“You’re fired!”   1 comment


Tension built as March began.  Only a month to go and still so much to do.

The paperwork required on both sides of the border for an international move could fill a ream.

It starts with item lists and box labels, the general details of which, for items sent on the moving truck, make their way onto the shipping manifest, and continuing with the jewelry, electronics and hobby supply lists in varying levels of detail…in duplicate.

Thank goodness for word processing and spreadsheet software!  Our copies of Microsoft Office paid for themselves.

But wait…there’s more!  There are passports, export and import papers for two motor vehicles, vehicle titles, vehicle recall compliance certificates, vehicle bills of sale, proof of vehicle registration, health certificates for Destiny and Carter, copies of our apartment leases, a letter from our apartment office verifying our shared residence for the past 10 years, Paul’s INS I-94 form (issued to all work visa holders upon approval and returned before leaving the country permanently), an IRS Certificate of Clear Sail issued after insuring all outstanding taxes are paid, Paul’s birth and baptism certificates (I don’t have copies for myself), Paul’s diploma from the British Columbia Institute of Technology (my college diploma was somewhere in a box in off-site storage) and all those other documents proving you really are who you say you are.

All that paperwork has to go somewhere accessible from where it can easily be presented at the appropriate checkpoint.  It’s not necessary to have until you get there, but you have to know where all of it is at all times.  Lose it and you’re hooped.  Suddenly, they’re the most valuable of the valuables.

A couple of years earlier, we acquired a portable file box from a former neighbor.  It was about to come in handy.

Getting a Certificate of Clear Sail requires showing copies of the past two years’ U.S. tax filings at an IRS office.  That required hunting down Paul’s accountant.

Anyone working outside their own country who cannot afford an accountant probably shouldn’t work overseas.  You think the 1040 form is a nightmare?  That’s only the half of it.  The other half is that expats often pay taxes in two countries: their home country and the one in which they’re working.  That goes for dual citizens as well.  U.S. citizens must pay taxes on overseas earnings in excess of $40,000 USD regardless of the country in which they work.

Canada and the States have a tax treaty by which citizens of one of the countries pay taxes in the other.  Somehow, those monies get rolled up and divided in such a way as to make both nations happy.  Don’t ask me how.  Frankly, I don’t want to know.  I’m not an accountant.

Paul called his accountant back in November and left a message.  She never called back.  He left another message in December.  Finally, in February, he reached her live and in person by phone.  By that time, his W-2 form (statement showing the amount of federal, state and Social Security taxes withheld via payroll deductions) arrived in the mail.  He took it and other information to her office for completion.

The packing, labeling and listing grind went on…and on…and on with no sense of accomplishment in sight.  We still lived in the apartment.  Potentially needed items had to stay in their homes until the final week of packing.

Bill, our Allied Van Lines – Bergman Group coordinator, mysteriously disappeared in March.  Multiple messages went unanswered until mid-March – only after Paul left a message with an office supervisor when the game of phone tag became old.  That’s when Bill promised to call back and never did.  Financially speaking, we suspected we were not worth Bill’s while.

Meanwhile, the job and housing searches wore on, even as Paul found himself eliminated from the last remaining opportunity for which he applied in Minnesota.  Just as that one evaporated, another sprang forth.  A Vancouver area firm seeking expertise with Crystal Reports, a business reporting program was interested in interviewing Paul by phone.  The call went well.

Finding a suitable house in Greater Vancouver remained a challenge.  The bumper crop available in January was whittled down to nearly nothing by March.  Our criteria was specific: we wanted a single family home with no on-site occupied in-law or apartment suites to be rented out to another tenant.  In short, we wanted to rent the entire property ourselves.  It had to be pet-friendly for two cats, at least 2,500 square feet with an area on-site for a woodworking workshop (like a garage or detached workshop) and another suitable area for stained glass work,  We wanted on-site laundry facilities and 3 or more bedrooms.  The house had to be located close to public transit in a safe neighborhood, in very good condition and within budget.  These were absolutes, the idea being to consolidate three locations into one.

Easy peasy.  …Not!

Vancouver has a housing shortage.  Prices are enough to gag a maggot whether buying or renting.  Costs in Vancouver are similar to those around San Francisco.

