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The Search for Box 219

Updated: Nov 30, 2023

On October 25, we arrived from the Big Island of Hawaii to our new home in the Summerlin area of Las Vegas, Nevada, except we’re not yet in our new home. It takes a solid four to six weeks for household goods to arrive by ship from Hawaii, and then be delivered via overland transport. So, we booked a rental home ten minutes from our new house, hoping the timing would work out.

Why leave Paradise, Hawaii, for Paradise, Nevada? We were worried about the lack of access to complex medical care on Hawaii’s Big Island. If something serious happens to outer-island patients, they must be flown by med-flight to Honolulu. Why? The Big Island’s three hospitals do not provide full services. Heart attack? Stroke? Difficult pregnancy/delivery? You’re flown to Oahu, and hope they have a vacant bed. (This Civil Beat article details the outer islands’ troubles with medical care.) In 2022, serious troubles arose with two med-flight operators contracted to the state. One provider had a tragic crash that killed three. The other left the market. For a while, the military had to handle flights. (I’ll could go on and on, but back to this blog post about our move...)


Nevada, No Taxes

As for why we chose Nevada specifically, Bill and I have investigated both USA coasts, as well as sunny states but ran out of options we liked for locales that would not gobble large percentages of Bill’s military pension and our combined social security benefits.


Our shipping container from Hawaii arrived in Las Vegas on November 11, four weeks after it was packed out of our little grass shack in Waikoloa Village, Hawaii. Trouble was, our new/not-young home in Sun City Summerlin had revealed quite a few necessary repairs, so we couldn't let the transport company deliver that soon. That very week, our house would be full of contractors painting, removing vintage plantation shutters, doing dry wall repairs, installing new carpet in two bedrooms, changing out “gold” colored door handles and plumbing fixtures. The latter cosmetic fixes also revealed clogged/corroded sink pipes that had to be replaced as well.


This is what you get when you buy a 23-year-old home that looks great on the surface, until you scratch it. Everything is fixable, and we do love our amazing mountain and golf course views, but we sure wound up doing more renovation that we intended.


The transport company dispatcher told us that if we could not take delivery Nov. 11, it would be December 11 before the next opportunity. Since we had to be out of our rental by November 30, that wouldn’t work, so we were put on a cancellation list, first come, better be ready.


"Turn-key Rental" Means You Won't Be Comfortable for Weeks

The “turnkey” rental we perched in for five weeks is what I would call “adequate’ but uncomfortable. The structure itself is a cute townhome in a nice neighborhood, but whoever manages this home has furnished it with the cheapest possible things they could find. The beds are uncomfortable. Cooking equipment was limited. The barbecue wouldn’t ignite. We had five spoons. I could not see us staying a day later than Nov. 30.


Luckily, however, the transport company had a cancellation, so they promised to offload our shipping container on Nov. 17, an Aloha Friday, when five muscled guys of all ages and races arrived pumped up and eager to knock out this job and go drink beer.


Only one contractor was still working at the house, Rick, but he said he’d try to stay out of the way.


The crew boss, an earnest, bent-over guy named Mike, had a speech impediment. When he handed me paperwork, it took me a while to understand that he expected me to check off each one of the almost 400 items on one inventory list, then also locate that same number on a separate, multipage shipper's leger to determine what the item was and, most importantly, tell each mover exactly where it should be placed in our home.

Trouble was, the Royal Hawaiian shipper's handwriting was illegible, so this procedure went south immediately. Each of the five guys brought in three to five boxes or huge, totally wrapped furnishings for me to check off. Within an instant, I was expected to glean what was inside the wrappings and tell each mover where to put them. But to keep the movers from plopping items anywhere, I also had to march room to room to show them where stuff should go.

Because this was not going smoothly, Mike decided to give the checkoff duties to Bill, who despite being a brilliant physician, cannot find his ass when it comes to paperwork. He kept skipping items, the movers were frustrated, and I was about to have a meltdown.


One of the workers could tell I was overwhelmed, so I confided that this elaborate procedure was too much to ask of us. He said he’d take care of it, then went outside, and told the others. Evidently there were arguments. Then Mike the crew boss came inside and told me the worker was going to quit and go home.

What? None of us wanted to lose a man, so I went outside to smooth things over. The upset worker was pacing furiously behind a truck. I inquired of another guy who looked just like the character Norm on the old TV series “Cheers.” Norm said that the upset fellow wasn’t angry at me but was teed off because he thought the other guys did not care about me. Wasn't that nice of him? Which begs the question of just what the other guys were saying that wasn't so nice.


What an emotional bunch!


After a few more intense discussions behind the truck, things settled down. Our rather dysfunctional team struggled through to a mid-morning break, when I had time to go to an ATM to get tip money.

By that time, Bill had returned to the rental so a repairman could fix plumbing leaks and assemble new outdoor furniture, since the current set was falling apart. (Loved this rental!)


On the way to an ATM on Lake Mead Blvd, I saw a sign on Santini's New York Pizza and Deli that blazed “we deliver.” Aha, I could order pizza for lunch! But when I returned to the house and asked what kind of pizza the movers wanted, they collectively groaned, “Oh, no, not pizza again.”


