“Success is simple. Do what’s right, the right way, at the right time.” ~Arnold H. Glasow
“If the odds are a million to one against something occurring, chances are 50-50 it will” ~Unknown
“I’ll enter the same calculations using what we like to call ‘The Right Way’.” ~Fred Randall, Rocketman
So the day finally arrives and our household goods are actually on-island and scheduled for delivery. The movers are due over sometime in the morning, and since our front door is usually ajar for Cleo’s sake (our cat; it’s hard to open doors without a thumb), I hear the moving trucks arrive and it’s only 7:45! This is going to be a GOOD, early start to the day.
I am called down to inspect the customs seals that are placed on the wooded crates which are they themselves sealed with nails and metal banding. As I approach the trucks, the first thing I do is count the crates: we should have six remaining (one, and only one was delivered on-time back in October).
There were eight on the truck.
“Well,” I think to myself, “they must have another delivery this afternoon. No worries!” After all, the name scribbled on the crates was “KING.”
The movers are all busy undoing the crates; hammering nails out here, cutting metal bands there, prying and splintering wood wherever wood happens to be, and staging moving equipment in order to get the 6,000+ pounds we have been expecting for oh so long up safely and securely to our 5th floor condo. I am handed the move paperwork government forms in all their finest regalia (as you might imagine), and the customs seal stickers and numbers on those forms are pointed out for me to verify. I like these guys; they strictly follow standard operating procedures. Except…
Houston, we have a problem.
None of the seals on the paperwork match any of the seals physically on the crates. Not even close. I call the head-mover-guy over and tell him, with a nervous smile, “No matches….”
He is very confused.
He takes the paper work, and looks back and forth between the numerous shifted sheets and the crates a number of frantic times. He points out the name on the wooded sides of the crates written sloppily in fat permanent black marker, almost like really bad, conservative graffiti. “Yes, that’s my name….” There was even a leading initial “J,” for Jody we all assumed, since the move is in her name and under her social security number (I was simply an authorized agent). He goes back to his paperwork, while I at the same instant spy in the upper corners of the crates a letter-sized piece of paper…too far away to read, but most certainly containing…the small print.
The devil is always in the details.
Turns out, on closer and more careful inspection, this particular shipment was for a “Joshua King, E7, Kadena Air Force Base.”
I was dumbfounded. What Are the Odds – WATO??? I had an old Skipper from my flying days in the Navy who used the phrase to great effect all the time. Meaning, no matter how remote the odds may be, if you play with chance enough, your number comes up. For instance, we used to “cloud-chase,” where we would weave around and through the puffy clouds which are always around the aircraft carrier, relying on the “big-sky, little-airplane” theory of airspace deconfliction. “WATO?” our skipper would ask, rhetorically of course, but the point was firm.
But seriously! There was another inbound shipment to Okinawa (our little corner of the world which we currently occupy), which arrived at the same time, on the same ship, for someone in the military with the same name, and even same first initial. It seemed rather unbelievable, and certainly incredible enough actually to make me rather incredulous!
Trying to contain my growing frustration and anger, I don’t even take my eyes off the paper-plasted crates when I call out rather loudly (and probably rudely I imagine), “This isn’t my stuff.”
More confusion abounds. It’s bad enough already that there is a really arduous language barrier between us. Think about it; throughout Europe and South America, you can pretty easily get by without knowing the language. The written characters of the language are easily readable and perhaps even wholly recognizable, and there’s a basic, generalized understanding of pronunciation. Worst case, you can simply match up words and phrases. Besides, many people in these regions speak English rather well.
Almost none of this holds true in Okinawa, and the same can be said for many if not most places in Asia, at least those outside of the urbanized areas, particularly where westerners travel, visit, or do business. Some of the language’s characters here are so complex that it takes a great deal of study to match; you should’ve seen me try to switch on the heat here using our air conditioner remote controls – all in Japanese; hypothermia was setting in by the time I could claim victory! I explain to the moving crew that my wife’s first name is “Jody,” not “Joshua,” and the realization of the mistake slowly – and finally sets in.
The head-cheese-mover-guy is immediately on the phone with higher headquarters. I interrupt: “YOU DO HAVE MY STUFF, RIGHT?” I’ll tell you this; it was much more of a demand at that point than a question. “Hai!” came the polite response…with a smile…that just didn’t seem quite right.
How much faith do you put in a simple, single word response after going through all of this!?! Not much. In the military doing the things that I did, part of becoming quite deft at tactical and strategic planning and execution is that “hope” is not a good course of action, and “faith” is not proactive approach to any situation.
I am immediately on the phone with the moving company. I am placed on-hold; no doubt they are probably calling the head-cheese-mover-guy standing right in front of me on his phone to the same place…and both are most likely getting a busy signal! The very nice and polite English-speaking Okinawan woman at the mover’s office comes back on the line and says, with some measure of relief, “We have your things here; the movers will be back in one hour!”
Now that is hard to believe; remember the thoughts about hope and faith above…. An hour to drive back to the warehouse, unload the trucks (there were two of them), find the right crates, load the right crates back on the trucks, and then drive back to my condo? Seemed unlikely to me. I was in no mood to be patronized.
Not trusting the system any longer (it is a government-procured and controlled process after all), I asked her rather flatly: “How many crates do you have.” “Six,” came the replay. Good, that was the right – and correct answer. “What is the first name on the paperwork?” “Jody-san.” Right again. “Okay, one hour; really?” “Hai! One hour!!” I wouldn’t bet on it.
And I would’ve lost. In the end, the movers did return within an hour, and, perhaps, more incredibly, they returned with the right stuff (the efficiency and responsiveness of the Japanese service industry is the subject of a blog of its own). The crates were unloaded, our things are here (that quality of the move will be discussed later), and the movers were still gone by about 1 pm, ultimately righting a major wrong in our world…
…against it seemed, all odds.
What moving horror story do YOU have to share?
- Opportunity Knocks (fareastfling.me)
- Moving scams: Avoid the headache by checking consumer reviews (getrichslowly.org)
- Choosing a Moving Company (realtyservicesgroup.wordpress.com)