When I try to describe what’s truly unique about the work we do, I often fall back on this strange fact: Our customers sometimes invite us to spend the night with them. That doesn’t happen if you’re a plumber or a carpenter. It doesn’t happen if you’re an accountant or a middle manager or a web designer, and it certainly doesn’t happen if you’re a doctor or a lawyer. But if you’re a mover, it sometimes does.
Sleepovers only happen on long distance moves, of course, when we’re far from Iowa and it’s been a long day of unloading and night’s falling fast. “I’m ordering some pizzas for us all,” the customer might say, and then, since one generous thought often leads to another, “Where are you guys staying tonight?” The answers we give — at a truck stop, or at a hotel 30 miles down the road, or at a highway rest area — don’t usually satisfy. “Well, you guys have to stay here. We’ve got an extra bedroom with a couple of beds, you can have the spare bathroom to yourselves. It’ll be much more comfortable — you have to stay with us.”
And so we do. It’s one of those things that feels pretty natural in the moment: we’ve been working with the customer for sometimes a week or more, long, hot days of packing, loading, and now the long unload into a brand new home in a place where, more often than you might think, we’re the only souls the customer knows within four hundred miles.
In some hard to articulate way that’s not quite business and not quite friendship, we’ve gotten to really know each other: the customer has given us their trust, has handed us all their possessions, all the physical evidence of their lives on this planet. And we’ve wrapped it all up like a precious gift, taken it away, and then given it back to them 1,000 miles away. We’ve been through something together, a passage of sorts. We’ve endeavored to do something daunting and taxing and somewhat risky, and things have turned out well. Of course, a sleepover is in order.
But now, in the slow season, I think, Did that really happen? Did I really take a hot shower and then brush my teeth with my electric toothbrush in the guest bathroom? And then did I fall deliciously asleep on the clean sheets they had pulled from a box we had packed? It seems so unlikely, like bumping into an almost forgotten childhood friend while traveling in a distant foreign country.
And yet there it is, an irreducible fact: customers sometimes invite us to spend the night in the guest bedroom. What a strange and sometimes wonderful job it is.