On the Move

Phone Museum in my Closet

As a card-carrying resident of my own personal comfort zone, I’ve found that there’s an awful lot that can rattle me. The upstairs neighbors renovating their flat for five months. A wonky lock on the front door. Friends or relatives staying at the flat.

But there’s not much worse for this Comfort Zone Guy than moving flats. If you’re an adherent to a comfort zone, then you understand.  

Moving is terrible. No matter who you are or what your philosophy is towards being settled, you probably have a bad memory of being surrounded by hundreds of boxes, bags, crates, and furniture that you had to bring somewhere else. Moving means you have to move everything in your house. Everything. Soap. Each shoe. Every notebook, pen, and bottle of hot sauce. And so, everything is disrupted.

And so it is, at the moment, my situation. My flat is a maze of boxes, bags, luggage, plastic bags labelled bathroom and shoes and cat stuff. My bedroom looks as though it has been looted after a zombie apocalypse; the doors of the cabinets flung wide open, drawers in various stages of open, making a perfect stairway for the so-far-ecstatic yet growingly-suspicious cat.

And of course as a Comfort Zone Guy, I have been upset. My routine is fractured. The place where I work out is now a Stonehenge for baskets of folders and ancient messenger bags. I have to remember which box the mugs are in so I can have my morning coffee. My office is no longer my snug and comfy office, but rather a desk amid and under ten boxes of books and pens and office stuff. The comforting bookshelves are mostly bare.

I know. I know. It’s not as if I’m off to prison. I am moving to a cozy flat across the city. But I have been a resident of my leafy backstreet in Prague 4 for about twelve years. At the moment I am a liminal character. Not here anymore, definitely not there yet, but somewhere in between. At my local pub the other night the waitress brought my beer and Becherovka before I even asked (as usual) and I felt like a fraud. When the grumpy cashier at my local grocery store rolled his eyes at me for paying with a 1000Kc note, I almost teared up.

It’s been fascinating what has come up out of my flat’s deep, long forgotten corners. Somewhere in my bedroom closet, and mostly unbeknownst to me, I have a museum for archaic mobile phones. I turned their tiny, push-buttoned fronts in my hand, wondering exactly how someone might send a tweet on these things. Burke looked at the tiny palm-sized smartphone, the Homo heidelbergensis to the Homo neanderthalensis of my last phone (a drop bigger, faster, smarter) and my current smartphone, the Homo sapiens, and she asked “Could you look at the internet on that thing?”

“Yes,” I replied, but for the life of me I had no idea how I did that.

There was a lot of personal memorabilia as well. I found my very first travel card, the one Caledonian School, my first language school in Prague, gave me upon arrival in August 2004. It was laminated in plastic and looked not unlike my first fake ID (Ohio). I found my TEFL certificate, my induction packet from the school, pictures from when my hair was only pepper and no salt, my waistline was much larger, when I had a tree in my front room. It was a nice, nostalgic, if mildly sad traipse down memory lane.

It can be hard for a Comfort Zone Guy to dig up the corners of his life. Those things are buried in the corners for reasons. Perhaps it brought on too much reflection of the self-critical type. In lieu of warming in forward progress, I instead considered my continual shortcomings. Pictures of friends who long ago moved away brought feelings of doubt. Hundreds of notebooks, stories, papers with story ideas, and character resumes brought some solace, as they had already been put to use and turned into books and stories.

I have packed some of it as it’s too rich in sentimental value to cast away. But a lot I said goodbye to and dropped into a trash bag. Part of moving is paring down, cutting out the unneeded. And we are never more willing and unwilling to throw things away than when we are moving. I’m not carrying that damned kettle! I’ll buy a new one!  

No doubt it will take a few weeks, but I’ll get comfortable in my new place in Prague 6. I’ll find my local grocery store, say hello to the grumpy cashier there. It’ll be no time before some new waitress at the new local pub will have my beer and Becherovka before I hit my seat. And soon I’ll have my comfy office set up and my books on the shelves. But it’ll take a while for the silty memories to settle again until it falls into the corners of my new comfort zone.

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