Chapter 23
Invasion of the Rolling Suitcases

Mass migrations, but only temporary

During the academic year, Fridays and Sundays the sidewalks are crowded with people rolling suitcases. Visitors in for the weekend and locals going out. But hundreds of them. And the sound! On the brick sidewalks, the fast staccato clicka-clicka-clicka-clicka for blocks at a time, like a herd of high heels jogging on a tile floor. Before suitcases rolled on their own, I recall that visitors with luggage needed to be picked up at whichever station so you could help with their luggage. Especially if you were dating and wanted to start things off on a positive note. But these days, with weekend-size luggage that almost moves itself, the visitee can be lazy and just wait for the weekend guest to show up.

During the summer, the pattern is different. For one thing, it isn't limited to weekend days. Day of the week doesn't matter. Day of the month does. The suitcase traffic tends to be concentrated around the beginnings and ends of the months, May thru September, when apartment leases end and begin. And when dorms must be vacated to be re-occupied by someone else. Between undergrads, grad students, post-grads, visiting faculty, and summer school, the turnover is really noticeable. And second, the suitcases in the summer tend to be larger and more numerous. It is not uncommon to see a student type laboring down the rickety brick sidewalk for many blocks with two huge suitcases and a backpack, all bulging with lead weights that get heavier each step.

For larger move-ins and move-outs, there is the invasion of the moving vans. Cars can hunt for parking places all by themselves. But if you have a van, from the U-Haul $20 an hour rental van through the Ryder rental up to the real movers, you probably need two or more parking spaces. You can get multiple contiguous parking spaces, but these have to be reserved days in advance with the cooperation of the city and the police department. You go on the city's web site and fill out the forms -- dates, time, street, numbers on the meters, moving company, etc. -- and pay with your credit card, and notices will magically appear on the meters a day or two before you need them. Large, clearly written cardboard notices in weatherproof plastic envelopes, telling people to stay away when and why. And people really pay attention to these cardboard notices. The alternative is instant towing.

Aside on towing: There are several ways to get towed here. The most common is street cleaning. The street cleaning machines come through at least once a month to clean out the curb gutters of every street. The dates, such as "Second Tuesday of Every Month," are posted on permanent signs up and down the streets. They are hard to miss, but it happens. If there is parking on both sides of the street, one side will be, say, Tuesday and the other side Wednesday. Even so, people sometimes simply forget that they are at risk on the second Tuesday of the month, or whenever. They do come around with sound trucks warning people at about 6 AM, but you can sleep through that, too.

I did forget once, and the result was so painful that I really try not to repeat the experience. I had to wait a couple hours for the paperwork to confirm where the car was, then walk a mile and a half to the tow lot, then pay $185 to ransom my keys back. $150 for the tow, the rest for the boy-are-you-stupid-can't-you-read-the-signs ticket. That was forty years ago. It's probably much more expensive and inconvenient now.

You can also get towed for these temporary no-parking rules. And for snow emergencies. Remember snow? Well, snow happens. When they want to plow the streets, the ones designated as Snow Emergency Routes, you better not be there.

We now have only one car, and we rent off-street, indoor parking. No more worries about the tow trucks. End of aside.

There are lots and lots of moving companies to choose from. But don't try to get one on short notice anywhere near June 1st or September 1st. They're booked solid well in advance. And there are the specialty movers, too, which I mention only because of my favorite company name: "Deathwish Piano Movers." Who *wouldn't* hire them?