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What would possess someone to move 2.87 miles, from one rental to another?

The whole concept of packing up all of your stuff, cramming it into someone else's truck and hauling it down the road to a different place seems kind of ill-advised on its face, when you think about it. Really, what's the point? When you get there, it's all the same stuff you had before, minus whatever you broke in the process—and now it doesn't fit anywhere the way it used to. At least if you move to a different city or into a newly purchased home, there are elements of real change and personal growth that help to justify the hassle.

Well, my partner and I can report with absolute certainty that packing up all of your stuff—a little at a time, over the space of two weeks, in the middle of a particularly hot, humid August—at the house you've rented for the past five years, and dragging it exactly 2.87 miles across the heart of Tucson in a Honda hatchback, only to disgorge it into another rental, is an exercise in futility that makes the war in Afghanistan feel like graduating from Yale.

But that's the state of things. The bean-counters say that the percentage of people who are renters in this country is higher than it's been in decades. No one's buying in a housing market that is so far underwater that the fish outside the windows have lights on their heads. Not many people are moving significant distances, either, as folks hunker down to ride out the writhing contortions of the spastic colon that is our economy.

Alas, the small comforts of contextual logic are no match for the psychological disruption of elective domicile dislocation. The cats can vouch for me on this one. As their familiar perches and hidey-holes steadily disappeared, they engaged in a series of strategic excretory events that left no doubt as to the depths of their distress.

While I may not have crapped anywhere I was not supposed to, my partner will testify that some of my behaviors were less than defensible in the court of relationship law. It reminded us of the first—and last—time we attempted to canoe together in the same boat. Who is this psychopath next to me, and why can't I understand a word she's saying? And what is all this junk I haven't seen for five years?

The differences in our respective moving strategies may have contributed to the trouble. Her method is to attack early and purge aggressively—and then run around like an ostrich with her head cut off from one store to another and back again in a frantic attempt to buy every single thing we'll ever need in the new place before we even move in.

I prefer to wait until the last possible moment to dismantle my perches and spaces, and then evacuate in a panic, clutching the same boxes full of high school notebooks and grade school keepsakes that I carried out of my parents' house 30 years ago.

Needless to say, there are sources of conflict embedded in these competing visions of moving success.

None of this should diminish the value of the few, but crucial, Very Important Moving Tasks that I performed. For instance, I bravely ran the utility-changeover gamut. A series of long, repetitive conversations with barely intelligible representatives at a call center somewhere in India led to the anti-climactic conclusions that EarthLink could not provide adequate Internet service at our new physical address, and we'd given these incompetent leeches more than enough of our money.

For its part, Tucson Water—apparently operating on the premise that discouraging customer inquiries is an excellent way to keep customer-service costs down—employed the tried and true "interminable hold" strategy. As the 30-second snippet of maddeningly perky classical music played over and over again, I began to question whether we really needed running water at the new place. The strangely detached and carefree woman who finally took my order told me that I should consider myself lucky: The musical snippet used to be polka.

Ah, but we survived the ordeal. I'm sitting here in our new place, tapping my troubles away, surrounded by half-emptied boxes, inelegantly arranged furniture, two badly disoriented cats, and one utterly exhausted sweetie. We're sweltering while the swamp cooler struggles in vain to counter the prodigious capacity of brick to absorb solar radiation.

I'm glad we're still in Tucson, and I have to admit the new place is a definite upgrade, even if it doesn't really belong to us. In the words of one of my favorite local troubadours, Kevin Pakulis: I ain't sayin' that we've got it made, but we're gettin' there ...

More by Randy Serraglio

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