of the overstuffed van so the driver could inch his way through the worst parts and if he didn't make it at least you wouldn't die with him and every hundred or so meters there was a part of the sheer cliff next to the road with with the vegetation stripped off the mountain side in a straight line down which are made by trucks that have fallen to their doom, and it's common enough that there's companies whose business model is to rappel down the side of the stripped mountain to salvage what they can from the trucks. And on any given trip down the road you're likely to see two or three of these places with people doing precisely this, so you know the trucks went down recently. And all this from an over packed van, with your face pressed against the cliff side, so you're often looking straight down, with no road visible at all. And there's a logging truck broken down, literally, with a broken axle, so you get out and walk for a few hundred meters of solid traffic jam and get to the truck and there's no way anything is moving ever again on the road, but then all the people from all the other vans and cars and trucks get together and grab a big ass log and put it under the truck and lever it up so they can fix something and it's like watching ants lift a dead dog or something, and the the traffic starts moving again, somehow.
posted by signal at 1:58 PM on September 21 [41 favorites]

That was fabulous. I'm a USAF brat so I moved a lot growing up. My parents taught to to respect the movers. When I've moved as an adult I always have a cooler of cold drinks for the crew, and I bring in lunch. I've never hated moving as much as most seem to. It's a chance to renew , refresh, purge, and start over. I find it exciting.

Or least I'm going to keep telling myself that through my move in November.

Book sounds great though - it's on my todo list.
posted by COD at 1:59 PM on September 21 [5 favorites]

That was a good read. My favorite genera too - good writing about a profession that you don't necessarily expect good writing from.
I don't think this guy is going to be replaced by a robot driver anytime soon.
posted by Bee'sWing at 2:17 PM on September 21 [3 favorites]

My dad spent the bulk of his working life as a professional mover. The most famous person he moved was Bebe Neuwirth, who, having forgotten the appointment, answered the door while wearing a négligée and holding a wineglass. A much-younger man soon exited her bedroom, and they shared a passionate clinch before the man left.

It was 10 o'clock on a Monday morning.

Bebe Neuwirth has the life, you guys.
posted by Iris Gambol at 2:37 PM on September 21 [45 favorites]

I'm a third of the way through this book, and it's entirely absorbing. The times I've moved, I've found I can be a rather crappy packer, usually opting to toss as much as possible in garbage and duffle bags. Murphy's account of how he, and others in his profession, tightly packs the 'tiers' in a large moving truck are so fascinating (even the chowder comes in handy)! He writes in a way that's entertaining and informative, and allows one to vividly imagine the scenarios he's describing.
posted by but no cigar at 3:12 PM on September 21 [2 favorites]

At the office in Connecticut they call me the Great White Mover.

I can't believe there isn't a folk song about this person.
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 3:18 PM on September 21 [1 favorite]

Great read.

We moved about 10 months ago. Our driver had a massive amount of. Stuff to pack out of our two storage lockers, about a third of it awkward yard stuff and tools. On delivery, his truck wouldn't fit down our road. And he had to rent a smaller truck and repack everything. He ended up making four trips. Plus, it was snowing and he had to go buy chains for the rental. It took him three days to get us unpacked and he never complained or indicated that this was any bother at all. Throughly impressed with his professionalism and good cheer the whole way. A+
posted by SLC Mom at 3:28 PM on September 21 [2 favorites]

This is some great writing.

I downshift my thirteen-speed transmission to fifth gear, slow to 23 mph, and set my Jake brake to all eight cylinders. A Jake brake is an air-compression inhibitor that turns my engine into the primary braking system. It sounds like a machine gun beneath my feet as it works to keep 70,000 pounds of steel and rubber under control.

For a few years, I lived in the shadow of a large US/Canada bridge that was a crossing laden with transport truck traffic. The blatting of Jake brakes would rattle the windows in my place.

Brrrrrrrraaaaaaaap!!! still haunts my dreams from time to time.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 4:48 PM on September 21 [4 favorites]

I read this earlier today and meant to post it. It was more appropriate this way. Anyway, some great writing; I liked the John McPhee reference and definitely think he has a similar style.
posted by TedW at 5:26 PM on September 21 [1 favorite]

That was a great read, thanks for the post.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:30 PM on September 21

signal, I think I've ridden that road. Except it was in Cameroon, and instead of levering up a logging truck we were pushing our 50-year-old Renault bus out of a mud pit. It's amazing what 50 or so people can do if they can all put their hands to the task! I have also done the "get out of the bus so at least if it plummets only the driver will die" thing.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:39 PM on September 21 [1 favorite]

Oh my goodness, Aspen!

I somehow ended up in Aspen for a short while right before ski season was about to start. Never before have I been to a place with such separate, distinct groups of people--almost to the point of like being in a poorly written novel or maybe even on some alien planet.

