Day 1 (Sunday): From Lafayette to … Lafayette?
I stayed up late Saturday night condensing my belongings and then crashed to bed around 4 in the morning. I was up by 9 to walk the dog and then I immediately started in on packing the black Hyundai Santa Fe with the old school yellow and blue New York plates (fitting, I thought, since that’s where my college career started all those years ago). By the second box, I knew I was in trouble.
The cargo room in the Santa Fe was nowhere close to the cargo space of the Explorer; I knew I’d have to take less stuff than I could have if I’d fixed my car, but I also knew there was no guarantee the Explorer would make the cross country trip (just as I knew I had no interest in making that drive in this plus-90 degree heat without air conditioning) so I was willing to trade room for reliability.
My plan was to leave town around 2 or 3 in the afternoon, which would allow me to get up 65 and left onto I-80 and far enough outside of the Chicago area that I wouldn’t have to pay Chicago rates for a hotel, but before noon I knew that plan was in doubt. I didn’t just have to pack the SUV, deliver my vacuum to a friend, and chuck the rest of my stuff in the trash, but now I had to condense my books down, which meant re-opening all the boxes and resorting them.
I’d been running around so much in the preceding days that my lake of packing preparation did me in. It was balls-soaking hot and humid all day and I made countless trips from the apartment to the SUV to the the trash, getting a minor sunburn in the process. Two o’clock came and went and I reset my hope to leave to sometime before 5.
Didn’t happen. Every item I pulled out of the closet or off a shelf had to be evaluated and categorized: Definite Take, Possible Take, Throw Away. The Throw Aways were easy, but as the afternoon progressed, many of my Definite Takes became Possible Takes and then ultimately Throw Aways. By the end, I was literally tossing things like plates and coat hangers to save room. I even had to give up my desktop computer. Now, my beloved eMac was nearly a decade old and ready to retire. I had designs to strip it bare and turn it into a digital jukebox but the only place I could place it was right in the middle of Darwin Row, and I wasn’t going to do that to him.
What’s Darwin Row? I fold the backseat down and give him all of that space. I put his bed on one side and a blanket on the other, which allows him access to both windows. In hindsight, maybe I should have moved things around a bit more to try and get the eMac to fit, but the truth was I had barely used it for anything in over a year. I already had plans to replace it, so what I was losing was a very heavy idea which maybe would have worked and maybe wouldn’t. All told, I’d rather have a placated dog than the hypothetical jukebox.
Once I realized I wasn’t going to check out before the apartment office closed, I took the dog for a big walk and then made all of those annoying phone calls you have to make when moving to get the energy shut off and the internet shut off.
On that last point, f*ck Frontier. Not only did they put me on hold for 30 minutes, which is long but understandable if they’re busy, but then when their rep came on the phone, I told her that I wanted to shut my service off. We went through this big hassle to verify my account (my account number never worked thanks to the Verizon-to-Frontier switch), which took almost ten minutes, and then we went through the call sheet list of questions. “Maria” wanted to know why I was leaving Frontier and where I was going and all sorts of things designed to keep me as a customer.
I have two standard responses to the “why are you leaving us?” question. The first is that I tell them I’m moving to Germany. The second is that I’m moving in with people who already have internet. Either answer shuts down that line of questioning. So I dutifully laid out all the answers that I needed to get my service shut off, when Maria finally tells me, “I’m sorry, sir, but I don’t have the authority to cancel your account.”
I make it a point to never yell at these customer service reps but Maria had pushed the wrong button. My response was short of volcanic, but definitely fiery. “You mean to tell me,” I seethed, “that you knew, YOU KNEW, right from the start that you weren’t able to cancel my service and you still made me jump through hoops for FIFTEEN MINUTES?”
“I’m sorry, sir, but I have to read the call sheet and-”
“But you knew that you wouldn’t be able to do what I wanted,” I shot back. “Right?”
“I’m sorry, sir, but-”
“Then you best do what you have to do to cancel my service right now.”
