Moving Day

Moving day in Saigon

Another July 1st, another year I breathe a sigh of relief that I didn’t have to move on Moving Day. I must be exceptionally lucky: I’ve never had to move on the same day as more than 100,000 other Montrealers. Instead, I have been able to wander the streets and watch, with voyeuristic glee, as the curtain that normally hangs between us and our neighbours is ripped away.

That’s exactly what I told a journalist from La Presse when she called to ask what I thought of the odd way that Montrealers spend Canada’s national holiday. (Unfortunately, she somehow misspelled my name, adding a “v” and an “e” where they really shouldn’t exist.) As perplexing as it is to have most residential leases end on the same day, it’s also one of those charmingly illogical things that make Montreal such an admirably eccentric city.

The fact that so many people live on the upper floors of buildings with winding outdoor staircases means that it’s a huge challenge to simply move furniture onto the street. The complications of parking make it a hassle to then move that stuff to a new apartment. On the few occasions when we had move over a distance larger than two blocks, my girlfriend and I paid some guys $50 to shove our stuff into the back of their old camping van and drive it uptown from the Latin Quarter to Mile End.

I’ve seen similarly precarious setups involving pickup trucks and even shopping carts, so I’m not surprised to hear that a moving company that schleps stuff by bike is getting a lot of attention. It’s reminiscent of cities in China, where bicycles are used for the same purpose. In Saigon and Seoul, I saw motorcycles employed for much the same purpose, including one that was being used to transport a fridge, without any kind of strap to secure it to the bike.

Even more intriguing that Moving Day itself are the days after, when piles of unwanted junk are left in the streets and laneways. This is usually seen as a big problem but, as I wrote last year, it turns the city into a giant flea market. People sift through the remnants of July 1st and often come up with enough good finds that they can furnish their own apartment. There’s an unspoken agreement among Montrealers that if you abandon something on the sidewalk or in a back alley, you’re inviting others to take it.

Here in Hong Kong, people move just as often as in Montreal, though not always on the same day — and nobody leaves anything in the street unless they intend to keep it there. To a large extent, the reason for this is cultural difference: Hong Kongers are much less enthusiastic than Montrealers about second-hand objects; they’re also a lot more entrepreneurial, so if they have something to get rid of, they’ll sell it a second-hand specialist who will resell it or dismantle it for scrap.Moving fridge in Saigon

This entry was written by Christopher DeWolf , posted on Saturday July 04 2009at 07:07 am , filed under Art and Design, Canada, Public Space, Society and Culture and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

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