December 14, 2018

Winnipeg
-3° C, A few clouds

Full Forecast

Advertisement

Advertise With Us

Author unpacks moving business

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 14/10/2017 (426 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

If you’ve ever hired a moving company to lug your belongings between homes, or even if you haven’t, you will be intrigued by this coolly intelligent piece of social anthropology.

Author Taylor Lambert is a Calgary journalist with two minor non-fiction books to his credit. Journalism and authoring being what they are these days, he keeps a sideline as a furniture mover, something he has done since his university days a decade ago.

What the job has given him, besides rent money, is an entrée to a different social class and a natural subject for this empathetic (though unimaginatively titled) book.

“Moving is the lowest rung of unskilled labour,” he writes in Darwin’s Moving (the name of the company he works for). “It is a hard job, but there are no real prerequisites or qualifications, no education or criminal record check needed.”

Get the full story.
No credit card required. Cancel anytime.

Join free for 30 days

After that, pay as little as $0.99 per month for the best local news coverage in Manitoba.

 

Already a subscriber?

Log in

Join free for 30 days

 

Already a subscriber?

Log in

Subscribers Log in below to continue reading,
not a subscriber? Create an account to start a 30 day free trial.

Log in Create your account

Your free trial has come to an end.

We hope you have enjoyed your trial! To continue reading, we recommend our Read Now Pay Later membership. Simply add a form of payment and pay only 27¢ per article.

For unlimited access to the best local, national, and international news and much more, try an All Access Digital subscription:

Thank you for supporting the journalism that our community needs!

Your free trial has come to an end.

We hope you have enjoyed your trial! To continue reading, we recommend our Read Now Pay Later membership. Simply add a form of payment and pay only 27¢ per article.

For unlimited access to the best local, national, and international news and much more, try an All Access Digital subscription:

Thank you for supporting the journalism that our community needs!

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Mon to Sat Delivery

Pay

$34.36

per month

  • Includes all benefits of All Access Digital
  • 6-day delivery of our award-winning newspaper
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 14/10/2017 (426 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

If you’ve ever hired a moving company to lug your belongings between homes, or even if you haven’t, you will be intrigued by this coolly intelligent piece of social anthropology.

Author Taylor Lambert is a Calgary journalist with two minor non-fiction books to his credit. Journalism and authoring being what they are these days, he keeps a sideline as a furniture mover, something he has done since his university days a decade ago.

What the job has given him, besides rent money, is an entrée to a different social class and a natural subject for this empathetic (though unimaginatively titled) book.

"Moving is the lowest rung of unskilled labour," he writes in Darwin’s Moving (the name of the company he works for). "It is a hard job, but there are no real prerequisites or qualifications, no education or criminal record check needed."

Lambert alternates between describing the job itself and delving into back stories of a few of the "unreliable characters" he works with. He excavates their awful childhoods, often involving abandonment and abuse, and documents their resulting addiction issues and criminal histories. "They are the Other Calgary, the flip side of the boom coin," he writes, "the ones who can’t afford sky-high rent or nice cars or trendy restaurants and craft beer."

Toronto author Pat Capponi has covered similar territory in her books about the mentally ill and working poor. U.S. journalist Katherine Boo offered a more ambitious take in her 2012 masterpiece Behind the Beautiful Forevers, set in Mumbai’s slums.

Lambert’s model, consciously or not, has to be George Orwell’s slender 1933 classic, Down and Out in Paris and London. Lambert employs first-person narration; his plain style, free of affectation, hyperbole or complaint, echoes the master’s unadorned prose.

He is likewise aware of the political and economic implications of his subject matter. "Despite the humble backgrounds or appalling histories of my co-workers, we have been in the homes of some of the wealthiest people in Calgary," Lambert writes.

"The dichotomy between this country’s haves and have-nots is seldom made clearer than in the juxtapositions of the moving industry."

For large sections of the book, we are in the van or at the job site with him and his partners. We learn the techniques of lifting heavy furniture around tight corners and also many tips of the moving trade.

Movers earn between $20 and $25 an hour. Working days can easily stretch 16 hours and longer. Tipping, however, "is the exception and not the rule."

They "despise finicky nuts-and-bolts bits-and-pieces assembly/disassembly work." They enjoy a toke between loading and unloading. "It’s worth noting," Lambert writes, "that only the worst movers saw their performance affected by weed."

A mover is happy to take an unwanted piece of furniture off a customer’s hands. "Half the time we sell these things ourselves for cash."

Darwin’s Moving would be stronger if Lambert had been able to coax some of the class resentment he intuits in his co-workers directly from them. But they remain largely inarticulate.The book suffers from some annoying syntax and grammar errors common in small-press offerings.

But these are niggling complaints. In Darwin’s Moving, Lambert has shed light on a corner of the Canadian working world few even think about. The ghost of Orwell approves.

Morley Walker is a retired Free Press journalist.

Advertisement

Advertise With Us

You can comment on most stories on The Winnipeg Free Press website. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective January 2015.

Advertisement

Advertise With Us