Thursday, July 1, 2010

Pack-out Diaries, Chapter 3

Dear Pack-out Diary,

This morning marks Day 2 of the pack-out, and I'm waiting for the call that the mover/packers are here to finish the job.

Before I get any further, I apologize in advance if I come across particularly caustic this morning as I didn't sleep well two nights ago - nervous about the pack-out, I presume - nor did I sleep well last night either - our alarm clock went off in our super-secret hidden bunker that will be our home for the next week. Mind you, we didn't set; rather the previous guests did. But I'll save my complaints for a later post, and to be fair, I'll wait a little longer than one night to give my impressions of this place.

Instead, I'll turn my Righteous Laser Beam of Justice (patent pending) toward yesterday's events as well as previous events that led to yesterday's results.

First, I liked our movers/packers, which is good because we spent 12 hours together. There were three of them, and one was very nice and helpful. The second was quiet, but he appeared to be working very hard. The third was a bit of schmuck, but he was helpful in the beginning in explaining to Natalie that she had about 2,000 pounds of stuff marked for UAB.

Second, I've heard several stories about over-aggressive packers that wrap up everything from garbage to cats quicker than the foreign service family can keep up with them. This definitely was not our experience. We began with the Post-its system, but after our UAB was ready, which happened quickly, it essentially morphed into a pile system. All of our storage stuff, which wasn't much, was piled on one of the couches going to storage. That, and large furniture items in the bedroom and living room were for storage. Everything else must go! And the bathroom was off limits for packing.

After several hours of packing and loading, Natalie and I started finding several items that had not been packed. Most of them were in the bedroom where the schmuck was working, but there were a few items all over the place. But we did get everything we wanted packed eventually.

Third, I raised a question before about pack-out privacy, which wasn't a problem for us, but many comments pointed out that these guys have seen everything during their careers so there isn't any judging. In fact, while talking with the guy working the kitchen, he said he often gets asked about the strangest things he packed. Well, we added something new to that list. That is all I'm going to say about said item; it was in the kitchen.

Fourth, during about the eighth hour of pack-out, I asked our kitchen guy how many pack-outs he does a week. They work five days a week, which is shocking considering they were in the midst of 12-hour day. He explained that they receive a worksheet every day they start a new job describing the estimated weight, number of workers and how many days the job is.

As I described earlier, the guy with the magic calculator estimated it was a two-day job. By the time that information filtered down to our three packers/movers, it morphed into a one-day job. Well, at some point during the day, they called to say one day was impossible. Typically in jobs like the one we had, they would arrive and pack one day, and move everything the next.

Finally, one of my continuing complaints is stupid acronyms. I've been a part of two pack-outs now, and during the pack-out, I've never heard anyone say "UAB" or "HHE." The movers don't use these expressions. I'm not entirely sure they even know what HHE means.

Why does the State Department instill this vocabulary into its employees when at the time it matters most - pack-out - the people packing stuff don't use these terms.

UAB = "air freight" or "air"
HHE = "ground freight," "sea" and/or "surface"

There are probably more terms the movers use, but these are the ones I've heard in two pack-outs. State, please stop using UAB and HHE! It only confuses things. If you must use acronyms, which I don't think you do in this case, let the movers pick them.



  2. Best guess for the weird item is the shot pourer.