Chapter 6

The final push

Now that my luggage situation was rectified, I began a careful selection of the items that I would bring to Thailand with me. I knew I would have to have “teacher clothes”, so much of the space would be given to button-down shirts, dress/casual pants, one pair of black dress shoes, and a few ties. I foolishly included a blazer in case I had an occasion where dressing up a bit might be required. 

It amused me a bit that I no longer had a large collection of suits, ties, and dress shirts that had formerly been a major part of my wardrobe. Since the time I was four years old, I had been dressing up three times a week to attend meetings at our church, at least once more to go out in “field service”, knocking on strangers’ doors to inform them of the wonderful hope of living forever if they only accepted our version of Bible teachings. I learned to knot a necktie properly somewhere around age 12, about the time I decided the clip-on versions were inferior and beneath me. 

My two-week experience in Southeast Asia also taught me that torrid temperatures were in store, and I chose the rest of my clothing accordingly. Shorts and t-shirts would be my regular daily wear when I wasn’t in front of students. I allowed one pair of jeans and a couple of sweatshirts, just in case.  

Anything that did not fit into the limited space and weight allotment would be permanently gone from my life. Unlike many others who rent a storage unit or leave items with family and friends in expectation of a return, I wasn’t coming back.

Favorite t-shirts had to be sacrificed, cherished books were left behind, and hand tools that I had painstakingly collected for years weren’t going to make the trip. I tried selling my items on Craigslist without a lot of success. I managed to get some money for the nearly new furniture, my now-extensive collection of kitchen items, the tools, and a few miscellaneous bits. 

But winter was starting early that year, and not many people were in the mood to trek to the “dangerous” south side of Chicago to get used items when Amazon would drop brand new shit off on their doorstep. 

I hung a “tag sale” poster in the laundry rooms of each of the five high-rise buildings in the complex and got a tepid response. There were two young college coeds from India who came up to make purchases to furnish their own apartment. They selected several items, including my rice cooker, some art, and knick-knacks from my shelving unit. They asked for a discount, which I agreed to. Then much like Steve Martin’s character in “The Jerk”, they kept adding to the pile of “that’s all I need”, but without adding to the agreed-upon purchase price. I guess I’m a terrible horse-trader, because I let them do it. They must have enjoyed shopping at my “store”, because they visited twice more in the following days with the same results. 

The amount of stuff that I owned was becoming overwhelming to look at as my remaining days dwindled. I had to be out of the apartment on December 19th. I found some interested parties on a giveaway website, and they individually showed up to take my rather large collection of music CDs, books, and sundry items.

One guy came to procure a tuxedo that I had purchased years before and had worn exactly one time. He was elated when I also gave him other clothing that fit him, including my prized official NFL New York Giants jersey emblazoned with the number “56” and the surname “Taylor” stitched across the back. I could probably have sold that online, but I had procrastinated and was too pressed for time to deal with it. 

A close friend, Constance, helped me on a Saturday afternoon as I piled my extensive stockpile of bedding and towels into the back of my car. We drove around to homeless encampments and gave away pillows, blankets, cold-weather clothing, and boots to grateful people who desperately needed these items as a brutal winter was setting in. The joy I got from those two hours meant more to me than any amount of cash I received from the sales of my other things. 

But there was still an inordinate number of possessions hindering my escape . Not quite flotsam, which is accidental debris from a shipwreck, but definitely jetsam, which are items tossed overboard by the crew to lighten a distressed vessel. I had to make it all go away, and quickly. Only two days remained before I handed the apartment keys back.

The thought of lugging all of these items downstairs to my car, then driving them to a Goodwill or Salvation Army donation center was an unpleasant one. It probably would take at least two trips, and the weather was not at all cooperative. Chicago was experiencing a cold snap, and temperatures had plunged into double-digits below zero on both the Fahrenheit and Celsius scales. 

I messaged the two Indian students who had previously bested me at commerce and asked them to come up for another shopping visit. When they arrived, I presented them with a proposal. They could take anything that they wanted, with the stipulation that they had to take everything. 

Judging from their wide-eyed expressions, I explained it again. Everything that wasn’t cleaning supplies/equipment or in the Thailand pile in the bedroom corner had to go. They could use it themselves, sell it, donate it to their friends – I didn’t care. I only asked that they not throw it away, as everything was useful and anything that was actual trash had already been disposed of. The karmic dumpster could only handle so much at once. 

They agreed and soon were joined by two young men. Boyfriends, classmates, roommates, I didn’t know, nor did it matter to me. It took them several trips using the cart provided by the building management, but in less than an hour, my apartment was empty, save for the belongings making the trip with me. My bed had already been picked up, and I was sleeping in a spare room in Constance’s place which was only a few blocks away from mine.

The next evening after work was spent filling nail holes, sweeping, vacuuming, wiping down the kitchen cabinets, and fruitlessly trying to scrub a pesky ink stain out of the white carpet. Then, after dropping off the brooms, mop, and vacuum cleaner to another friend, I took my suitcase and two backpacks to Constance’s apartment and fell asleep. I had three days before I left my job.