CAPT. MICHAEL HODGE
139th Regiment (Combat Arms)
North Carolina National Guard Officer Candidate School
Fort Bragg, North Carolina
Sooner or later, everyone will experience a move. Whether it’s leaving your parents’ house for the first time or a permanent change of station, professional movers, friends or family can make the chore a little easier. But what if you have no one to help? The following story addresses the day that some don’t look forward to and often don’t plan for — moving a household by yourself.
For our first big PCS move from North Carolina to Texas, we were afforded the benefit of government-contracted movers since my wife was on active duty. A year later, as our lease expired, the rent was going to be raised an additional $80. After doing some research, we discovered it would be cheaper for us to buy rather than continue renting. So, to make a long story short, we purchased a house.
That decided, our next task was to pack and move. Since this was a local move, we opted to do it ourselves rather than contract a mover. With all the family we knew back in North Carolina — as well as my wife being six months pregnant and my friend deployed to Korea — my options for assistance were limited. Being too stubborn to hire help, I prepared to move everything by myself. Acquiring all the materials needed to move was my first priority, so I picked up some boxes, duct and packaging tape and a box cutter and got to work.
One room at a time, I packed boxes and stacked them in the garage. All the moving and stacking eventually began to take a toll on my back. I was hastily packing throughout the day so I could spend time with my wife before I left for ground safety officer training at Fort Rucker, Alabama. With the days winding down, I eventually ran out of boxes and began using storage bins to pack away dishes and other breakable items. The storage bins, I later learned, proved to be more bulky and heavier than anticipated.
Finally, the big day had arrived. I parked the U-Haul truck in the garage and began the daunting task of loading the boxes and furniture. I was determined to get the job done – alone!
I started at the crack of dawn, loading the bulkiest pieces of furniture first, which included couches, the kitchen table, mattresses and box springs. By lunchtime, I was stoked because I had moved so much by myself. Hunger was really setting in, but I persisted. My plan was to load as many boxes as quickly as possible so I could sit down and eat. Pushing past the first stage of fatigue, I figured the more boxes I loaded, the quicker I would finish. Technically, that made sense, right?
Loading the boxes was moving along smoothly. I even had a rhythm going — squat, lift, pivot, load and repeat. I was motivated and moving at a good pace until I attempted to lift a stack that was heavier than I expected. Instead of putting the stack down and carrying one box at time, I continued loading the stacks into the U-Haul.
Unable to see over the stack, I hit the garage overhang. This shifted the top box back toward my face, causing me to stumble. I refused to drop the boxes, though, and used the one muscle you shouldn’t use when working with boxes: my back. My back muscles tightened and a pain shot up my spine. Ignoring my weakened state, I readjusted the stack and continued with the task at hand. A little later, a box came crashing down on my foot. Not knowing whether to clinch my foot, my back or my head, I took that as a sign that it was break time.
Through this experience, I learned that whether you are moving by yourself or if you have help, always put safety first. Pace yourself and don’t wait until you are fatigued to take breaks. Place more emphasis on quality control, especially with boxes. Check that each box is sealed securely and never pick up boxes higher than you can see over. Also, understand that fatigue often leads to carelessness which will most likely result in accidents and injury. Moving can be a pain, but it doesn’t have to hurt.