Tuesday, August 04, 2009

How one man's sense of responsibility saved a young family's 'moving-in' day

My son, daughter in law and their family of two teenagers and two young children are relocating from Salt Lake City to Oakland. They purchased a spacious home, sent a pet on ahead with the teen agers and made plans for the move. The decided on a moving package with a major carrier that would pretty much cover everything including packing, unpacking and reinstallation of appliances.

All went well at the Salt Lake City end. Packers arrived and did their work competently. The big truck was loaded with family belongings, furnishings and the family car. My daughter and the two smallest family members embarked by plane and arrived on schedule, Saturday afternoon. After leaving the two youngest in the care of friends, the remaining five of us enjoyed a relaxed dinner out, and retired early, awaiting the big day. The unpacking crew was to arrive at 8AM, with the moving van from Salt Lake City to arrive soon afterwards.

Sunday morning dawned bright, cool and clear. I had forgotten how temperate the climate can be in the Bay area. Shortly before 8:00, the van driver called and my son set out to direct him to the small suburban cul-de-sac where the family’s new home was located. But where was the unpacking crew that the agent in Salt Lake city had arranged? They had not appeared. The moving Van arrived and we offered coffee to the driver and his fiancee, whom the family had gotten to know in Salt Lake City. Still the crew had not come. My daughter-in-law made repeated calls to the agent with whom she had contracted in Salt Lake City (and who had already been paid) - no answer. The driver made calls to the contact number he had been given in Oakland - no answer. It was 9:15. At 9:30 the our driver took the initiative - “I think I can find a crew, but they are in San Jose. It will take them a while to get here,” he told us.

The back up crew arrived in less than an hour, accompanied by the wife and daughter of one of them and the the unpacking began, 2 and a half hours late. At 1 PM, my son departed for the airport in a rush to meet a long planned speaking obligation. The girls were parked with friends. Four of us all pitched in with the crew as members of the same team. There was no thought of the unpacking that had been contracted, no assembling of appliances. In fact, the back up crew said they had no knowledge or skills in this area. While they had an excellent attitude, they seemed inexperienced.

By shortly after six, the truck and been unloaded. A few boxes had been unpacked, but most remained stacked in the garage our around the house. While my daughter completed some last checking of items, before signing the papers that would accept the shipment, the driver and I sat on a couch, positioned temporarily in the foyer and had a relaxed conversation. He was fifty years old and a immigrant from the South Pacific nation of Tonga, though he had lived in the US for many years and been in the moving business for more than twenty. He shared some information about Tonga, a country comprising a population of about 5 million living peacefully on 17 islands. We contrasted these tranquil circumstances with neighboring Fiji, which has been riven by ethnic strife between native Fijians and Indian immigrants. Then, as we continued to talk about his culture and its traditions, a surprising fact emerged. The ‘back up crew‘ from San Jose were not in the moving business at all. Faced with the prospect of postponing the move for an entire day, our driver called his cousin His cousin mobilized his three sons (along with wife and daughter). On the spur of the moment, they gave up their Sunday plans, drove to Oakland, pitched in and did what needed to be done.

It would be easy to write a diatribe about the moving company agents in Salt Lake City and Oakland who failed to their jobs, but what I will most remember about that memorable Sunday is the driver who, on his own initiative, did far more than his job required. He did it cheerfully, without complaining and without even mentioning that the back-up crew were his relatives. Hopefully he will be rewarded, if not in this life than in the next. His sense of responsibility gave us a gift that money couldn’t buy.

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