The Removalists

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Today we hired this ute and drove down to the suburbs to help my Dad move around some furniture. My Dad has a new, enormous 52 inch TV, so he needed to make space for it. My sister got a lovely display cabinet and a few other items, and Nick got a leather recliner chair for his bedroom that is more comfortable than any bed I have ever slept in. I am, in fact, thinking of sleeping in that chair from now on.

My Dad got a quote from a professional removalist who said it would cost five hundred dollars to move all the stuff around. There were less than ten items all up and no fridges, pianos or boxes of encyclopedias so we all thought the quote was tantamount to daylight robbery.

So we hired a ute for the day for $75.00 and moved it all ourselves.

Driving in a ute along the highway is a very funny experience. A lot of people speed past you, many try and avoid you but just as many when they have a look at you and see you are a mother, father and son laughing because they are being bounced around so much by the ute’s shocking suspension, wave at you, or beep the horn or try and engage you in conversation at the lights.

There is also an unspoken code of solidarity that develops between you and the other ute or van drivers. You are acknowledged at the lights or along the highway by these other drivers. By the time we got to my Dad’s house we had the baseball cap tilt we used to greet the other ute drivers down pat.

When you drive a ute that is obviously being used to move things you develop a VIP status in the eyes of other drivers. When we stopped to get some gas a number of people asked us what the roads were like today or asked us directions.  How much we charged. We were even asked for a weather forecast. Winds light to variable, we replied.

Sometimes there are days that make you sigh as they start, as you imagine the physical work, the possible logistical problems involved. It is a pleasant surprise when those days run smoothly, when you feel like a well-honed cog in a machine, doing your part as you should, gliding effortlessly through the day.

Nothing went wrong.

The furniture fitted.

It wasn’t scratched.

Nothing was broken.

Nothing was left behind.

Nobody argued.

Gratitude was expressed.

Nothing went wrong.

So we drove back home, squealing as we leaned around corners, chanting I think I can, I think I can as we crawled up hills, tipping our caps to fellow ute and van drivers as we did so.

As we ate our fish and chips after a day of intensive physical work we pondered what it must be like to spend each day battling the Sydney roads as a professional driver of some sort – back and forth, back and forth. Lifting and hauling. At war with the heat and the dust. Driving so long and so often that even in dreams all you see is an endless stream of traffic.

And we decided that in spite of our successful run, our laughs over the terrible suspension, and the experience of ute driver solidarity; we could only be removalists for just one day.

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23 responses to “The Removalists

  1. Reluctant Blogger

    Such a funny word “ute”.

    I think if I ever had a dream of doing something different, being a long-distance lorry driver would be it. I couldn’t because of my back (I’d have to stop every two hours to stretch it and would probably be crippled after a week) but yes, the camaraderie (without really having to speak to anyone at length) and the long hours on my own with my music. I do love driving.

    Glad it all went well and that you managed to have some fun as well as save your father some money.

  2. I used to have a station wagon, & I had a hard job convincing people I hadn’t gone into the removal business … even relative strangers would request I ‘give them a lift’ with something.

    (Don’t mind helping friends out, but people I hardly know who say ‘There’s a beer in it for you’ or something … Grrr!)

    Funny thing is, the MPV I drive nowadays will carry much more than my station wagon ever did, but I don’t get nearly as many requests to help to move stuff.

  3. Funny word indeed! But not so much fun work eh? I hope you are resting up those muscles after all this. We find out all the ones we aren’t regularly using, after a day like that. ;)

    Hugs (gently!!!), G

  4. I think one of my favorite things to do is drive a big rig like that. My ex was terrified of large vehicles (at least driving them) so when it was time to rent a truck, guess who got to drive? It. Was. AWESOME!

    But, we didn’t get the nods or the connection with other truck drivers, probably because we rented ours from a well-known do-it-yourself moving place, so no one confused us with professionals. In fact, everyone tended to avoid us lest we ram them or drive up on their bumper.

    I think the part where you said, “Nothing went wrong.” is the BEST part of this post. Cherish that fact, because we all know how rare those times are!

  5. Excellent story. Would make a great children’s book.

  6. Hat tip from me too for your tale Selma, The camaraderie that you found also exists for motorcycle riders and I have found it when out in my sports car as well.
    cheers
    Iain

  7. I’m glad you had a fun and productive day Selma. I drove a truck years ago and …well…let’s just say, no one wants to be behind a truck.

  8. RELUCS:
    It is funny, it’s short for utility. I think the ute is an Australian invention if I’m not mistaken. Most of the tradesmen I know drive one. I think being a lorry driver would be quite cool. I would be interested in giving it a try, for sure. As long as I could get a CB radio!!

    TRAVELRAT:
    We used to have a van years ago when we had more than one shop and we were always getting asked to help people move things. It got a bit out of hand at one stage. Glad you don’t get as many requests to move things now that the station wagon is gone!

