by Madeline Bilis | September 1, 2017 11:44 am
It’s 5:56 a.m. on the first day of September. The sun has yet to rise, and dozens of brawny men clad in maroon t-shirts are milling around the Olympia Moving & Storage warehouse in Watertown, waiting to scan the job list.
The long list of addresses is tacked to the wall, counting 65 moves in total, and above it, a TV screen flashes a presentation about safe furniture-moving practices. Today, 80 movers will help Bostonians move into new homes during the city’s most hectic—and most infamous—lease start date.
A few movers make their way to the breakfast table—a substantial spread of fruit, yogurt, bagels, and granola bars. They’ll need snacks to fuel them during the company’s busiest day of the year.
“Everyone is down here today,” explains Rachael Lyons, Olympia’s director of marketing and business development. “Normally they’d be upstairs in a nice button-down, but it’s all t-shirts today.”
Except I’m wearing a button-down. I find myself in this bustling warehouse (at what feels like the crack of dawn) to observe a day in the life of a mover on September 1.
As I try to take it all in, Ned Flint waves me over, leads me to his truck, and we hop in. He’s Olympia’s executive vice president of human resources, but today he’s out in the field. Flint has been a mover on and off for more than 20 years and has seen his fair share of September 1sts. One time, he tells me, on a side street off of Commonwealth Avenue, he had to stop his truck to figure out how to move a futon that had been plopped in the middle of the street.
“That, to me, is emblematic of the day,” he says. Eventually the futon’s owners got it out of the way for him.
Flint and his moving partner, Lukas Kirilovas, will complete three four-hour jobs today—and possibly more if there’s time to spare.
There are mattresses and tables in the truck already. Flint explains they picked the stuff up yesterday, and will drop it off at customers’ new apartments later in the afternoon. (Olympia offers overnight storage from August 31 to September 1 for a $150 fee to help people conquer those few confusing hours between an old lease ending and a new lease beginning.)
After Flint makes a quick call to alert his first customer that we’re on our way, we pull out of the parking lot and head to a building on North Beacon Street in Allston.
“This is almost like our Super Bowl,” says Flint. We come to a halt at a stoplight and another Olympia truck pulls up next to us. “We’re taking over the streets here,” he jokes, greeting his colleagues through an open window.
As I bounce around in middle seat of the cab, sandwiched between Flint and Kirilovas, I ask them what the hardest part of the day will be.
“With any moving [job], there’s this emotional weight of it,” says Flint. “As a mover, you’re led into someone’s life. You knock on the door. They’ve never met you and they’re like ‘Hey, handle all of my stuff that I love and care about and take me to this next place.’”
That’s part of the reason why Olympia asks all new hires to sit down with a copy of Elle Decor. They’re told to open to a section in the middle of the magazine where designers highlight their favorite pieces of furniture.
“I have them go through and I say, ‘Hey, just tell me the prices of these things.’” says Flint. An Eames chair, for example, commands almost $5,000.
“Then they start to understand ‘Oh, this isn’t just about me being strong. It’s about understanding the value of the stuff that I move and understanding what it means to that person I’m moving it for.’ And if you’re doing a third-floor to a third-floor in Allston, you still treat that stuff like it’s an Eames chair. That’s the goal.”
Flint flips on the truck’s blinker to pull into the apartment building’s loading dock. A kid sifting through a pile of trash stands in our way for a moment. He plucks a guitar from the rubble and continues on.
“Gonna use the curb here in a creative way for a minute,” says Flint, inching down a narrow side street in the huge black truck. After Flint backs in successfully, I hop out. There are several dumpsters lined up in the back of this apartment building, and they reek of garbage.
Flint and Kirilovas don’t seem to notice. They jog to the door and get to work. Before I have time to take any notes, they run back out of the building, rolling Olympia-branded carts filled with boxes. They have this down to a science, quickly and purposefully loading each box onto the truck.
In a few minutes, they hustle back inside and I run to keep behind them. We step into an elevator. Elevators are good because they give movers a chance to catch their breath, but are not so good when they slow the moving process down. Once they reach the apartment for the second time, they load up their carts as the tenants do some last-minute cleaning.
A few more impressively efficient trips and they’ll have everything loaded up. Next comes unloading it into the customer’s new apartment in Brookline. And then they’ll do it all over again for someone else.
I look at my phone. It’s only 7:31 a.m.. I’m tired already.
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