I sighed in exasperation because I was new in this neighborhood and did not know another take-away place. Norm, who was becoming my pal, noticed my dismay and told me to go ahead and order pizza. "You're the boss. The guys will just have to deal with it," he assured me. So, I got on my I-phone, looked up Santini’s, but had to download yet another app called “Slice” so that I could order online. I thought, "Enough with the apps, already!" but blessedly, Santini’s app menu featured meatball hero sandwiches, mozzarella sticks, and chicken wing drumettes in addition to pizza—my gawd, perfect mover-guy food with no pizza in sight.


They were thrilled!


With happy tummies, Norm and the other movers seemed determined to finish the job. Bill was still at the rental, so the guys checked the inventory outside by themselves. Another change was, they decided to unwrap the furniture outside, so I could actually see what it was when they brought it in. (Gees? It had been stupid to bring everything in completely wrapped, because I couldn’t tell WTF it was!)


By 3:00 p.m., the container was empty, but there was one problem: the movers could not find the legs to the electronic platform that raises/lowers our king-sized Tempur-Pedic® mattress. And for some reason, the crew boss Mike seemed to think I would know where they were.


For about two hours, all six of us collectively opened boxes in the primary bedroom, went through drawers, etc. Bill returned to help as well. I suspected the legs were in one of the wardrobe boxes inside our walk-in closet, but we couldn’t get to them because good ol’ Rick the repairman was sprawled on the floor in front of it, putting in new u-joints under the bathroom sinks.


We did not find the legs that day, so the movers left the king mattress platform unassembled on its side in our future bedroom, with the very heavy mattress also on its side halfway through the doorway. I could barely squeeze in and out. Talk about claustrophopia! I had nightmares about it later.

Before Mike left, he promised that as soon as we (meaning Bill and I) found the legs, he would return to assemble the bed. Then he hugged me, hugged Bill, and the five of the movers left, delighted by an early end to their Friday and the generous tips we gave them for doing a truly half-ass job.

When tipping movers, it’s darn if you do, darn if you don’t. If you don't, will they come back and steal all your stuff? Or will they simply murder you?


Family to the Rescue

The next morning when we returned from our rental, the new house looked like an absolute disaster. Boxes everywhere. Dust and debris everywhere. Furnishings in the wrong places. The garage impassable. The repairman Rick also turned out to be a very messy guy, with empty, torn up boxes of hardware and lights and mirrors opened and scattered about.


Several return efforts on my part did not yield much improvement until my son Kelly and his wife Vân came to the rescue. Kelly and Vân live in Vegas, so they came to help several times, and a few days later, my daughter Reed came to visit for Thanksgiving.

(Oh, yes, we had the Thanksgiving holiday during all this!)


I don’t know what I would have done without Kelly, Vân’s, and Reed’s help, because on top of everything, I'd caught an acute upper-respiratory virus and became very ill. (That’s another story too.)


Vân turned out to be an amazement at consolidating and managing space. My son Kelly was our “muscle” when needed, and Reed had the persistence that I lacked. As for Bill, well he’s a 78-year-old retired doc who huffs and puffs when physically stressed, so he pitched in when he could. And he did do some important pitching now and then.


The Legs, the Legs, My Kingdom for the Legs!

We spent two days looking for the legs to the bed platform, emptying all the primary bedroom boxes to no avail. Until we could find the legs, Bill and I could not move in. The only other bed was a Murphy bed that has an old mattress, not that we could lower the Murphy bed anyway because you can’t even walk into that guest bedroom for all the boxes.


With only a few days left in our rental, the pressure was on. But as I sat in the new house's living room to rest, I noticed an unopened moving box right in front of me with absolutely no markings on it, just a cardboard box with an orange tag, number #219. Curious, I looked it up on the shipping leger but couldn’t even read what Box 219 was supposed to have inside it. There was no room designation, and the scribbling was a blur. Tentatively, I opened the box and discovered a few odds and ends from Bill’s bedroom nightstand. What were those doing in the living room? And then, through more paper padding at the very bottom, eureka, I spied the platform bed legs.



We didn’t even call the moving company. Kelly, Reed, and Van removed one side of our four-poster bed frame, slid the platform support inside, and voila! We paired the remote with the base, and the darn thing raises and lowers the mattress. Then Reed and Kelly lifted the huge mattress out of the doorway, and we now have a bed. (Of course, I’ll do a bit of vacuuming and fluffing first.)


But yay, Box 219 was the one!


In my opinion, the American shipping and moving industry needs to be completely reorganized. Did anyone think about training these workers or paying them decent wages to attract more committed people? I’ve heard horror stories worse than mine, but this move and shipment were far more discombobulated than any experience I ever want to endure. It makes you wonder why you have to feed and tip a bunch of guys for doing downright sloppy jobs, or not caring enough about the customer to handle your furnishings and household items in a manner conducive to your also being able to exist after they leave your home looking like a tornado just passed through.

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