Shooting the move: PCS season is a gamble

Shooting the move: PCS season is a gamble

by Lisa Smith Molinari
The Meat and Potatoes of Life

It’s that time of year again, when thousands of military families box up their lives and throw the dice. Unfortunately, moving is a gamble. No matter how much you plan and prepare, something always gets lost, stolen or broken. You can only hope that it’s that ugly microwave cart that you’ve always hated.

Our first mover’s name was “Rusty,” a swarthy old truck driver who had seen many a move. Over lunch, he sat on the hydraulic platform on his rig telling stories. “Even back in my drinkin’ days,” he boasted with a mouthful of ham and cheese, “Never had a late delivery. Why, one time after a fifth of Wild Turkey, I drove from Mississippi clear into Texas and had absolutely no recollection of it.”

As we watched him drive off with our priceless belongings, we prayed that he would stay off the sauce.

The next two moves were without incident, but our moving luck began to shift during our move from England to Virginia. Our English movers were friendly mates, requesting fish, chips and lager for lunch. They ate at our kitchen table with us like one big happy family. At the end of the day we bid them “tarah” with warm smiles, and they drove away with our neatly packed belongings.

Only later did we realize that they’d “nicked” our telly.

With a toddler and a new baby, we bought our first house in Virginia and scheduled a “full unpack.” When the truck arrived (two hours late), I asked the foreman, “We’ll cover lunch … does your crew prefer sandwiches or —”

“We’ll take fried chicken, biscuits, gravy, mashed potatoes and sweet tea,” the foreman interrupted. Envisioning disgruntled movers breaking my Polish pottery, I spent a small fortune at the local deli filling their demands.

During lunch, a crew person introduced himself. “Hello Ma’am, I’m Mohammed. Today’s Ramadan — would you mind if I found a quiet place to pray somewhere here today?”

“Of course,” I said. “Mi casa es su casa!”

Later that afternoon, my arm was numb from carrying the baby. Needing a private place to get her down for a nap, I laid down with a blanket and a baby monitor in the spare bedroom’s well-ventilated closet, closed the door and began nursing. Ten minutes later, she’d drifted off to sleep, when I heard the spare bedroom door open, and a rhythmic chant began. Peeking through the closet door slats, I saw Mohammed, kneeling and deep in prayer.

“What should I do?” I thought. “Walk out of this closet and surprise him, or wait it out with the baby?" In the end, my naptime freedom outweighed Mohammed’s sacred privacy.

“Howdy, Mohammed!” I popped my head out of the closet. “I’ll just scoot on out of here and leave you in peace. Toodle-oo!”

Years later, we were naively hopeful for a problem-free move to Germany. After supplying doughnuts, coffee, lunch, cold drinks, storage bags, markers and tape, I watched out a window in horror. A crew member formed a little hammock with his shirt and filled it with nuts and bolts from our disassembled bicycles. He carried them over to the truck, and threw them into a wooden crate between furniture and boxes.

I ran outside and protested, reminding him of the baggies I gave him for this purpose. “Trust me, Ma’am,” he replied. “When you get to your new place, just shake the paper at the bottom of the crate out. You’ll see, all the pieces’ll be there.”

Of course, they were not.

Two years after my husband’s irreplaceable military Challenge Coin collection was stolen during our move to Florida, we arrived in Rhode Island, home to the Patriarca Mafia Crime Family and its boss, Anthony “Spucky” Spagnolo. With one of the highest percentages of Italian-Americans, the tiniest state’s unofficial motto is “I know a guy.” So, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise when our moving crew “lost” Francis’ expensive cross-training bicycle and our Persian living room rug.

Chances are, something will go wrong during PCS moves, so should we stop planning and preparing? Of course not. Take the gamble, but take comfort that one thing’s for certain: That ugly microwave cart will always survive.

Read more at, and in Lisa’s book, “The Meat and Potatoes of Life: My True Lit Com.” Email:

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