Suspended Animation   1 comment


Maybe I was too soon in pulling the trigger.

Six weeks after Paul’s layoff, my nerves were frazzled, though the well was not yet dry.  Our only consolation was that we had yet to hear from the INS.  A decision had to be made on vacating our lease.

Somberly we marched down to the management office of our apartment complex to deliver the sad news.  We planned to be out effective April 1.

Two months notice seems like plenty of time, except when one of those months is the shortest of the year and the one during which the Super Bowl occurs.  That’s not such a big deal, unless your favorite team is in it.

When packing an apartment, workshop and off-site storage, and stuffing in the Super Bowl, two months is crunch time down to the wire.  More extreme is when other duties present themselves for attention: learning about rules for importing personal belongings and pets into another country, uncovering other rules pertaining to exporting vehicles from the U.S. and importing them into another country, and finding more rules pertaining to staying on the up-and-up with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service before departure.  On top of that, two vehicles had to be sold and a moving company had to be found.

The nightmare of trying to find a new place to live in a place far away is daunting on its own, doubly so when seeking new employment.  On top of all that, I had to bone-up on Canadian immigration rules.

Our hands were overflowing.

Paul’s job search was still alive, though barely breathing.  Another possibility lurked in Minnesota.  Every rejection cast a new pall over our lives.  Without knowing what the future would bring, we began packing.

Despite the Packers’ advancing to the Super Bowl against all odds without as much as a single home field advantage, I couldn’t enjoy it.  With all those players on the inactive list, I figured the Pack had as good as a snowball’s chance in hell against the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Normally I’d be lapping up coverage like Yogi Bear devouring honey.  This time, I watched almost none of the pre-game show and missed most of the early goings-on before kickoff.

Somehow, Paul convinced me to watch the game, which to my shock and despite the losses of Donald Driver and Charles Woodson during the game, the Packers won.  The Lombardi Trophy was going home to Green Bay, only about a 6 hour drive from Bloomington.  When the Pack last brought it home in 1997, I was there.

As I sat before the TV in stunned disbelief, I heard Paul’s voice.

“Let’s go to Green Bay,” he suggested.

“We don’t have the money,” I said.

“We have the money,” Paul insisted.

“Good,” I retorted.  “We’re still not going to Green Bay.”

“But I want to take you one last time to see the trophy.”

Ow!  That one hurt.  I appreciated the sentiment, but there was no going to Green Bay.  We had to conserve our energies and money.  Case closed.

Whatever lingering sentiments of goodwill and forgiveness still existing towards Paul’s former employer vanished that day.  They ruined our Thanksgiving, our Christmas, our New Year’s Eve, and our Super Bowl.  Soon, it appeared, our Valentine’s Day too would be ruined.

Ruined holidays are one thing.  You’ll get them again next year.  Ruined Super Bowl championships are an unpardonable sin.  You never know when the next one is coming, or if ir’s coming.  Nearly thirty years passed between the time the Packers won Super Bowl II and Super Bowl XXXI.

On the other hand, a Packer fan can laugh at their Minnesota neighbors knowing the Vikings have never claimed a Super Bowl title and show no signs of doing so anytime soon.

February and March became a flurry of packing, researching, organizing and horse-swapping.

If moving within the U.S., this probably would have been a DIY move with a U-Haul rental truck.  Clothes can be flipped into household appliance boxes without issue.  When crossing international borders, that’s just an invitation to trouble.

Customs inspectors reserve the right to inspect anything and everything moved across a border.  They have a ‘red flag’ list to follow while deciding which items to inspect.  One of those red flags is the presence of boxes sealed by unbonded amateurs like us.  They could choose to turf through every box if they wished and make us re-pack them and load them back into the truck.

Determining that days could be lost just trying to clear Customs on our own was not rocket science.

We needed a reputable international moving company highly experienced with moving households between the U.S. and Canada.  In early February, we called the local office of Allied Van Lines – Berger Group.  A week later, Bill, their move coordinator looked over the amount of stuff we had in the three locations.

“Where are you moving?” he asked.

Usually, that’s the easiest question to answer.  For us, it was the penultimate head-scratcher.  Paul still had feelers out in Minnesota and in Canada.  Maybe the truck would go to Vancouver, perhaps Calgary, or maybe only across the Mississippi River to another Twin Cities suburb.  We were clueless.

We suggested the most distant place and worst-case scenario, Vancouver.

His estimate was just below $10,000.  It didn’t include packing costs, but did include shipment of Leo, Paul’s maxi-scooter.  Packing ourselves and buying our own packing materials from Costco Warehouse instead of through the movers, is a money-saver, mostly the price of labor.

Hearing that number nearly caused Paul to reel.  I found it unexpectedly reasonable.

Verbally, we hired Allied under the following arrangement:  They would pick up our stuff on March 28.  We would remain briefly in Bloomington to clean up the apartment and pack a U-Haul trailer to be hitched to Donovan, our trusty Toyota 4Runner.  Our stuff was to arrive at the border no earlier than April 10.  The schedule gave us time to beat the truck to the border, take care of our immigration and vehicle importation details while avoiding bonded warehouse storage and unloading fees.

Paul felt enormous guilt about this move.  I hate moving.  He knows it.  For years, he promised that when time came to move to BC, he would pay extra for the movers to do all the packing and labeling and to assemble the shipping manifest.  Obviously, this was not happening.  We just soldiered on.

Moving outside the U.S. requires a different packing protocol than the typical interstate move.  The contents of every box must be itemized and labeled – a useful tip for interstate moves, but extended to an extreme for international ones.  Every nation has its own requirements for itemizing household goods and for determining items on which duties must be paid.

Canada’s Border Services requires all expat Canadians citizens returning home permanently to present two copies of an itemized list of belongings to be imported,  including the total number of boxes.  Owners must present duplicate copies of separate itemized lists of all electronic items and jewelry, plus a third itemized list of everything else imported by owners on their person.  If a moving company is hired, Border Services requires duplicate copies of a separate list of items shipped on the mover’s truck (also known as a bill of lading).

Four lists were required just for household items:  one of items going on the moving truck; one of all jewelry and collectible coins, one of all electronics and one of everything going into Donovan and the trailer.  They became my job.

Two more detailed lists for hobby supplies were required:  one of all items used for the production of stained glass pieces and another of woodworking supplies.  Those became Paul’s job.

Reading the Border Services regulations made my eyes glaze over.  Did they really need to know how many bras I packed into a box?  Was it really necessary to itemize the number of cat toys?  What constitutes jewelry and electronics anyway?

As our move coordinator explained, Border Services didn’t need specific numbers of items per box.  I could mark the list and box as ‘lingerie’ and leave it at that.  Definitions of jewelry and electronics were fuzzier.  I took no chances.  Everything remotely meeting the loosest definition was itemized.  Anything running on batteries or requiring connection to an electrical outlet became an electronic.  Dozens of ski vest pins were classified as jewelry.

We could pack the boxes and label them, but couldn’t seal them.  Sealing the boxes was part of the moving company’s job.  The reason is simple:  boxes professionally sealed and loaded by licensed and bonded international movers stand a better chance of sailing through Border Services without closer examination.

The fun didn’t end.  Stuff had to be assessed to determine which items could safely be packed away or would be needed before move-out as the clock wore down.

Little did we realize, the fun was only beginning.

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One response to “Suspended Animation

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  1. What a clusterschtoop the INS is. Just think, there are those that want these same people to run our healthcare.

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