Like a New Year’s resolution, packing up your house begins with burning passion and world-conquering confidence and ends flat on your back in despair, with a sigh and a mouth filled with trans-fats.
You’d think we would be used to moving by now. Liz and I have moved house – believe it or not – seven times in six years (not including my move from Kathmandu to DC in 2007). The smells of cardboard and bubble wrap are like crocuses in spring. Through the process, I’ve discovered that moving is a science. Unfortunately, I suck at science.
But for those of you who are desperate for somebody to tell them what to do, allow me to share….
The Seven Principles of Moving, by Conor, Who’s Not Very Good at This.
If I could write a letter to Shamu, I’d first check in just to make sure he was doing okay. (Actually, first I’d make sure I was talking to the right Shamu. There seem to be, like, five of them.) I’d want to know how he was doing because he sure seemed happy, and he sure seemed to be making a lot of kids happy, including ours. I’d also thank him for his hard work, and compliment him on being able to jump out of the water even though he weighs about nine thousand pounds.
I was thinking about Shamu because I was thinking about the family vacation we took a couple of weeks ago. If you’re like me, you do a fair bit of calculating during these vacations.
Case in point: How much is it going to cost to take the family to sea world when we’re out in San Diego? Probably a bunch. Tickets are pretty expensive, after all. Food is prohibitively expensive, which is why we ate at a famous local diner that used to have some kind of terribly politically incorrect name (can’t remember what that was now, but when Liz and I were reading the famous history on the back of the menu I noticed that we both raised our eyebrows at the same time.) We filled up on breakfast burritos (or whatever they’re called in Spanish) and gave Finn and Lucy pancakes and went into Sea World on a Friday morning in February, when the crowd would be about 5000 instead of about 40000.
I was in my hotel at the University of Calgary, asking the man at the reception desk to change a Canadian ten dollar bill for a five and five singles.
“Of course!” he said happily, because in Canada everything is said happily, even when it’s twenty below outside.
He opened the cash register, and a look of consternation fell across his face- the kind of look you get from Canadians when they are unable to quickly fulfill your precise request.
“Hmmm…” he said, peering into cash drawer and tapping it with his fingers. He looked up at me apologetically. “Do you only need loonies? Or would you take toonies?”
I had no idea what he was going on about, but clearly Canadian currency had sneaky weird names. Loonies! Toonies! It was like getting tickled.
“Oh, either one!” I said with a dismissive wave, because I didn’t want to sound like an idiot. He looked relieved, and gave me some shiny coins.
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: I freakin’ love Canada.
There’s something about Irish pilots that they never want to tell you the weather. They dance around it, hinting but never coming right out and saying it, as if they were trying to describe an embarrassing procedure that they had, or inform you that your dog just pooped in their fireplace.
“We’re getting reports that it’s a bit cloudy in Shannon, I’m afraid,” the Aer Lingus pilots told us on July 4th. We were in a row that was three across, Liz with Lucy on her lap, Finn between us, and me on the other side of Finn. “Perhaps a bit of drizzle, though hard to say until we arrive there. The temperature…well, it could be better, not a terribly warm day, it seems.”
“What’s he sayin’, Daddy?” asked Finn.
Finn spent a weekend with his grandparents – my father and stepmother, a few weekends ago (who we would be seeing in Ireland), and came back enunciating his words as if he was trying to teach a gorilla to speak. So his simple question came out: What’s he saaaaaaayyyyyin’ Daaaaaaddddy? with modulations covering about three octaves. I could have made myself a sandwich in the time it took him to ask that question.
When I was doing various interviews in Ireland and the UK, they would ask me where I was heading next.
“Amsterdam,” I’d tell them.
“Oh – behave!” they’d joke.
They said this for a couple of reasons. First of all, they don’t know me personally. My wife likes to tell the story of my bachelor night, when I went out on the town with my buddies Charlie and Kelly, and called her from my hotel room at around 11:30 p.m., a bit tipsy, to confess that I’d eaten an entire bag of Doritos and a tin of wasabi peas while watching Terminator 3.