We didn’t want to live within the City of Vancouver, however.  Living in the burbs west of the Fraser River bumps the cost considerably downward.  Our choice of desirable burbs was quickly narrowed down to Burnaby, parts of New Westminster, parts of Coquitlam, parts of Port Coquitlam, Port Moody, parts of Pitt Meadows, parts of Delta and parts of Richmond.  North Vancouver and West Vancouver were crossed off primarily because of their sky-high price points.  Most of Richmond, Delta and all of White Rock were eliminated because of long commuting times.  Our ideal choices were Port Moody for its fairly reasonable prices and abundance of civic art participation and Burnaby for its location.

Finding housing in the Vancouver area is like trying to find a job.  Everybody wants face time.  Many landlords won’t talk to applicants calling from outside the region.  The party that gets there first scores.

One Coquitlam landlord was willing to talk to us if we could send someone to look the place over.  Janine, a friend living in Coquitlam, agreed to do so.  The house was slightly above budget.  From the online photos I saw, I didn’t think the house was in the best shape.  It certainly had the space we wanted.

Janine’s verdict:  This house is a dump.  She had pictures to prove it.

Another one bites the dust.

So desperate we became, the search was expanded into the Fraser Valley gateway communities of Langley and Surrey across the river.  The thought of living in either made us cringe.

Surrey is spotty.  Some of it is accessible by public transit; other areas are not.  Parts of the area are terrific.  Others are horrific.

Langley is where Paul lived during his marriage.  He wasn’t overly fond the idea of moving back.

Two prospective landlords dropped us like hot potatoes after learning one of our references is a retired member of the Vancouver Police Ident squad.  (Things that make you go…hmmmmm.)

Only a week before our pick-up date and late in the day, we received a phone call from Allied Van Lines’ Twin Cities shipping coordinator.  Without our knowledge or approval, she rescheduled our moving van to arrive in Vancouver anytime between April 1 and April 15.  If we couldn’t meet it at its arrival time at the bonded warehouse, we would be assessed steep unloading, reloading and storage fees.

We didn’t care if the van was late to Vancouver.  We didn’t want it to be early, which could run into several extra thousands of dollars.  These were not the terms of our business agreement, which called for arrival in Vancouver anytime after April 10.

Bill never informed her of the agreed-upon timeline.  The schedule was arranged, and the driver and crew hired.  As if carved in stone, the schedule would not change.  She refused to budge.

Paul demanded to speak to her supervisor.  He was gone for the day.  She was informed of our expectation of a call within two hours from Bill or someone else in charge without fail.

Her mood changed to one of cockiness.  Allied had us over a barrel and she knew it.  She practically dared Paul to find another moving company.

Two hours after hanging up, and with no response from Allied, Paul called North American Van Lines – Beltmann Group, an Allied competitor experienced in international moves.

Whomever he talked to there believed that NAVL could squeeze us in their schedule, though perhaps not on the original pick-up date, but definitely before March 31.  She promised to have someone call first thing in the morning.

Early the following morning, the phone rang.  A coordinator from NAVL informed Paul that our move to Vancouver was no problem as long as the pick-up date for our belongings could be delayed for 2 days.

Paul asked for an estimate.  He was asked to provide the estimate as done by Allied.  NAVL would work off it and calculate prices using its own rates.

Paul gave Allied one more chance to set things right.  He talked to a Berger Group executive who didn’t have answers and would refer us to someone who did.

Paul was barely off the phone before it rang again.  It was NAVL.  Their ducks were all lined up, the driver, crew, truck and estimate.  Their estimate was about $500 less than Allied’s.  Our belongings would arrive sometime after April 11.

The news sparked a war of sorts.  I asked Paul to allow me to break the news to Allied.  “C’mon, it’ll be fun!  Go ahead…make my day…”

“What are you going to tell them?” Paul asked.

“I’m going to do my impression of The Donald,” I announced, referring to Donald Trump’s commercial for The Apprentice “You’re fired!”

Being the polite Canadian he is, Paul left a voice message for Allied’s shipping coordinator telling her Allied’s services would no longer be needed; we found another mover.

I’m still crushed he took my fun away.

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One response to ““You’re fired!”

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  1. Thank goodness you didn’t have the comb over like Donald though!

    I’m looking forward to every morning reading your blog. As I do, I get angry at all the runaround you and Paul had. I’m learning so much about the laws and all that goes on between Canada and USA with employment and more. It fascinates me. My lord though, I would have been a heaping mess of tears going through all of this. I only moved from the midwest to Florida, not another country, and thought that was nightmare.

    I look forward to tomorrow’s post.

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