Moving is never fun. It’s even harder when you have to do it by plane with 46 kgs worth of stuff permitted. I think that long-distance moves are something I have gotten out of my system. Four of them has been more than enough.
This time around I had help from family members who took suitcases home when they visited. The big problem was that by the end of their visits I was out of suitcases. I didn’t really want to buy any more cheap suitcases.
Instead I came up with the plan to use boxes. They are cheap and you can even get them for free sometimes. They seem sturdy and are used to deliver things across the world daily. I found some on the Ryman website that perfectly met the luggage limits of my airline. They seemed like a great solution.
This feeling lasted until I was taping them up and it wasn’t quite working. The top of one of them wouldn’t quite line up. If I taped it together it would come close to meeting but not quite. I looked at the box and thought to myself there is no way this is going to survive two flights.
By this point in time it was too late to go and get a couple of suitcases. I was stuck and I had to make it work. I did have a few rolls of packing tape in my carry on but I still wasn’t convinced I’d be seeing my things on the other end of the journey. I carried them out to the curb where the stress of moving and leaving built up into this very specific concern: these boxes are not going to work. They will fall apart and no airline would let me check them.
I loaded them into the cab and the driver started making comments about how they needed to be taped better. I resisted the urge to yell at him to shut up and to point out that if there was a list of things I felt like talking about how badly the box plan was working out was not on it. I stared out the window and bid farewell to Edinburgh. It was fun gliding down the streets and seeing places I’d grown to love.
He kept talking. I kept trying not to explode or cry.
When I was lucky there was silence.
As we approached the airport he told me not to leave the boxes unattended because then I’d get arrested. If Scotland was a tipping society I would definitely not have tipped him — it is not so he couldn’t feel my wrath and disapproval that way. I made him fetch me a cart because there were none hanging around the drop off area.
I carted the boxes to the terminal trying not to take anyone out along the way. There was a luggage store so I popped in to see if they had any cheap luggage options. They obviously didn’t. The best was a £120 Eastpack suitcase. They did have one of those plastic wrap stations. Normally I think they’re ridiculous and wasteful but it seemed like the best way to make sure my boxes stayed together. After paying for wrapping the cost of the box plan was now the same as the cheapest suitcases I had found.
I saw a couple of other people with boxes on their trolleys and felt slightly less crazy for coming up with this idea.
Thanks to the only helpful comment my cabbie made I wrote my address and name on pieces of paper and taped them to my now saran-wrapped boxes.
Sweating and stressed I checked in. The boxes were the right weight and they would in fact take them. I was directed to the oversize belt because they were just too wide for the one at the counter. I was grateful and relieved as I watched the boxes vanish along the conveyor belt.
I went through security and wandered the airport waiting for my gate to be posted. I ate a delicious toasty, something the British do very well and I am going to miss.
Arriving in New York, where I was to connect, I felt okay. I needed to clear customs, recheck my boxes, go back through security and find my gate. I had two and a half hours. Customs was fine if not very confusing. The Americans have adopted machines to decide whether or not people should be able to enter their country. They are combined with very bad signage and general confusion. After the machine prints out a slip you deliver it to a real human being. As a white Canadian on a connection they shrugged me through.
My boxes were waiting for me on the conveyor belt. I collected them and left them in a pile while I collected a cart. The cabbie’s voice echoed through my head the whole minute I was just out of arms reach of them. The cart cost $6 because capitalism is fun. I wheeled it past a bewildered customs officer and answered questions like why do you have boxes that’s really weird and what is in your boxes. I felt wildly ill equipped to answer questions about my myriad possessions and answered stuff. Stuff was not sufficient so I clarified that it was clothes, books and assorted items that a student moving back after a year might be compelled to own. I was let through.
I thought that my ordeal was almost over as I got to the luggage recheck belt. The Delta employee informed me that plastic wrapped boxes were not permitted. I responded by struggling to hold it together and saying but how I am I supposed to get these home. She repeated the policy in an unhelpful and robotic manner. I said but they’ll fall apart if they’re not wrapped is there anything you can do to help me in a pathetic and stressed tone of voice. She continued to not care about me at all. (Delta’s New York staff really made my day that extra bit of awful with their non-existent customer service here.) I leaned my head against the boxes that by this time I had come to hate and know was one of my more stupid ideas. The best laid plans.
The lady had walked away since a customer in distress was absolutely not a part of her job description. I walked back up to her and asked if there was any way she could take them and handed her my boarding pass. My connecting flight was run by Westjet so she told me to go ask them.
Her directions were poor but I made my way upstairs trying not to cry and sweating heavily — the entire process of this move from cleaning to that moment consisted of me sweating heavily. The elevator brought me to a departure hall that looks exactly like all departure halls in the world.
I found the Westjet area and fortunately there was no line. They clarified that plastic wrapping was permitted it just couldn’t be from an outside airport. It had to be from the JFK wrapper and no other wrapper — once again because capitalism. I proceeded to pay a nice gentleman to remove the wrapping from my boxes and replace it with the exact same wrapping and a JFK sticker. It was now costing me more than even some of the less cheap suitcases I’d seen.
Westjet printed me new labels and took my boxes. They had compacted considerably since I’d checked them in Edinburgh and now fit on the conveyor belt. I was relieved to see them go and glad that the ordeal was over.
The security lineup progressed slowly with us standing still for long periods of time. Two lines needed to merge and the other was a lot shorter than mine. We passed a drug sniffing dog. I thought about buying coffee or food but was a bit reticent after spending so much on saran wrap over the course of the day.
The boxes arrived safely in Calgary if not a little smaller than that had been when I’d departed Edinburgh. There were other boxes piled up near the oversize collection area. None of them were as beat up as mine.
As I wheeled past customs they didn’t ask me about my stuff again. I was relieved not to have to clarify or spend any longer thinking about those boxes. It was a clever idea but turned out terribly in application. Next time I’ll just buy some suitcases.