They always say that moving is one of the most stressful things you can do in life. I’ve always found that hard to belive because I can think of a lot of things I would find far more stressful. Trying to defuse a bomb with only child safety scissors for example, or trying to make a parachute during a skydive.
However, having recently moved I now find myself forced to reevaluate this misguided idea. Although I still can’t say that my move to Friesland was ‘that’ stressful I can’t say it really went to plan either. It ‘had’ been going to plan right up until the last two days. Then it was as if some unseen force had suddenly decided that it rather liked us living in Rotterdam and started doing everything it could to make sure we stayed. This was a bit problematic because we’d already moved most of our stuff up to Friesland.
We only needed to pickup a few last things from our old apartment before we handed the keys over to the new owners and said goodbye to the place forever. So my wife and I hired a van for two days and drove back down to Rotterdam. We spent Sunday morning cleaning up the apartment and loading the van. There was more work to do than we realized and the van was a little smaller than we thought so things were already getting a little difficult. Around mid day we decided to take a short lunch break before I started physically breaking stuff in half to make them fit in the van (like a frustrated Tetris player).
We went up stairs to visit our neighbours who kindly fed us (because the last of our kitchen items were berried somewhere under a box of light fittings in the van). We spent about an hour with them chatting about how the move was ‘theoretically’ going well before saying our goodbyes and returning to work… At least that is what we tried to do.
As my wife walked down the steps towards our apartment her pace started to become slower and slower. I could not see her face (because she was in front of me) but I could tell that something was wrong. It was the kind of ‘try to act natural’ slowing of pace people use when they start to realize they have forgotten something important and are not quite sure what to do about it yet. She stopped before she reached the bottom step and after a moment’s pause started to pat the pockets of her jeans.
“Oh no. I think I’ve…”
She didn’t have to finish the sentence.
My wife had forgotten her keys. She’d left them inside the apartment. In fact, she’d left every spare copy of every key we had re-collected from friends and family inside the apartment (including mine). Basically, we were locked out. This was made worse by the fact that there was still stuff in the apartment that had to go in to the van and the keys (currently locked inside the apartment) had to be given to the new owners the next day. We started to go though our options.
- Phone the real estate agent and get his copy of the key (“But it’s the weekend and he won’t be at the office”)
- Break down the door (“I don’t think the new owners will like that and you’re not that strong”)
- Look up lock picking tutorials on youtube (“We already disconnected the wi-fi”)
- Climb up the outside of the building and get in over the balcony (“We’re on the third floor and you’re not spider man”)
We stood in silence for a while, just looking at the door and trying to think up other solutions. I was about to try a combination of option 2 and 3 (using a screw driver) when my wife suddenly remembered that there was actually one spare key left. We’d not collected the one from our downstairs neighbours yet.
We quickly collected the key, averted disaster, got back in to the apartment, continued working and I spent the rest of the afternoon taking the mickey out of my wife for what had happened. This would later turn out to be a bad idea because within less than 24 hours I would be the one making things difficult. In fact, I’d already done it. We just didn’t realize it yet.
By the end of the afternoon we had finished loading the van and cleaning the apartment. We left the van parked outside the apartment, took a tram into the city center and checked into a hotel for the night.
The next morning we returned to the soon-not-to-be-ours apartment and met with the real estate agent for the final inspection. Surprisingly, everything went according to plan. All that was left was to drive to the notary, sign the last of the official documentation and hand the keys over to the new owners. It was just a short 15 minute drive away and we still had 40 minutes until our appointment, plenty of time to get there.
The real estate agent drove ahead in his car. We got into the van, planning to meet him there. I turned the key to start the engine and… nothing happened. I tried again… not even a whimper. The van refused to start.
“Oh no. I think I…”
My wife started laughing before I even finished the sentence. I’d left the lights on since we’d arrived the morning before. The battery was dead. We were not going anywhere, not in the van at least.
We had to phone the office of the real estate agent, and ask if they could phone him, to ask if he wouldn’t mind turning around and coming back to pick us up. He could not help laughing as he picked us up 10 minutes later, having heard the whole story from his secretary.
Luckily everything else went as planned. We made it to the notary on time, signed what had to be signed and handed over the keys. The real estate agent was even nice enough to drive us back. He couldn’t jump start the van for us though. He didn’t have any cables.
So we called the ANWB and asked if they could come and jump start our van. As we waited outside the apartment that was no longer ours, with the van that was temporarily not working, the new owners arrived to have a look at their property. They seemed surprised to see us. They must have thought we were having real trouble letting the place go. The truth was more the other way around.