Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Operation 'Switch' - Finale

I bought a ticket and picked a date, three days before departure, to leave my apartment. It left me a few months to reduce my belongings to something that could be stored and transported to Canada, if needed. That is, no furniture and nothing with a power plug. The clock was ticking.

I put a whole series of advertisements on Marktplaats, and waited for potential buyers. Selling all I had appeared more time consuming and frustrating than I had ever expected, because not only was most of my furniture not worth a dime, but, moreover, the vast majority of prospective buyers was either not serious or downright unreliable. Most of them did not respond to emails, with some I reached an agreement, but they never showed up, and some changed their mind last-minute. There were a number of pleasant surprises which kept me up and running, like the gentleman who bought my nice Stokke Peel fauteuil for €1000, and over the summer I saw my apartment getting emptier and emptier. I kept one option in reserve: the local thrift store was willing to come and get all leftovers.

Two weeks before departure I had a farewell dinner with my family, for whom I had written a book 'Over mijn Schouder' about me and my art, to leave them something personal for the time they would not see me. They loved it. When I arrived in my almost empty home I realized that the final phase of Operation 'Switch' had started. That final week was a killer week.

It started with removing the carpet throughout the apartment. Twelve years earlier I had instructed the men who installed it, to make sure it could be removed easily, because one day I would have to restore the apartment into its original state, and at that day I would no doubt be very busy, in the middle of a removal. I had never expected that these words would ever prove to be prophetical. Neither had the carpeteers, so in my study and bedroom they had glued everything to my concrete floors with their strong super glue. While it had taken me four hours to remove the carpet from my living, where it was glued onto felt-like under-carpet, it took me one day to clear the study, and I did not even have time to clear the bed room.

Two days before I had to leave my apartment I sold my bed and I had a farewell party with friends, and one day before leaving was a day of total madness. The thrift store came to pick up my washing machine, lots of small stuff and my fridge. That is, weeks earlier they had told me they would take it, but that very day, they refused to take it because it was twelve years old. My explanation that I had to completely empty my apartment that day did not impress the men at all. However, when they discovered the small cart I had used to move things around, I told them they could use my cart to move everything down to their van, if they took my fridge, which they finally did. The man who bought my computer arrived at the same time as the man who bought my monitor, so they could both see everything working, and in the evening I sold my car and moved a stack of boxes to a self-storage facility.

The day I had to leave my apartment I first hired a car, and then drove two car loads of trash to the local rubbish dump. It had started to rain so hard that I was soaked by the time I returned, and it appeared to be impossible to load all things I had wanted to bring to my family into the car. And just when I realized I would not make it in time, my landlord called me to apologize he would be late. I accepted his apology and we arranged that I would leave my keys in his office next day.

With one more day to go, I took my time to load the car, clean up the last things, post a few letters and make a few last phone calls. That night, I went to my mother to leave a car load of things like a printer, a vacuum cleaner, a three-piece suit and all other things I had kept for those interested, and the next day I returned the car and the keys of my apartment.

After a real short weekend with my family, it was time to say goodbye and my brother-in-law brought me to my hotel in Amsterdam. The next day I took the bus to the airport, and the rest is history.

Operation 'Switch' had taken more than one year to complete and, to quote Dickens, it was the best of times, and it was the worst of times. It exhausted me, physically and psychologically, and it made me realize once more I had turned over a new leaf. A whole new leaf.

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