    GERALDINE:
    I actually don’t feel too bad today. Just tired. I do a lot of physical work in the garden every week and walk every day so that has helped. It’s the driving that has tired me out, I think. I don’t know how the pros do it!

    KAREN:
    I love those nothing went wrong days. They don’t come round often enough for my liking. I can imagine you driving a big rig. You would look so good in one!

    QUERULOUS SQUIRREL:
    You’re right. It could be shaped into quite a funny children’s book. Now if only I could draw!

    IAIN:
    I used to have an MG years ago and experienced that camaraderie then. It was good fun, actually. It’s nice to have a positive experience on the roads instead of all that road rage. It shows that people still can be friendly and nice!

    PUNATIK:
    I know exactly what you mean. The number of people who overtook us was incredible. We weren’t even going that slow!

  9. Squirrel is right, this story would make a great children’s book.

    I’ve been where you guys were. I’ve moved myself as often as I’ve hired movers. I totally get everything you were talking about. More than anything, it sounds like the day was incredibly bonding for your little family unit.

  10. That’s such a sweet post. I can just envision the entire trip in my head. I admit I am amazed at the camaraderie that your fellow drivers had with you. When we’ve moved (time and time again) we have had no such experiences. Just pedal to the metal and hope you make it up to 65 before some crazy wedges in between you and the road! :O

    Just an all around feel good post – but I’m glad you decided it was only for just one day. There IS too much of a good thing! ;)

  11. Ah, now I always understood a ‘ute’ to be an open-backed vehicle, based on a saloon car … called a ‘pick-up truck’ by us and the Americans, and a ‘backie’ by the South Africans (and what my father calls a ‘Tilly’)

  12. I agree with The Q. Squirrel (fantastic name BTW) – that WOULD be a great kids’ book.

  13. Selma,
    I am learning new words with you LOL! Here we call them u-hauls!
    I loved reading about your little adventure as I procrastinate here!

  14. That is a massive TV! So glad everything went well! I learned a new Aussie word today- ute.

  15. I want a ute. And a uke. Then, I’d drive around all day strumming a tune.

    ps. I am a Mommy van driver….. 2 kids, 1 dog (usually 2), and long trips on the Trans Canada to and from here and there. Snow covered roads and a steep hill that ices over in the winter to get UP to my street……. we need a front wheel drive at the very least. However, in my mind, I drive a candy apple red mercedes convertible. NOW? I will dream of driving my own UTE. Oh, the stuff I could gather at yard sales!!!

    I loved your post Selma. :)

  16. I love it…

    You know I call that a cube van. The Man and I rented one every time we moved. Here the rentals are painted hideously… and it’s nods of misery you get from the other drivers. And a lot of space… a lot of space..

    Glad it al went well. Sounds like the fish and chips were well deserved.

  17. Got to love Balmain rentals and the crazy fear they put in to you once you get behind the wheel, brakes? suspension? PAH!. Every time I see one, the driver has a mixed look of fear and pure joy in their faces. Bet nick loves his leather chair!

  18. STEPH:
    It was really bonding. Good fun, really. I’m still laughing about the lady who asked us for a weather forecast!

    TEXASBLU:
    I don’t know how people work as removalists. I have a newfound respect for them. Such a physically demanding job. We did have fun, though!

    TRAVELRAT;
    It is traditionally open-backed but apparently some of them have a closed-in option. Some of the newer Holden utes are works of art. And they go like the wind!

    LAURI:
    Maybe I should put it on the list of future projects. It’s a good idea!

    TBALL:
    U- Hauls. I really like that. I didn’t realise there were so many variations!

    GEL:
    The TV is enormous. It is almost TOO big. Glad to add a new word to your lexicon. I have many more Aussie ones up my sleeve.

    DANA:
    I am laughing thinking of you with your ute and your uke. Now THAT is a children’s book. An absolute winner!

    NAT:
    A cube van. I love that. Sounds like something from a Sci-Fi movie. I’ve got to say that fish and chips never tasted so good!

    KATE:
    I know. The brakes were a little dodgy too. I had that mix of fear and joy on my face the entire way. Nick loves his chair alright. It is FAB!

  19. I’m so glad your little family had such a fun day and that you got to help your dad out. How is he going these days Sel? I hope he is doing well.

  20. Hi GYPSY,
    You are so kind to ask. He has the all clear. He is having further testing just before Christmas but everything is looking good. He has to wear incontinence pads for now, which he is embarrassed about, but apparently that will fix itself up in a few months. It’s such a relief!

  21. I’m so happy to hear that he is out of the woods. You must feel like you’ve one the lottery. You deserve such good news and I’m very happy for you and your family.

  22. “removalist” and “ute” – two great words!

  23. GYPSY:
    To quote Tina Turner – ‘You’re simply the best, better than all the rest!’
    XXX

    GROOVY:
    I will turn you into an Aussie if it’s the last thing I do!