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My back still aches

The aches and pains that accompany aging are normally a source of complaint. But they can have their advantages, too.

This dawned on me most recently when our son and his partner, and another of our friends, bought houses and announced they’ll be moving. And they have quite a bit of stuff. I’m pretty confident they won’t ask me to help, though.

With apologies to Stompin’ Tom Connors: “Moving … my back still aches when I hear that word.”

There was a time, mostly during my ’20s and ’30s, when it seemed like someone I knew was moving every few weeks. Because none of us could afford to hire movers, that meant calling up some friends to help and rewarding them with beer and pizza.

This is all fine if you’re the one who’s moving. But if you have a lot of friends, chances are you’ll more than repay the favour. You would hope they didn’t own a refrigerator, stove or washing machine. Or, worse, a sofa bed.

Of course, the kinds of apartments we lived in then meant stairs, lots of stairs, sometimes winding stairs. And no elevator.

When Dianne and I first moved in together, I noticed she had a large wooden upright piano. I told her my love for her was conditional on me never having to move it, and after five moves, we’re still good.

One friend I helped move – twice, in quick succession – was a fitness nut and had his own collection of free weights. And not many other friends. I thought that was pushing it a bit.

The only serious lifting I do now is either at the gym – it’s serious lifting for me – or when we have to install the dock in the spring and remove it in the fall. Fortunately, the wooden decking comes in sections and the frame is aluminum. My friends are very happy we sold the boat lift a few years ago.

The worst move I was ever involved in was, sadly, one of my own. For starters, I wasn’t quite prepared, as that morning I still had to pack a few things – actually, quite a few things. It was only my second move and I underestimated the amount of time packing would take, and how many boxes.

The next hiccup was that I had to move out of my old apartment by noon and couldn’t move into my new place until 4 p.m., so it was going to be a full-day commitment for my friends. That proved to be more of a problem than I’d anticipated when I went to pick up the moving van I’d booked; the rental place told me I’d only booked it for the morning and would have to return it by 1 o’clock. As mature as I was at the time, the ensuing verbal exchange meant I had no van at all.

Luckily, I realized that one of my friends, who owned a VW van, was flying out on a business trip that day – just a coincidence, I’m sure – and a quick phone call convinced him to loan it to me. I just had to give him a ride to the airport, on the other side of the city. Okay…

Unluckily, the cargo space in the van was much smaller than I’d anticipated. My friend did a lot of camping, and he’d installed wooden storage cabinets and a bed in the back. I didn’t own any appliances then, and the guys helping me move had their own cars, so we were able to cram everything in.

We killed the four hours between loading and unloading at a nearby pub, which seemed like a good idea at the time – cold beer, burgers, and snooker. But I’m pretty sure it had something to do with a couple of my helpers getting lost on the way to my new apartment. And then there was the problem of finding parking within a reasonable distance of my new inner-city abode. That took a while. The unloading – normally the easy part – took much longer than any of us imagined.

It was about 9:30 by the time we were finished, and because I hadn’t got around to buying beer, we opted for a nearby Chinese restaurant. The restaurant was about to close, but we convinced them to bring us whatever they had left over in the kitchen  – and beer – and we wound up having one of the best Chinese meals I’ve ever tasted.

The next time I moved, though, I asked different friends.

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Mike Gasher

Mike Gasher is a former newspaper reporter and editor and taught for two decades as a journalism professor at Concordia University in Montreal. He has published several books and academic articles on journalism and the media, including the textbook Media and Communication in Canada. Now retired, he lives in L'Orignal.

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