I had a great experience yesterday. After procrastinating for hours and hours on Friday, for reasons I shall explain below, at about 10 a.m. on Saturday morning I screwed up my courage and went into the Saskatchewan Liquor Store at 8th St. near Circle Drive and asked one of the cashiers if she had any boxes I could use for my upcoming move. Liquor-store boxes are definitely the best kind of boxes for moving books, of which I have too many, and often for dishes and other things as well: a box that is sturdy enough to hold 8 to 12 bottles of wine or alcohol and small enough that you can still lift it when it is full is a perfect size for many things.
The cashier asked me how many boxes I wanted. I was hoping I might get at least five, and maybe six, but I told her I’d love to have as many as I could get in my car, or as many as they could spare. She told me to drive around to the back of the store and they would see what they could do.
When I arrived at the shipping door out back, a man was waiting there for me with about four good solid boxes. He asked if I was moving, and I said I was. He said, “I’ll give you the bigger ones then.” He proceeded to choose excellent packing boxes for me, and I kept putting them into the vehicle I’d rented until it was full. When I drove away, I was one happy camper.
This whole experience was a huge contrast to my box-collection efforts during previous moves. In Edmonton, there often seemed to be a regulation about how many boxes one person could take from a liquor store—do not ask me why. I generally was permitted about five, and had to go to another liquor store to get five more, and another for five more, etc.
In addition to setting limits, liquor-store employees seemed to greet requests for boxes with expressions of condescension if not actual rudeness. Again I cannot explain this. Perhaps the cashiers felt that a more dignified person would get her boxes from a more dignified place than a liquor store: perhaps, for example, a truly civilized person would buy boxes at a box store. (Are there box stores? I have no idea. But if there are, I’m sure they charge good money for the boxes, which seems ridiculous. Boxes are essentially wrappers for other products. They ought to be recycled.) Perhaps the liquor-store employees felt that moving itself was an undignified activity. Or perhaps they felt inconvenienced by the request – although I’m not sure why they would, as it is customary for the box-collector to be the one who does all the carrying in these situations. (I never had this problem when I wanted FULL boxes of liquor, by the way, only empty ones.)
After experiencing this negative reception several times, I reached a point where I found it difficult to walk into a liquor store and ask for boxes: I knew that the response would be preceded by a deep sigh and delivered in a tone that might be appropriate if the employee had needed to tell me exactly the same thing every single day for weeks: “We only have boxes on Wednesdays. They are left out back of the store in the lane,” or “The empty boxes are over there. You are welcome to have four.”
In Alberta, rather than face indignity, I sometimes tried going to grocery stores instead. But grocery-store boxes are often flimsy and many have holes in them to allow the fruits and vegetables that originally came in them to breathe. Banana boxes just don’t make it when you are trying to pack a house. I could think of no other kinds of stores that would have boxes in the numbers and dimensions that I needed. (I have recently discovered that some moving companies will provide boxes that are sturdy and a good size, but they generally charge for them and/or require you to return them. As many of my boxes are going to be in storage for a while and then end up in Toronto, returning them–at least this time– is not an option.) So, tail between my legs, I’d go back to begging from liquor stores.
During one horrifically complex move in Alberta, I decided that what I needed to do was to save all the boxes from one move so I would have them for the next move. You need a whole lot of extra space to be able to pull this off, but I was determined. I folded all the boxes flat after I’d unpacked them, and I put them all away. Several months later I had another good idea—which was to lend my boxes to other people who were moving. Unfortunately, the first person to whom I lent my cache threw them into her back yard as she emptied them, where they were all turned to mush by an out-of-season snow storm.
So for one reason and another, mainly involving not having enough space to store boxes where I am now, I’m back again to collecting from scratch. And so far this time it is going unexpectedly well. But if it seemed to the kind folks at the 8th St. liquor store in Saskatoon that I was a bit over the top in my gratitude yesterday… well, I did have my reasons.