The Foreign Service Journal - April 2014 - page 59

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
|
APRIL 2014
59
AFSA NEWS
We all do it. We have all done
it. We will all do it again: the
great "Packout." Clothes
and household must-haves
fly around the house; heads
spin with impending good-
byes; and miscellaneous
Wasa crackers are binge-
consumed.
Everything becomes a
life-changing decision: Do
we keep the 20 half-empty
tubes of lip balm and jars of
hard-earned spices? Do we
keep the pile of bike-to-work
T-shirts or the collection of
ugly mugs? With explosions
of tape, boxes and organiza-
tion rapture, it is easy to lose
sight of such things.
Regardless of how we
choose to go about managing
these issues, the reassuring
thing is that the packout will
eventually happen: with or
without a carefully sculpted
checklist; with or without
enthusiastic participation.
Whether a twisted, enjoyable
treat or a horrible nightmare
for others, these moves are a
rich source of stories, if noth-
ing else. I hope this one will
make you laugh.
It was a cool Novem-
ber week when our family
hunkered down for our first
experience loading up and
packing out our apartment
overseas. We sifted, sorted,
sold and donated what we
could, never once referring
back to the halfway-com-
pleted lists I had created.
Each room had a purpose:
accompanying baggage,
airfreight and household
effects. I dared to feel confi-
dent. The movers diligently
started to take our lives off
the shelves and place them
into tidy boxes labeled "Mr.
Schlink."
By the end of the first day
our apartment was nearly fin-
ished. The packers returned
at 9 a.m. sharp the following
morning to complete the job,
just as I dashed out the door
to take my daughter, Margo,
to her checkup. Less than an
hour later, I returned to find
unmoved towers of boxes
crowding the foyer. Appar-
ently they were not permitted
to use the elevator so had to
carry the many boxes down
66 steps.
With no other choice, the
movers took it all in literal
stride. One by one, the boxes
disappeared. By 12:30 p.m.,
we signed the papers, shook
hands and watched the truck
disappear down the street.
Overall, it was an uneventful,
mundane packout.
With the children and dog
accounted for, we planned
to celebrate over lunch. I
walked back to our bedroom
and noticed that the crew
had somehow forgotten to
pack a pile of beach towels, a
binder stuffed with medical
literature and a basket full
of lip balm, mugs and wires.
I chuckled as I reached into
the dresser drawer to pull out
a clean shirt.
Nothing. There was abso-
lutely nothing in the drawer.
Here's a tip on what to do
during a packout: When you
tell the movers not to touch
anything in the bathroom
where you keep your packed
bags safely out of sight, keep
them there until you see the
moving truck head down the
street.
Here's a helpful tip on
what
not
to do during a
packout: when you "think"
the movers can read minds,
assume they cannot.
Clearly out of my mind,
I had unpacked my home
leave bag earlier to help me
feel more at home amidst
the white-walled cardboard
city around me. But I failed to
communicate any of this to
the people who might have
stopped this dumb move and
so it was, my clothes were
gone. All I had was the dirty
shirt and jeans on my body,
a cardigan and jacket, and
an extra pair of forgotten
underwear that was stuck to
the inside of the dryer.
After a few days of weath-
THE FORE I GN SERV I CE FAMI LY
The Packout and Me
BY EMILY E. SCHLINK
L I FE I N THE FORE I GN SERV I CE
Continued on page 61
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