First of all, there are the locals from the surrounding area. They are often employees of the hotels and restaurants. They are easily identified by the plaid shirts and hats with the name of a tractor manufacturer on them.

Second, are the ultra rich. I passed an airport packed with personal jets on the way into Aspen. I saw people walking around dressed in clothes that I have only seen in exotic fashion magazines.

Third, are the ski bums. The real ski fanatics show up early, knowing the snow was coming in a few days. These people dress like they don't have much money, except for their expensive ski equipment. I'm guessing they'll probably get seasonal jobs in the restaurants and hotels too, to support themselves through the season when they take breaks from skiing. (I once knew someone who did this, working in a Chinese restaurant in Aspen to support his skiing).

The fourth group took me a while to figure out. I saw them in places like clothing stores. They were the most outgoing, energetic, lively group of women I have ever met. Surprisingly, several of them had been on those reality TV shows that take place in houses. What are they doing here? They aren't locals, they don't ski. I seemed to me, finally, that they were there expressly to meet up with the second group.

It was surreal. What a strange place.
posted by eye of newt at 9:31 PM on September 21 [14 favorites]

For a few years, I lived in the shadow of a large US/Canada bridge that was a crossing laden with transport truck traffic. The blatting of Jake brakes would rattle the windows in my place.

Brrrrrrrraaaaaaaap!!! still haunts my dreams from time to time.

One of my dearest (departed) Friends lived just off Route 10 in Summit, NY, so I associate the sound with good times. That said, I am well aware that I'm an outlier.
posted by mikelieman at 10:48 PM on September 21 [2 favorites]

The highway in front of my house has a sign "Engine Brake Muffler Required". The problem is that it is on the wrong side of the road, aimed at the trucks pulling up hill out of town, not at the trucks on the long, gentle glide down to the next stop light. Most of them seem to use the muffler anyway. I only very rarely hear one that's annoyingly loud.
posted by Bruce H. at 11:31 PM on September 21

That was great, and I don’t think there was a paragraph where I didn’t learn something new and surprising. Also: some reading material for anybody who predicts the arrival of autonomous trucks any time soon.
posted by rongorongo at 1:26 AM on September 22 [3 favorites]

Moving is a complicated buried decades worth of grief for a certified global nomad
posted by infini at 2:05 AM on September 22

I worked two summers as a professional mover. Did instill in me a quiet determination to finish my studies and find an office job, it did.
posted by Harald74 at 2:15 AM on September 22 [3 favorites]

Oh my goodness, Aspen!

I don't know, Lloyd. The French are assholes.

It was either this or a Smoky and the Bandit joke.
posted by Literaryhero at 2:15 AM on September 22 [3 favorites]

I'm just adding that Finn Murphy's book seems to be perfectly set up as a premise for TV fictionalisation. We have every kind of depiction of the worlds of smart, elite level politicians, doctors, CEOs, detectives and so on - but tuckers get "Convoy" and "Duel" - or "Ice Road Truckers" at a push.
posted by rongorongo at 4:08 AM on September 22

Yeah the airport in Aspen is really a sight to behold, on fridays in the winter is crammed with private jets, like a parking lot at a sporting event. We have a family friend that married into ultra wealth so we have some weird stories of dipping toes into that world. My dad once attended a new years eve party in a 55k sqft house in Aspen, and the lady singing with the piano player near one of the cocktail bars was Roberta Flack.
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 7:36 AM on September 22 [2 favorites]

Related to Aspen and rich-people: Ted Conover, the journalist who is famous for "becoming" someone in order to write about their lives (prison guard, smuggler, train hopper, etc.) wrote a book about being a cab driver to the ultra-wealthy in Aspen.
posted by knownassociate at 7:37 AM on September 22 [1 favorite]

That brings to mind Holly Golightly practicing Portuguese listening to records, trying to catch the 'second richest man' or whoever that Drew Carey looking dude was.
I've a nephew who drives a truck so we have talked about robot driving. He says he spends up to half of his day doing things other than driving. I think it is the drivers that just pick up a shipping container and deliver it somewhere that have the most to worry about being replaced.
posted by Bee'sWing at 9:52 AM on September 22

He says he spends up to half of his day doing things other than driving.

The terrible thing about them spending half their days doing things other than driving, is that a lot of them don't get paid for the time spent doing those things.
posted by elizilla at 2:29 PM on September 22

This was a tremendously intersting read, especially as someone who's been a 'shipper' on a cross country move.

I have been lucky enough to have company-paid moves every time I've had big moves, so the last time I did this was very much the 'movers packing up alllll my stuff then muscling it into a truck and moving it across country' experience that he talks about. Of course, none of my moves ever cost $60,000 nor were there exotic antiques involved!

He's a gifted storyteller. Looking forward to reading the whole book.
posted by librarylis at 4:05 PM on September 22

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