On Monday, September 24th, 2018; the day following our first attempt at acquiring the piano; I went online and used the U-Haul web site to reserve a 15’ truck for the following Sunday, September 30th. Nothing about the process indicated there would be a problem. Good! But now I had to have help. There were 8 steps from the porch to the sidewalk. I had no idea how much the piano weighed, but I’d say I’m a little stronger than average and I could barely lift one end an inch or two by myself and hold it for more than a second or two. Two of me wouldn’t be enough. I wasn’t sure 4 of me would be! I put out a call on Facebook for help in the Ithaca area. I got a lot of good suggestions. One place wouldn’t touch pianos at all. Another doesn’t work on Sunday. I contemplated trying to hire some college students. It soon became apparent that even more than the cost of the truck, our “free” piano was not going to be free! Amanda discovered a web site called hireahelper.com. It’s like a cross between Uber and Rocket Mortgage, but for moving things. You plug in what you want done, answer a few questions like how many rooms there are, how many staircases, etc. (there was a looming, separate check box for “Piano”), and then the site produces quotes from people willing to do the job. Neat! I picked one, and shortly received a confirmation from Hire A Helper. They would charge my credit card the day before the job, but would not pay the contracted workers/company until I texted Hire A Helper that the job was done and that I was satisfied. That was Thursday afternoon.
On Friday afternoon, two things happened. First, I realized I hadn’t heard from the company I had allegedly hired through Hire A Helper. No worries—Hire A Helper had sent me their phone number and urged me to contact them directly. So I did. I got voice mail. I did not worry, because if you’re successful movers (but not so successful you can afford office staff), you’re out moving things, right? I left a message. Then U-Haul called me. I did not recognize the number and let it go to voice mail. It was their Traffic department. I received both a voice mail and a text message informing me that there was no 15’ truck to be had on Sunday and that my reservation had been moved to Monday, Oct. 1 in Cortland. Um…no. I called them back and talked to a very nice lady who assured me that there were absolutely NO 15’ or 20’ trucks to be had that weekend in the entirety of New York State. There I sat, incredulous, with their web page listing about 300 different NYS locations listening to this woman tell me there were no trucks: “You have to be kidding me! I will be in Rochester, driving to Ithaca, and willing to go 50 miles out of my way in either direction to pick up a truck anywhere between those two places. There HAS to be one somewhere!” Nope. I was assured not.
<*click*> I hung up.
I wrote hate mail to U-Haul, which netted me a $25 credit toward my next rental (they optimistically assume there will be one).
Then I took a deep breath and called up U-Haul locations in Rochester. I picked Henrietta at random (that’s a place, not a person) and called the number. And got another very nice lady in…Phoenix, Arizona. Seriously? Oh well. I gave her my phone number and she looked me up. I need to say here that U-Haul’s information tracking seems to be top-notch. With just my phone number, every single agent I spoke with knew everything about me and my history with them in SECONDS. And I could tell the agents make notes to themselves in the system. I was asked to wait while she reviewed them, and she did not put me on hold as she did so. Very polite, very professional. She then assured me there most certainly ARE trucks available—several right there in Rochester, actually. I asked her three times to confirm what she was telling me, explaining the experience I had just had with Traffic. She said they were wrong and that there was a truck. She couldn’t tell me exactly where, because one-way rentals could originate anywhere, but that someone from a Rochester location would call me with a confirmation. Oh, and did I want to pick it up on Saturday instead of Sunday, since it’s a 2-day rental anyway? Hell yes! That way if it went wrong, I’d have time to figure out another solution. We hung up and within 20 minutes, Michaela at one of the Irondequoit locations (Rochester) called me and confirmed I had a truck and a pickup time. Sweet! Rob and I did indeed pick up the truck on Saturday at Noon.
Friday evening, and I still hadn’t heard from the movers. I called their number again—voice mail box FULL. No way to leave another message. That tells me there’s no one checking the voice mail. I have to assume that they aren’t checking their e-mail or any other communication and don’t even know they’re committed to my job. I send e-mail to Hire A Helper explaining the situation and go to bed. Saturday morning Hire A Helper calls back. Bad news: they couldn’t reach the contractor either. Good news: they gave the job to another company who updated their bid and came in a little cheaper! And THEY called me within 20 minutes to confirm the job. In the you-snooze,-you-lose category, the first company called me back while I was on the phone with Hire A Helper to confirm the job. I called them back and left a message in their now-empty voice mail box telling them to check their Hire A Helper system—the job has been cancelled.
On Sunday we left Rochester around Noon. Amanda took the car home, and I made for Ithaca—a beautiful, non-interstate drive across the middle of New York State! I arrived in Ithaca and finally met the owner of the piano. I was early and told her I was going to go find some lunch. The diner around the corner from her was closed and there was no parking anywhere near the State Diner (AppleFest, I guess), and so I went to Wegmans and took some to-go food. Then the moving guys called and said they were running behind and would be about 45 minutes late. Great! I didn’t have to rush back to the house. I ate my lunch and returned, at which point the piano’s owner and her mother invited me in for tea. We chatted a bit about our families and then the movers showed up. Three guys.
OK, so I guess I’ll be helping out on this. They had a wimpy little dolly with pneumatic tires that seemed way too small to me. One of them suggested I bring the truck around—maybe we could get the ramp on the 3rd or 4th step and make the job a little easier. I think it was a ploy to get me out of the way, because by the time I pulled around the block, they had already scooted the piano down to the sidewalk! Frontways. The steps were wide, so one of them put the dolly on the back of the piano and held on as the other two pull/pushed it down the steps. How those little tires didn’t pop I still don’t know!
I pulled the ramp out of the truck. They wrapped the piano with blankets (rented) and then two of them, one on each end, lifted it six inches while the third guy slid a trolley underneath. They strapped it to the trolley and pushed it up the ramp, removed it from the trolley, and strapped it into the truck. WELL. I stopped and checked twice between Ithaca and Cortland, and it hadn’t budged a bit! I continued on to Potsdam in confidence.
Monday morning, friends and co-workers Dan and Garnet came by on their way to work to help load the piano into the house. I was able to position the truck so that the ramp came right in the side door! We scooted it down and in without too much difficulty. Garnet followed me and picked me up at the local U-Haul place. During the week I had found a home for the now “old” piano. It had been bought for my Mom, so I called her to confirm that she didn’t consider it an “heirloom.” Her only concern was that it not go to a landfill—that it go to a good home. I found one! My friend and Rotary Club president Sam lit right up when I asked her if she knew anyone who wanted it. SHE and her boyfriend did! I write this on Tuesday, October 9th. She and Mike and one of her co-workers came by to help me move the new piano up two steps into the main part of the house and the old piano down the same steps and out the door into the trailer they brought. I went with them to get it unloaded and into their home where it will make them very happy!
In talking to the owner, I believe we may be only the second family to own this piano. [UPDATE: We ARE, in fact, the second family to own this piano! It was originally won by the former owner’s grandmother in a music contest.] For us it is an “instant heirloom,” if that’s not an oxymoron. Our next steps: clean and treat the cabinet, which is in phenomenal shape; and get it tuned!