Maria, her voice slightly shaken, told me she’d look to see if there was anyone there who had the authority to cancel my request, and put me on hold. Now, for all I know, Maria put me on hold and then gave me the double-barreled middle finger salute as she texted her boyfriend for two minutes about the jag-off she had on hold, but at least I felt like she was doing something. Of course, when she came back she told me there was no one there who had the authority to cancel my service, which sent me through the roof again. “This is unconscionable,” I raged. “It shouldn’t be jerked around like this. Find someone who can cancel my service and cancel … my … service.”
Maria put me on hold again and came back with a “direct line” to the Cancel Frontier Fairy.
“Fine,” I said, keeping my anger in check but not ready to pretend that all was forgiven, “go ahead and connect me.”
“I’m sorry, sir, but I can’t. That number is only active during business hours.”
I lost it. “You mean to tell me that you not only knew that you couldn’t do what I wanted, but that NO ONE could do what I wanted? No wonder I was left on hold for 30 minutes! You’re wasting everyone’s time by jerking them around and asking them questions when you know you can’t fulfill their requests! I’m sure,” I ebbed the anger, tossing Maria a bone, “that you’re just following Frontier’s little script, but this is ridiculous!”
“I’m sorry, sir. Is there anything else I can help you with?”
Gah gah gah.
When I finally got around to calling that number a week later (I wasn’t going to call on the road and waste all that time and by the time I stopped for the night, their “normal business hours” were over), it wasn’t some super special secret line. It was just a line to “Edwin in Fort Wayne,” who at least was able to cancel my service within about five minutes.
By the way, do they tell us where they are because they think we won’t get as upset if we’re talking to an American instead of a foreigner? Are we supposed to go, “Oh, look, I’m really upset, Edwin, but you’re a nice Fort Wayne boy so I won’t get mad at Frontier, okay?”
It was now 8 o’clock, so I jumped in the shower, packed/trashed the rest of the stuff, and then headed off. Darwin was great all day, silently sitting on the floor and watching me remove items from the apartment. He only became outwardly nervous towards the end of the day when I took the couch blanket out to the trash and when I subsequently took his dog bed (which he almost never uses, but clearly recognizes as his) to the car. Too tired to get on the road and figuring in a 2,000 mile trip there was no point in getting an hour of driving in when I knew the Red Roof out on 26 didn’t charge for dogs, I hit up a Subway for what was my usual back when I had a car and might stop at Subway (a foot long turkey with bacon, lettuce, onions, and chipotle sauce), then checked into the hotel, and settled in for my first meal of the day.
The sub was delicious but the night was not the restful one I needed. This Red Roof (all Red Roofs?) is an outdoor motel, meaning that the door to your room opens into the outside world, not a hallway. The outdoor world is continually louder than the inside world, so every voice, every car, every slightest sound caught Darwin’s attention. He decided it was time to unleash all of the simmering anxiety that had been building during the day, and when you combined that with the excitement of being someplace new, it meant he was not the least bit interested in settling down. He continuously ran to the door and either sniffed at the thin sliver of air coming in through the bottom, or barked, something he rarely does.
The whole night brought sleep in no more than two or three hour bursts and each time I awoke I discovered Darwin at the hotel door, or on his bed, or on my bed. I’d have to get up and calm him down (or admonish him for barking) and then slink back to my bed for another quick nap.
A long day followed by a long night was not how I wanted the move to start. I had hoped to put a good 200 to 250 miles under my wheels before crashing for the night but I had gone all of fifteen to twenty miles instead.
It was fitting, I suppose – my first night as a full-time resident in Lafayette had been spent in a hotel out on 26, and my last night would be spent in the same way.
The only difference was Darwin.
The I-80 Move Collection
Day 0: The Final Days in Lafayette
Day 1: From Lafayette to … Lafayette?
Day 2: The Road to Omaha Goes Through Council Bluffs, Iowa
Day 3: The Long and Non-Winding Road That is Nebraska
Day 4: The Salt Lake City Descent of Madness
Day 5: Target: Reno