Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Moving Day

In honor of moving day, an excerpt from one of my favorite funny books, Shirley Jackson's Raising Demons:

The next morning I looked in the phone book under "Storage and Transfer" and got in touch with a Mr. Cobb, who listened sympathetically to our problem, and said that he believed that he was just the fellow to settle everything for us. He came to our house that afternoon, and walked with me from room to room; he made little jokes about "folks who never know what they've got until they come to put it away," and, "bet you people have spent a long time gathering up these things," and, "funny how most people don't understand about cubic feet; you take the average man, he knows how long a foot is, and usually he knows what a square foot is, from buying carpets and so on, but most people just don't understand the idea of cubic feet." This was so true of me that I could only nod and say it was a shame, the ignorance of the general public. Mr. Cobb was a very considerate person; when he had finished his tour--during which it was brought home to me just how much stuff we had in the garage and the attics and how the children had accumulated swings and slides and sleds outdoors--he sat down in the study with my husband and me and talked the whole situation over with us.

Money, it turned out, was the basic problem in putting furniture in storage, and the next most basic problem was the cubic foot. The concept of the cubic foot was intimately discussed, Mr. Cobb having passed over money swiftly and compassionately, and Mr. Cobb told my husband about how the average man knew about feet and square feet but not cubic feet. Mr. Cobb then remarked that we had a great many things to store, didn't we, and my husband and I said oh, not so much, considering it in terms of cubic feet; most of our stuff, we pointed out, was flat, like books. Mr. Cobb smiled slightly and said, well, you take ten thousand books, which was what we estimated we had, and pile them on top of one another, well, that mounted into cubic feet. I said shrewdly that if you took rugs and laid them flat, that was almost no cubic feet, and Mr. Cobb said well, it was a funny thing about rugs. Rugs, he said sadly, could not be stored unless they were freshly cleaned and rolled, which made them, he said, spreading his hands in a wide gesture, into cubic feet again. Almost all of Mr. Cobb's function--aside from lighting cigarettes for me, and pausing respectfully when my husband spoke--seemed to consist of taking objects which actually existed in almost square feet and translating them into cubic feet--rugs had to be rolled, books had to be boxed, pictures had to be put into packing cases. He also suggested helpfully that we stuff as much stuff into other stuff as we could. He then made his last clear translation--nice flat money into cubic feet of space--by suggesting gently that payment was of course in advance, and departed.

1 comment:

Wonder Woman said...

Congratulations on your move! I loved the quote from the book--Luke and I just struggled through cubic feet yesterday in our saxon 5/4 math! I have to say, I have a much greater appreciation for cubic feet (and now know that he can fit 48 boxes in his room!!) Have fun organizing all your cubic feet!! Been there, done that and still doing it!!

Kim :)